Friday, January 27, 2017

Catholics and Meatless Fridays--Is It True?

Oftentimes, it is the little things that make me happy. A few moments ago, two students stopped into my office to inquire about something they had been discussing.  "Father, is it true that Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat every Friday or do some other form of penance in its place?"  It's nice to know that there are young Catholics out there who are talking about Faith and Catholic life.

After I told them they were correct, they asked, "Why doesn't anyone know this?"  Another good question.  Probably because we've become lax. I know that I have. It's also because nobody ever teaches it. Although people got the message, "Catholics can eat meat on Fridays," they never got the second half of the message, "But they still ought to do some other penance in its place."

There was something good, however, about Catholics all doing something together. In a way, the Friday abstinence unites us and is a good reminder that being Catholic just wasn't something you did on Sunday. Besides making us think about our Lord's Passion, a communal form of abstinence also links us together in a tangible way. 

As is often the case, when things like this come up in conversation, someone will say, "Well, I don't think you're going to go to Hell for eating meat on a Friday."  That's nice. The two young men who stopped by my office don't think that either. I don't think that. But, I do think that I probably could be a better person if I did more penance in my life, mortified my senses more, and thought more about Our Lord's Passion. And, I know that I'd feel a deeper bond with my fellow Catholics if I were doing some simple act of penance together with them. If a situation arises when we have to eat meat on a Friday, then we find another way to do penance on that day. I bet all of us trying to live this small penance together would have a positive effect on our spiritual lives. 

We don't need the "Friday meat police." We don't need to make other people feel uncomfortable about our penance, to boast about our penance, or make them feel like they're doing something wrong by eating meat on a Friday. That would really defeat the purpose! It's not about other people. It's just a simple little custom that could help us in our spiritual life. Not eating meat on a Friday isn't a way of separating "good Catholics" from "bad Catholics." It is simply a small and tangible way for us together to think about Christ and what He accomplished for us on the Cross.

Lastly, I've heard people say, "Giving up meat and ordering lobster isn't much of a penance."  I think the value of doing something together is more important. And, besides that . . . I'm allergic to lobster. :-)


  1. A small commitment done over time can yield sustained spiritual growth. This is a good example.

  2. Dear Father, very true. As with so much else, it all boils down to formation (or rather, the lack of it): if the REASON were taught, as well as the ACTION, it all becomes much simpler. In this case, if every Catholic were taught, from childhood, "Every Sunday is a festal day, because we remember our Lord's Resurrection; and every Friday is a penitential day, because we remember His Death" the prohibition of meat (or other penance is shown to be part of something much larger — as it is — rather than just some weird, random DON'T hanging out there all by itself. BTW: say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys, while you're at it, for the Greengrocer's apostrophe in your meme... :>)

  3. Two things I don't understand: Why fish and eggs are not consider meat.

    Why certain foods are set aside when Jesus said, "Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come"