2 months, 2 weeks ago #28827
I want to ask my family if we can refrain from meat on Fridays so I can comply with the Catholic practice. They will probably agree, but will want to know why. What are the precise reasons for it, and how do you explain it to reformed fundamentalist sola scriptura Protestants in a way they can understand?
(I wasn’t sure which category this should be in so please move it if necessary)2 months, 2 weeks ago #28831
Here is why Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent:
Catholic people from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church. The Didache required the Early Christians to fast on Wednesday and Friday.
Since it is believed Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross on a Friday, Christians from the very beginning have set aside that day to unite their sufferings to Jesus. This led the Church to recognize every Friday as a “Good Friday” where Christians can remember Christ’s passion by offering up a specific type of penance. For much of the Church’s history meat was singled out as a worthy sacrifice on account of its association with feasts and celebrations. In most ancient cultures meat was considered a delicacy and the “fattened calf” was not slaughtered unless there was something to celebrate. Since Fridays were thought of as a day of penance and mortification, eating meat on a Friday to “celebrate” the death of Christ didn’t seem right. (As an aside, some bishops have chosen to lift the ban when Saint Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday during Lent, as it is considered a “solemnity” for many Irish Catholics.)
But why is fish not considered “meat”?
According to the USCCB, the laws of the Church classify the abstinence from “land animals.” ‘Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat.’
Fish, on the other hand, are not in that same classification. ‘Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.’
The purpose of Friday penance is to bind our suffering with Jesus suffering for the sake of His Church. Paul tells us that he binds his suffering to Christ’s for the sake of the Church in Colossians 1:24. This is also covered in my book. I hope this helps 🙂2 months, 2 weeks ago #28834
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
Ken, you are an excellent catechist. Your ability to explain such things as the traditional practice of Friday abstinence, its history and doctrinal basis, is a great asset to this forum.
However, there are some things that Katherine is not divulging in laying out her situation here. I think you do understand that her “family” is primarily her parents, plus other relatives who may drop by from time to time. She is an adult but suffers at this time from both a physical illness and a psychological condition. An unfortunate trajectory of her past life, which incidentally included a vegan diet, are the ultimate source of her illness. Fortunately, she is on the road to recovery physically as well as spiritually. The grace of God the Father and the timely intervention of a priest of the Catholic Church have brought her wholeheartedly to the true faith and to a new direction in life.
Unfortunately, she is still some distance from her goal; she is, after nearly two years, and for no fault of her own, still on the road, and her pastor has doubts concerning her readiness. Part of her goal, addressed in her instruction, is to actually live the Catholic life, insofar as that is possible for her at the present time. This includes, in the area of the world where she lives (UK, specifically Scotland) the observance of Friday abstinence, which was officially reinstated by the Bishops’ Conference a few years ago. It is certainly important that she do what she can to integrate herself into the Catholic ambiance, of which this practice is a part. You have done a great job of explaining the History and the Why of it. But there is more that we need to consider.
Katherine’s parents are practicing Protestants. They may have heard that Catholics eat fish on Fridays, but they have no inkling of the tradition of acts of penance in general or the reasons behind the tradition. This is part of the Church’s spiritual heritage, as distinct from the doctrinal tradition, and even many Catholics are vague about these things.
Centuries before the time of Christ, the People of God (the Israelites, later known as the Jews) did penance for their sins through prayer, fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, ritual sacrifices, baptisms, and other practices. She can draw on the examples that she finds in both the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate that these practices did exist, that New Testament Christians, following the example of their forebears, rightly and devoutly carried on the tradition, even in pagan lands. The fact that penance has fallen into disuse in our times, even among many Catholics, does not mean that this laxity is to their advantage. As Katherine well knows, she is coming to Jesus, through the Church He Himself founded, in order to save her soul. Therefore, she realizes that she is committing herself to do as the saints — the saved — do.
But there is room for misinterpretation here. She was not always a faithful Christian, but like many a youth, began to question her life in every aspect. She spent some time trodding other paths, and these led her to such practices as a vegan diet. Now, a vegan diet, of itself, is not evil or or even unhealthy. But according to her bent, she took it a step too far in the direction of fasting, and it destroyed her health. Now she is having to rebuild it, step by step. If she is to adopt Friday abstinence, she will have to be very careful not to cross that line again, but adhere strictly to her medically prescribed diet.
Her parents may or may not understand this, but what she is proposing, and what she must keep always in mind, is that this is a one-day-a-week practice, not a reversion to her former errors, either of the religious or the practical variety. She must continue to follow her prescribed diet, even in her abstinence. This is possible because, in her regimen, calories and balance of the various classes of foodstuffs carry more weight than precise prescriptions. In other words, it is doable, provided she is careful. Her parents need to understand this, or they will once again fear for her life. But I believe, as she does, that she can help them understand, and thus they will approve and even help her to do this. I have witnessed, in their attitude and acts over the past year, both their love and their concern for their daughter. I am convinced that all will be well.
David2 months, 2 weeks ago #28836
I understand no meat on Fridays during Lent, but what about year-round? Why do people do it all year? Is it “better” than just practicing this during Lent?2 months, 2 weeks ago #28837
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
Katherine and airforcewife, the universal rule for Friday abstinence is every Friday of the year, not just during Lent. However, in the United States and in a number of other countries, after the Second Vatican Council, the bishops’ conferences have changed the rule by indult (special rule for a particular region, approved by the Vatican) to being mandatory only during Lent. Under the indult, abstinence remains optional during the remainder of the year, but only if the person performs some other act of penance, preferably one of the Corporal or Spiritual Works of Mercy. In the UK, there used to be a similar rule, but the bishops there saw that it wasn’t working — no one was actually doing penance — so the bishops’ conference changed it back again to abstinence the entire year.
The year-round universal rule has been in effect since ancient times, following the previous Jewish practice.
David2 months, 1 week ago #28878
Thank you for the explanations of the practice – they will help with asking.
David, thank you for the gentle reminder to keep it in balance with my recovery.
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