From a reader:
Thank you so much for your tireless ministry!
I apologize if this question seems silly, but it’s been weighing on my mind for a while: I have been a vegetarian since I was about ten years old. When I stopped eating meat, it was partially because my mom is a vegetarian, and partially for “animal rights” issues.
Twelve years later, as I rediscover my faith (as a newly-traditional, cradle-hippy-novus-ordo Catholic, sometimes I feel as though I’m relearning everything!) I’m beginning to reconsider my vegetarianism.
I currently fast from something else (like chocolate) on fasting days, but it’s beginning to seem as though I’m missing out on a huge part of Traditional Catholic culture. Am I failing to use God’s gifts fully and prudently? Or am I just overthinking my hippy-dippy roots?
Yes, you may be “overthinking” this a little.
I don’t see the sense in starting to eat meat so that you can give up eating meat as a Friday penance.
If you are healthy and happy with your diet as it is, fine. You can substitute some other penance for abstinence from meat. You could also perform corporal works of mercy. You could, for example, do something that would please St. Leo the Great (+461). Leo preached to his Roman flock that, during fast times, they were to give not just from their excess, but from their necessities, and then give what they would have eaten to the poor. Perhaps you could donate food or money or time to food shelf.
On the other hand, if you want to start eating meat, fine.