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.
Great explanation. As a convert, I have often wondered why we give up the meat….especially when non-Catholic friends ask me why I’m not eating meat. I do it because the Church, and therefore God, commands me to. But I don’t know that I can accurately articulate the reason why.And for the record, minor inconvenience that it is, it DOES make you pay attention.
Dear Father Longenecker,thank you for this post. I do cling firmly to the tradition of not eating meat on fridays and am often asked by friends why I do this. Now I have some more answers to give them. Thanks alot and God bless!MarcPS: I like the picture to this post. Can you tell me the title and artist?
Not eating meat may also be related to the treatment of animals in Genesis.In the Garden, God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”That is, dominion over animals didn’t extend to eating them.Later, after the Fall when Sin entered the world, Noah kept the animals alive during the Flood. When they left the Ark, God said, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”I suppose this is a sort of debt the animals owe to Noah: having saved the animals, and by extension all their descendants, Noah and his descendants are entitled to eat them….although this preceding passage doesn’t make it sound like that’s especially ok:”And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”Of course, we’re allowed to still eat fish on Friday…but I regard the no meat stricture as the Church’s way to nudge us toward a Garden worldview instead of a post-Fall one.
Hi & Thank for speaking to our 'Fasting' traditions. My daughters are 16,13,& 10. In teaching them on our Catholic tradtions, I must have explanations & be ready for their questions! When they were younger explanations of course were simplier & easier for me!My close neighbours are from Afghanistan & I believe they are Moslem. We meet in our driveways nearly every day & share parts of our lives with each other. Mother never hesitates to tell me when her family of three daughters are fasting. She influenced me to research our fasting traditions. What an adventure……..I am loving it. Because I didn't know all the in and outs behind fasting 5 years ago.I was happy to tell her our family tradition being from Nfld, Canada once Shrove Tuesday came around. Pancakes with trinkets and surprises in them. And that Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten season which includes fasting.Thank you agin for addresses this. I will be sure to pass your comments along. Blessings…
Agreed Father, as to the specifics of fasting and abstinence. With a firm proscription we have no excuse, whereas it is easy to ignore a ‘general counsel’.A number of years ago we re-introduced the ‘no meat on all Fridays’ in our family in order to be assured we did something on Fridays. While it is not a great inconvenience to go without meat one day a week, it does make you reflect a bit.And, being the ‘chief cook’ (and bottle-washer…!) in our family, it does require some extra work to come up with non-meat alternatives every Friday…
Re: meatless dinners, we typically have a baked potato and salad.