A lot of questions this Lent about the ‘no meat on Friday’ rule. “Why do we not eat meat? I don’t really like meat that much, and I like macaroni and cheese better, and what if we went for a nice seafood dinner on Fridays, that wouldn’t be much of a hardship, so why not meat?”
Lots of good reasons: No meat because is it is a way to do something together. No meat because it makes you stop and pay attention. No meat because even if the only hardship is that you have to re-arrange your menu, it’s still a little hardship. No meat because it makes you ask yourself what it is that you really ought to give up. No meat because it makes you think again about the whole reason for Lent. No meat because it is a simple, universally understood way for the whole church to do something concrete as a sacrifice. It would be pretty hard to come up with any other rule that would be possible and universal, and just saying, “It is good to fast and abstain on Fridays in Lent” is not solid and concrete enough.
When the church gives just guidelines and not rules very often the discipline goes out the window completely. The specific rules are there not as an end in themselves, but to get us to examine the real reasons and ask the right questions and discover the real point of it all. If all you get is guidelines soon the discipline goes out the window entirely. Look at what has happened when the church shifted from ‘No meat on Fridays’ to ‘fasting and abstinence on Fridays’. How many Catholics do you know who seriously fast on Fridays? Not many. Once it stopped being a specific rule it stopped being a guideline too.
So give up the meat on Fridays, but not blindly. Do it with an open heart, an open mind and with a searching intellect.