Friday, February 15, 2008

A question to ponder

This one hit me during Stations of the Cross tonight: Why do we abstain from meat during the Fridays of Lent?
This one is perhaps my favorite anti-Catholic rant: I heard this on a secular radio station a few years ago on an Ash Wednesday. According to the host of the radio show, the reason why Catholics had the Friday abstinance was because, back in Italy during the middle ages, the Pope owned a fleet of fishing boats, and no one was buying fish from them. So he ordered abstinance from meat for every Catholic so that his boats would make money off of hungry people with nothing to eat but fish (because we all know that Italians know nothing about things like pizza or pasta).

So, back to my question: Why the Friday abstinance? Is it because Christ gave up his flesh on Good Friday, and so we abstain from any meat products? Or is it for the very act of denying ourselves during this penitential season? In short, is it for the "thing" itself, or in order to "do a thing"? Is it for the cause or the effect?

I ask this because I was thinking about vegetarians. To ask them to give up meat is no sacrifice; it would be like asking me to give up eating liver for the rest of my life. I mean, in the case of vegetarians, wouldn't a deliberate penitential act be to deliberately eat a meat product on a Friday of Lent? So if the abstinance is for the thing itself, then vegetarians are just lucky. But if it's to produce an act of penance, then you'd have to say they should have a burger.

Isn't that wierd?


canon1753 said...

Actually, it is related to not eating critters with warm blood. Red blood was seen to excite the passions on a day when the Lord shed his blood for us. So it was seen to be good to abstain from anything (i.e. red meat and warm blood)that would excite the passions on a day when we are called to remember our Lord's Passion in a very special way.

Note I said warm blooded animals. You can eat reptiles on Friday in Lent because they are cold blooded.

(Not kidding- look it up in the 1967/8 instruction on penance from Pope Paul VI)

canon1753 said...

Also, I once was asked about fish on Lenten Fridays seemed not too penitential. I said "Then don't eat fish either if you feel that it is a block to penance." The student did not answer me any further questions.... :)

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Most vegetarians refrain from meat for moral or health reasons, so I don't think they should eat a burger as penance.

I was always taught that we give up meat because it is the most expensive part of any meal. At one time when I was living on a tight budget, I subsisted almost entirely on vegetables, ramen, and rice, with a large burger on Sundays after mass. Smelling the neighbor's barbeque was painful.

Perhaps vegetarians should find some other thing to give up on Fridays. Tofu maybe? It replaces meat in most vegetarian dishes.

matthew archbold said...

Hmmm. I'm going to get myself a "Reptile burger" next Friday!!!!!

Unknown said...

The Early Christian Fathers talk about abstaining from the killing of animals and making fridays the day of OL's sacrifice to be a day unmarred by violence.

Back in the day, before we bought pot roast at Walmart or MacBurgers, if you were eating meat for supper, you were butchering it that day. Ever seen an animal butchered?

Alternately, the practice of eating kibbe in the middle east (made of ground lamb, eaten raw) did not necessarily include the slaughter of the animal... It included "taking some off the hide".

Neither option lead to an unviolent blood-free day, did it?

We also fail to understand that meat with every meal the way most Americans do it these days is very recent and goes to a level of wealth and refrigeration. Eating meat in days of old may not have been decadent, but it was a luxury... something you ate when you weren't eating bread sandwiches...

ignorant redneck said...

Does this mean it's OK to eat vegitarians?

Unknown said...

By strict Greek fasting standards, you may eat proteins without a spine: crab, lobster, shrimp, locusts...

I have met a few vegitarians that seem kind of spineless, but I still think your confessor might take you to task for that one.

As well as the local police!