WDTPRS POLL: Should the US Bishops have Catholics return to meatless Fridays for the whole year?

In another entry, I offered and reacted to Archbishop Dolan’s (Archd. NY) comments about our Catholic identity, external markers seen by others and ourselves which reinforce that identity and communicate it to others and the former practice of meatless Fridays throughout the whole year as one of those external signs.

You can read the whole thing over there.

HERE, on the other hand, you can vote in this WDTPRS POLL on the issue of meatless Fridays and Friday penance.  You can vote even if you are not registered here.  However, I would be please were you also to give your reasons in the combox below, respecting always the people who make arguments other than your own.

Should the Bishops of the USA have us return to obligatory meatless Fridays during the whole year and not just during Lent?

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  1. Nora says:

    The little things, like food choices one day a week bind us together and give us a common place to start a conversation with each other.

  2. goodsaints says:

    My wife and I have been doing this for a few years and teaching our children about it along the way. It’s nice to see them learn about penance and sacrifice and how that helps make us Catholic.

  3. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Someone is bound to mention ‘but I am a vegan and don’t eat meat anyway’. LOL.
    In any event, Catholics must be reminded that we are bound to do a penance every Friday no matter what, or ya hafta go to Confession. How many Catholics even know that? I find giving up meat is the simplest method.

  4. rollingrj says:

    Archbishop Dolan articulates well the big picture–a loss of individual (which leads to a loss of corporal) Catholic identity. We would do well, however, to make sure those external markers are not just for show. Yes, we are out of practice in regards to this. The right disposition, however, will make all the difference.

  5. Thomas S says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but technically aren’t we still bound to the obligation of abstaining from meat on fridays? I thought we were allowed to substitute some other regular penance, but otherwise needed to maintain the former practice.

    That’s why I’ve stopped eating meat on fridays for the past couple of years.

    Granted, that’s not how things have played out. Most people think “that rule was abolished” and they don’t bother to replace the penance with another of their choosing. That’s the fault of priests. I’ve never heard a priest in my 29 years talk about this subject.

    So I’d still allow people to pick a regular penance for themselves, but the bishops absolutely should remind their people that if they don’t, abstaining from meat is still the law.

  6. Phil_NL says:

    I live outside the US, but with that said, I think it’s a very bad idea. It looks like I’m in a distinct minority here, but let me explain:

    First of all, I fail to see how imposed – as opposed to voluntary – restrictions count as piety, nor do I see the logic of penance which is not voluntarily embraced but enforced by blanket prescription. In my view, that’s not penance, but punishment; it lacks the internal conviction – the desire for reparation – that penance involves. The penitant should himself come forward, rather than the bishops effectively saying: oh, you’re overdue for some penance.

    Secondly, it sends the wrong message, namely that fasting and abstention are core values of the Faith. I beg to differ on that; contrary to for example islam, our faith is not one where we simply have to check the necessary boxes – boxes of outward acts. What’s needed is foremost faith, and that’s a spiritual matter, not one determined by what kind of food you eat. Granted, fasting or abstention might aid some people in their spiritual struggle, but certainly not everyone. Quite frankly, personally, I’ve yet to see/receive any spiritual benefit at all from fasting – on the contrary even. That might just be me, of course, but I doubt it.

    Thirdly, it will cause a lot of internal divisions, maybe even people falling away. That in itself is not a reason to abstain from defending tenets of the faith, but as far as I can see, this is only pious custom. Moreover, one would need to do one heck of a lot of cathechization to make people understand this particular one, and I’d much rather see that effort and time spent on other issues – from confessions to abortion. Pick your battles, and this is not one that would be productive, in my opinion.

    So no, let’s leave the menu well alone.

  7. priests wife says:

    yes- I am very much in favor of this.

    and Byzantine types should also abstain on Wednesdays

  8. jdesilva says:

    I voted “no-hesitate” not because I disagree with meatless Fridays but the obligation would not be received by most. I fear the days of making something obligatory are gone…or in Abp. Dolan’s words “the toothpaste is out of the tube”. There is no doubt that Catholic external markers are desperately necessary for a vibrant faith and the bishops ought to campaign for meatless Fridays and penances. Our Catholic Identity has to be understood and accepted before a penalty is imposed.

  9. RickMK says:

    I have been finding more and more other people besides me who do not eat meat on Fridays all year round!
    Friday-mean-eaters do still seem to be a big majority, and Friday-abstainers are in the minority, but I think the proportions may really be getting better. It would surely produce a more rapid shift if it were mandated again – which would be a good thing – but even if not, I think being a Friday-abstainer could still grow to be much more common over time.
    My biggest hope is that it would at least become common enough that hosts would think to ask Catholic guests on Fridays if they eat meat on Fridays if that’s what they planned to offer.

    I personally like fish, and don’t care so much about eating meat. But I don’t think that’s the main point. The real penance of meatless Fridays is having to remember not to eat meat on Fridays, and frequently having to go out of one’s way to avoid eating meat. It’s the effort involved in avoiding meat that’s the penance, not the fish!

  10. amenamen says:

    @ Thomas S: “Most people think “that rule was abolished” and they don’t bother to replace the penance with another of their choosing.”

    Right. Very few people have actually read Paul VI’s Paenitemini. They learn their faith, mostly, by what they see other people doing. And we have lost a sense of doing penance together, as a community.

    Many people would gladly take part in the rather minimal requirements of Friday abstinence, if only they saw it as “something that we do as Catholics.”

    Unfortunately, our present discipline is too complicated to explain briefly and simply. The question people ask is, “Do we abstain from meat on Fridays?” The three possible answers are:
    Yes, but … (My eyes glaze over).

  11. MJ says:

    I voted “Yes, and I think this is really important”. Observing some form of penance on Fridays is important, and as far as I understand, is still in effect – and avoiding meat is an easy one to remember, and one that almost everyone can do (except maybe those who require meat for a medical reason).

    I love fish, but it always seems like Friday is the one day I crave a steak or a hamburger. =P

  12. transparent2one says:

    I began meatless fridays a year before I became Catholic. The sacrifice might not sound diificult until a holiday falls on Friday or you get invited out to eat or a cookout or something.

  13. transparent2one says:

    I began meatless fridays a year before I became Catholic. The sacrifice might not sound diificult until a holiday falls on Friday or you get invited out to eat or a cookout or something.

  14. rayrondini says:

    I voted “Yes and I think it’s important.” As the article says, Abstinence from meat on Fridays was once a hallmark of one’s Catholic identity. It set us apart. It showed that, for whatever reason, we were part of something bigger than ourselves and obediently so. So should it be again.

    @Phil_NL: The Church requries, or “imposes,” all sorts of things on the faithful: attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, Confession at least once per year, reception of Holy Communion at least once per year, the proscription from the use of artificial birth control, fasting AND abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstinence duing Lenten Fridays, etc. Love may indeed cover a multitude of sins, but obedience covers most everything else. That is, if people are obedient in their observance of a Friday abstinence penance, despite it being “imposed,” that’s just as valuable as doing a different, “more favorable” penance of their own, IMHO.

    Also, I don’t think, in any way, such an imposition would send the message that fasting/abstience are the “core of the faith.” It may, however, show that obedience is at the core of our Catholic faith; an idea which seems to have been lost along with the external markers. Fasting/abstinence can be difficult, it can be annoying, it can be distasteful. This is precisely why it’s so valuable: it requires self-discipline, self-control, self-denial, and (again) obedience.

    Finally (and also @jdesilva) – lots of stuff casuses internal divisions, and isn’t well-received. You can’t please everyone. The Church isn’t a democracy. The all male, celibate priesthood causes divisions. The pope (this one, specifically, and the very existence of the Office) causes division. The Magisterium. Vestments. Latin. Lots of stuff casuses divisions, but it’s still good, and sometimes necessary, stuff. Just because people hate having things “imposed” by “Rome” or “the Vatican” doesn’t mean anything. Indeed, again, precisely because of that is why we so dearly need to return to such practices. Catholics are called to obedience in all things, and practice makes perfect.

  15. shortside40 says:

    I think it is a great idea! Small efforts like this are, to me, a sign of revitalization in Catholic identity. (After all, isn’t the best cleansing work of toothpaste done after it’s out of the tube?) ;)

  16. Jason Keener says:

    We human beings are weak, and we often need something to be obligatory in order to get us moving in the right direction. For that reason, bring back obligatory meatless Fridays and obligatory Holy Days. Such obligations would help my spiritual life a lot and would serve as a tool of evangelization to others who today see the Catholic way of life as no different than any other way of life.

  17. shane says:

    YES! And I hope bishops throughout the world do the same thing.

  18. Phil_NL says:

    Obedience is a great good, that I won’t deny. And I try my best to be obedient; frankly, that’s not the issue – unless you prefer to see friday abstinence as a test of obedience, that the only reason is to check if we accept authority. I find that a rather meagre – might even say dismal – way of looking at things, and I doubt that’s what you meant.
    The point is that, even though we can in obedience accept things that are imposed on us, in order to have the desired effect – especially if that effect is penance – the persons submitting should understand and subscribe to the underlying reasons for it. Those i’ve never seen or heard explained in a satisfactory manner. So we can do what we’re told, but unless it has some greater purpose – again, I assume its penance, as its the ‘best’ explanation i’ve so far come across – its nothing more than following orders. And no, I’d rather not have more practice in that for the sake of it. if anything, it arouses a rebellious streak in man, and thats not rebellion at authority, but at the presumption that the faithful don’t need to be convinced, not even taught, but only to obey.

    And that ties in nicely with my third point: the bishops would need to do an enormous amount of explaining for this, cause even regular church attendants will not understand this. Again (cf second point) fasting itself doesnt cause salvation, so communicate why this would be a good idea.

    And please, if this is imposed, let it be a good idea, cause again, I can’t see why it would be one.

  19. greg the beachcomber says:

    To steal a line from another post: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

    I went to meatless Fridays about five years ago, when I realized I was still obliged to do some kind of penance each Friday. My brother, who attends a very liberal parish, quickly followed suit when I asked a simple question: What penance are you doing each Friday instead?

    Like in most areas of the Faith, more catechism is required, but this one’s fairly easy. Reminding people of their obligations would go a long way toward bringing this about on its own.

  20. Andy Milam says:

    Considering it is still the norm, I voted yes. With the exception of the very few, most Catholics do not engage in any other form of penance on Friday’s or other meatless days, unless it is staying in from the bar scene (mostly), so I voted yes.

    If we’re not “mature” enough to do the penance on our own, then we should continue to have the obligatory reminder. And I’m ok with that.

  21. Southern Baron says:

    I support this revival, but coming from New Orleans it’s never been much of a sacrifice, thanks to the ready availability of all kinds of seafood, and all kinds of preparation. Still, as a conscious symbol that helps us to identify and relate to one another and direct our hearts to God, it’s a very good thing, even if the classic crawfish boil is more feast than fast. When I was in London this summer, I followed the new directives for that diocese, so Friday became falafel day. I did not complain.

  22. rayrondini says:

    I wouldn’t disagree with you (or anyone else) one iota that the practice would have to be adequately explained. I am adamantly against the “because I said so” technique. If nothing else, the practice is a good one, when properly explained and understood, not only because it requires obedience, sacrifice, etc. but also because it is in continuity with the traditions of the Church. Obviously the external isn’t all that matters, lest we become “whitewashed tombs” or pharisees. However, we are an Incarnational people and we engage our entire selves in our worship, so the external gestures and practices are vitally important, too.

  23. Geoffrey says:

    I voted “Yes, I guess so.”

    Canon Law already has established this, but gives the option for the episcopal conferences to modify it in some way. Penance is still required on all Fridays of the year in the USA, but you never hear this even talked about or mentioned. We are still supposed to give up meat on Fridays during the year OR do some other act of penance instead.

    No meat on Fridays during Lent is required; otherwise, we are free to choose what to do. Granted, no meat is easier. But either way, very few Catholics even know about this. I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel… let’s just spread the word on what we already have!

  24. Joan M says:

    Penance and mortification of the body has always been a part of Catholic identity. Unfortunately, in the past 40 years we have become frightened of penance and developed a horror at the thought of denying our bodies anything! Obedience is another virtue that has all but disappeared.

    So, yes, we definitely need obligatory penance. If we then develop a healthy respect for penance, perhaps the obligation could be softened, but it appears to me that most people need the obligation to push them to do the bare minimum.

    In the sixties, after hearing on the news that the Friday abstinence was no longer required, and seeing a priest digging into a steak on Friday, I figured that this was true and abandoned meatless Fridays immediately. About 10 years or so ago, I became aware that a penance was still required in most of the Catholic world (but, it appears, not in Trinidad as we are a missionary territory!) and I returned to meatless Fridays, based on the logic that it was much easier in every way to just abstain from meat and not have to think of other penances and the inevitable comparison between the two.

  25. Like most people here, I voted the first yes. I suspect that most of us here already observe this meatless form of penance.

    I wish it were different, but I am not very confident that making it mandatory will actually have any short term impact. We have enough trouble just getting people to go to Sunday Mass. Regardless, I think it was a mistake to make it optional and as a corrective step for the long term, it should be reversed.

  26. Frank H says:

    Yes. Emphatically yes! I resumed year round abstaining about five years ago, and offer the sacrifice (small though it is) for the cause of vocations to the priesthood. The biggest challenge has been during my son’s high school football seasons, when the smell of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers at the stadium is just so enticing! But I held firm. Thank goodness for plain cheese pizza!

  27. Jack Hughes says:

    In England from the 16th of December meatless fridays have been reinstated Thanks Be to God

  28. lolomurray says:

    I would LOVE for Catholics to return to meatless Fridays. Growing up Catholic way back when, I knew the scent of fried fish in the house every Friday set my family apart from other families, but so did things like altar railings (here let’s pause and weep, since they too are largely gone), Latin (sob!), and nuns wearing habits (I’m wiping away another tear here). These outward signs of our faith meant something, and they still do. Most of all, I’m eager for the bishops to step up to the plate and say, “Friday is the day Christ died out of love for us. Let’s do something out of love for Him.” And, who knows, maybe if this were to happen, they’d also bring back the altar railings? We can hope, right?

  29. Jaceczko says:

    I’m pretty sure Thomas S is right.

  30. Cantor says:

    I voted “Yes/Important” because you used the word “have” us return, rather than “impose under pain of mortal sin”. It is far less a sacrifice than a public sign for most people. This would be an excellent opportunity to CALL UPON Catholics to show an external sign of their beliefs other than simply huddling in our air conditioned bunkers for an hour each Sunday.

    It would also restore the great humor of life, as I remember back when three busloads of Catholic high school band members pulled into a McDonald’s for lunch on a Friday!

  31. PaterAugustinus says:

    The fact, is that basic acts of ascesis have been part of the Apostolic Tradition from the very first days of the Church – and it is a grievous scandal that Catholicism has almost entirely omitted the observance of these acts for some time now. Not only should meatless Fridays come back, but also meatless Wednesdays (or Saturdays – whichever seems best to Roman Catholics in light of Latin customs… but, remembering that the Wednesday fast was ancient and broadly observed in the West, as well). And, perhaps the meatless needs to be upped to no meat/dairy.

    This really is a bare minimum, and was the custom of all Christendom (i.e., the no meat/dairy thing, though the specific weekdays varied somewhat). It has deep theological reasons beyond mere hardship for the stomach. It seems that the trend of thought in Catholicism was, since few people kept the rigor of the fasts, to believe that it was necessary to lighten the custom so that people would not “sin” by not keeping the fast. I think the Orthodox have a better attitude, however: the fast is enjoined upon as a salutary custom, and is not thought of so much as an invented pretext for charging people with sins if they fail to keep the fast perfectly. By relaxing the rules to make it easy for everyone to “not sin,” the fact is that indulgence of the passions becomes “legalized,” but the failure to fast remains just as sinful as it ever was. Far better to have the knowledge of falling short of a well-established custom – and thus to have a constant spur to repentance and amendment of life – than the false comfort of knowing that we “kept the rules,” simply because the rules were simple enough that even elderly diabetics would have no difficulty keeping them.

    And yes, I know that elderly diabetics are exucsed from the rigours of fasting; I’m just saying that a “fast,” which elderly diabetics could keep, would not be anything like an hardship for normal persons of average health… and, that is a central purpose of the fast. I would like to see Catholicism restore the stricter rules – think what a strong message that would send about the need to practice self-restraint and to fight the passions, to a generation of instantly gratified CINOs! But this should be done with a STRONG emphasis on the fact that failure to fast perfectly doesn’t mean “breaking a church rule and ‘sinning,'” but only indicates how far short we are of doing even a very little for our own benefit… and so, of our constant need for grace and help to do better.

  32. MissOH says:

    I voted yes and it is important. Most cradle Catholics I know of my age and younger are not aware Friday’s are still supposed to be penitential other than those who are more conservative or traditional leaning. When I was in RCIA in the mid 1980’s we were told “no more fish on Fridays” but I don’t recall being told another penance should be observed. I obstain myself year round (though I have used the substitution a few times for various reasons) and I cook meatless for my family on Fridays.
    I understand the tension between “imposing” something but the reality is most Catholics have lost the sense that Fridays have a penitential quality and being a sign to the world is not a bad thing.

  33. Random Friar says:

    I am personally confused as to why many who come to Ash Wednesday services walk out of Mass with a rather visible sign of Catholic identity, then turn around and don’t seem to want to embrace another, more constant sign of the same Catholic identity. And, of course, you can make it more meaningful, by adding positive penances to substitute, and/or directing the money you would have spent otherwise to the poor.

    But I think at least making the “fish rule” a mandatory baseline for starters is a good idea. Hopefully people will get to think more about why they do it, and what else they might do. Concrete steps work better than abstract ones (to wit, “we no longer have to eat fish on Fridays” is a concrete idea, while “do some work of charity” is a little too vague and thus forgotten by most). My 2 cents.

  34. Random Friar says:

    Oh, and whether we do or we do not “go back” to the so-called “fish rule,” we still need to catechize folks from the pulpit on this.

  35. Warren says:

    Yes – and someone mention this to the Canadian hierarchy. Meatless Fridays will help us reclaim a small but significant part of our Catholic identity.

  36. jdesilva says:

    The poll question asked whether Friday abstinence ought to be “obligatory”. I still say no, but see it as necessary–bishops and priests ought to encourage it as often as possible. In practical terms, though the majority of Catholics need to be catechized on what abstinence and penance in general mean before imposing a penalty which will have no significance in their view.

    The USCCB doesn’t even observe Holy Days of Obligation, 2/3 of Catholics don’t regularly attend Holy Mass, 90% of married Catholics contracept…and @rayrondini wants to draw a line in the sand over eating meat on Fridays and compare that to the legitimacy of the Papacy, Magisterium, Latin, vestments…? brother!

    The bishops are laughed at when they speak out against pro-abort politicians and immoral healthcare mandates…and that’s by Catholics. Announce meatless Fridays for Catholics-YES-we need it now more than ever-but not obligatory.

  37. JohnE says:

    I’m on the fence with this. The “external markers” for recapturing Catholic identity is a pretty persuasive argument. I think there needs to be more effort in emphasizing that the obligation to do some form of Friday penance still exists, and perhaps a list of strongly-encouraged activities for such penances, including abstaining from meat, would be helpful. I’m just not sure about making a particular penance obligatory, but I would joyfully comply if it was made to be.

  38. Bring back the obligation. Most of us will not do any penance without an obligation. The bishops of the U.S. were supposed to decree some substitute for abstinence, but to my knowledge, they never have.

    I actually expatiated on these issues recently in another space, for what that is worth.

  39. rayrondini says:

    I absolutely did not indicate that the legitimacy of the papacy, et. al. was of an equal footing with this topic in terms of… gravity? importance? doctrinal viability? What I said was that there are a lot of things that irritate people and that isn’t a good reason to not do them.

    Do I think this is a matter of salvific ramifications? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s incredibly important and ought to be obligatory? Yes.

    And, as an aside that’s altogether unimportant that you brought up: “The USCCB doesn’t even observe Holy Days of Obligation” is just not true. I mean – I get your point. They always move feasts, and that’s annoying, but they still “observe” the Holy Days. I strongly dislike they ways in which they “observe” them (since it often seems more like observation rather than participation), but nevertheless. But, in fact, this further supports my point. The USCCB has opted to make Holy Days just a little less discomfitting for a lot of people by abrogating the obligation, or moving the feast, or whatever – and look where that’s gotten us.

  40. Jakub says:

    Never stopped the practice…

  41. Oh, yeah. In favor of making the rosary hanging on the rear-view mirror mandatory too!

    Kidding aside, yeah 90% of married Catholics contracept, but most of them don’t advertise it. The 30% who don’t attend Mass and don’t obey the other precepts (one of which is to observe prescribed days of fasting and abstinence) are on the wrong side of that line–not in sand but bright and sharp. No recriminations, no rush to judgment but let us recognize ourselves (cf 1Pet2:9); let others recognize us; let people recognize in themselves whether they’re us or not and adjust accordingly if they desire Christ.

    I also have no patience with those who have no patience with the “because I said so” argument. Yes there’re good reasons for Friday abstaining AND for the proscription of artificial contraception. Too much pride these days says if your reasons don’t make sense to me I don’t have to obey.

  42. robtbrown says:

    In this area the Lenten meatless Fridays are accompanied by fish dinners by the Knights of Columbus and at least one parish. And contemporary chain restaurants like Applebee’s and the Olive Garden offer many fish or shrimp entrees.

  43. JohnE says:

    I wouldn’t exactly consider Applebees or Olive Garden being a penance. [I. Would.] And I wouldn’t consider the fish feast our KofC puts on during Lent to be one either.

  44. colospgs says:

    That’s the thing. If you tell people they don’t have to do it, then no one will do it, tiny minorities excepted.

  45. anilwang says:


    Actually, fasting/abstinence are the “core of the faith.”. Doesn’t Jesus state that anyone who would follow him must deny himself and take up the cross and follow him? Granted fasting/abstinence for the sake of fasting/abstinence does nothing. But as Jesus himself states, if you cannot be trusted with small things, how can you be trusted with big things? If you cannot fast from red meat one day a week (this barely classifies as sacrifice since fish, shrimp, and lobster are plentiful in the west), how can you hope to fast from weightier temptations (e.g. avoid extramarital/premarital relations or avoid contraception)? And how can you hope to be a wet or dry martyr if you can’t be bothered with a slight inconvenience such as fasting from red meat? And how can people even know you’re Catholic so that they ask you “the reason for the hope that is in you” if your actions are indistinguishable from an atheist.

  46. Tom says:

    I haven’t gotten to read many of the replies here, but I do think it would be very, very beneficial for this to be brought back to the US. Now England and Wales have reinstituted it, I predict it will go Universal in 5 years, certainly within 10.
    My paster (FSSP) once put it this way: The norm of the Church is still abstinence on Fridays. We are ALLOWED to do something else, but it must EQUAL abstinence. If what we do is not equal to it, then we have failed to follow the Law of the Church, and have thus sinned. Is holding a door for someone, or giving some money to a cause, or saying a Rosary the equivalent? Those are all good things, but it could be risky to just do those, not knowing if we are actually following the Church’s guidelines. So, it is a good idea to do the exceedingly simple act of abstinence AS WEL AS acts of charity.
    Makes sence to me! :)

  47. Springkeeper says:

    My last class in RCIA this year was taught by a man who mentioned legalism and how eating meat on Friday was legalistic because you were narrowly interpreting the law to avoid any discomfort. He went on further but up until that class I wasn’t even aware that there were Catholics who abstained on Friday (I actually thought “abstinence” had something to do with sexual relations had no idea it was about fish or that chicken counts as meat). He convinced me and I have been meat-free on every Friday since. Sadly, I went on a Catholic retreat and there were no meatless options so I had to be creative and the cradle Catholics there were perplexed that I was observing meat-free Fridays. A few of their attitudes reminded me of my fundamentalist Baptist past with the their “I have liberty in Christ” belief. The Baptists (also at the camp but a different group) asked me why I didn’t eat meat and I replied that I did- just not on Fridays.

    The reason the conservative congregations are growing is simple- people want something that challenges them. I believe people fundamentally know that God is not “easy” and that an easy belief that requires nothing from you is one you will not truly value. If the Catholic church truly wants to catch fire (as it were), she needs to continue to reach out in love but demand more from those who call themselves by her name.

  48. Joe in Canada says:

    I voted “no, this would be a really bad idea” for 2 reasons. First, I don’t think we should fast on Easter Friday, and when Solemnities and Feasts fall on Fridays. Second, I think there is a middle ground that would be much more useful towards educating and forming the laity. If the Bishops kept meatless Fridays, that would be a powerful witness. Let’s start with Bishops, religious houses, religious conference centers, etc. Let it be clearly understood that this ancient practice of the Church is an expectation, and let those who are weak make their accommodations.

  49. Phil_NL says:

    You said “Granted fasting/abstinence for the sake of fasting/abstinence does nothing.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. The issue therefore is, what bigger motive does it have? Teaching on that is woefully inadequate, and – for me personally at least – so far also wholly unconvincing, if we assume that the person in question has no sincere wish to fast for a higher/other reason than that it is imposed. And that wish requires, at least in my mind, some conviction that it is a good thing in itself.

    By the way, you seem to imply that having trouble with an obligatory fast – which is something else than having a problem with fasting – would imply having more trouble with bigger sacrifices. I very much doubt that, again conviction – faith – plays a far bigger role in that than mere ‘practice’. Moreover, it isn’t a question of ‘can’t be bothered’, what I’m talking about is ‘I’m doing it, but what’s the point of this? why would one impose something that is – at least in some cases – very annoying (for want of a better word) and liable to cause only adverse reaction?’ That’s a question that needs to be answered before making more fasting obligatory – and even for the current requirements. Then we can continue the discussion, IMHO, and only then.
    And please, don’t assume on people’s motives or comparing them with atheists, thank you very much…

  50. Margaret says:

    Definitely bring back mandatory meatless Fridays, and reinstate all the Holy Days of Obligation while we’re at it.

    We need to start realizing as a body that there is a cross to be taken up, albeit this is a tiny one, when following Christ. I’m very afraid that the absence of even these tiny crosses is making our Catholic muscles so emaciated that when the bigger ones turn up down the road, when it really begins to “cost” to be a practicing Catholic in the West, we will not be ready or able to bear it.

  51. stjmen says:

    I personally abstain from eating meat on Friday simply because it is a conscious action that reminds me of Christ’s sacrifice for me, and in turn encourages me to refrain from and repent of those sins that caused this sacrifice on my behalf.

  52. amenamen says:

    @ JohnE
    There seems to be a logical fallacy in dismissing the significance of Friday abstinence on the basis that it is not very demanding. Granted, a person could gorge himself on lobster and salmon, and still claim to be within the letter of the law. But the law only establishes a minimum level. If there is no minimum requirement, people tend to do even less than that.

  53. Gregorius says:

    The other day, I had stumbled across a wonderful article on the website of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem: http://www.canonsregular.com/church_tradition.htm

    While it is a rather long article with the main purpose being a defense of the traditional Roman Liturgy, there is a significant portion of the article defending fasting and other obligatory penances.

    “Every spiritual author and director knows that the ascetic virtue of penance derives from obedience to another’s will, not one’s own, and that the internal submission of the will is externally manifest in outward obedience and physical discipline as corrective to the unruliness of fallen nature.”

    The article then goes on to discuss the modern train of thought’s stressed importance on individual liberty. Fasting and abstinence, even not obligatory ones, by nature also foster obedience, that just as Christ obeyed the Father, we may also learn obedience and participate in Christ’s life. To eliminate obligatory penance so that people may choose penance of their own free will not only leads to the obvious path of people choosing not to do penance, but also losing this important aspect of self-sacrificing obedience that is an important part of penance in the first place. To borrow from the article once more,
    “Ascetic principle demands that the whole of the human person be controlled by the requirements of right reason in view of man’s supernatural end. This is the law of truth. Penance, as understood by the new definition Professor Amerio discusses, has recently shifted from being 1) a submission of one’s will to the law of God in virtue of His independent sovereignty over man, and 2) the individual’s corporal mortification as a disciplined castigatio carnis for training unruly flesh and reparatio justitiae united to the atoning sacrifice of the Redeemer for sin committed, to: anything at all so long as it is freely chosen by the one doing it, and therefore involving neither humility nor obedience as its precondition. ‘Penance’ deriving from pride is not penance in any sense at all and certainly has no merit in the eyes of God.”

    “once the concept of penance is lost, everything becomes a penance”

    So, I guess I had this article in mind when I voted ‘Yes, absolutely’.

  54. anilwang says:

    “Teaching on that is woefully inadequate…What I’m talking about is ‘I’m doing it, but what’s the point of this? why would one impose something that is – at least in some cases – very annoying (for want of a better word) and liable to cause only adverse reaction?’ ”

    Actually, you’ve answered your own question. If you’re asking the question “what’s the point of this?”, you’ll get an answer. It’s little different from a child seeing adults genuflecting at mass. If you’re curious why this odd practice exists, you’ll ask questions. While good catechisms are important, what’s more important is the curiosity to discover the faith since there is far more to Catholicism than can be learned in one lifetime. If the Catholic faith has nothing to inspire such curiosity in it, there will be little desire to learn anything beyond the minimum or even to listen to homilies. I know this from personal experience.

    Something to consider, if you read Genesis 3 you’ll notice the whole reason Creation fell was because man and woman refused to keep the fast imposed by God.

  55. Sliwka says:

    Voted, yes I guess so. But like others have mentioned 1) the obligation to go meatless is still in effect, just with some caveats and 2) people tend not to listen anyways so the USCCB “mandating” it might result in a slight increase, but those who would follow obedience anyways likely already go meatless.

    What would probably be more beneficial is the USCCB (or any other bishops conference) mandating a particular topic for a sermon, or series of sermons. I am sure there will be those cleric who will still be disobedient and see this as interference from above, but how else do you disseminate Catholic teaching or Catholic identity to those who are not already interested? At least some Catholics still go to Mass on Sundays, whether they are completely faithful and obedient or not. At least then they’d hear the message. There definitively exist those who just do not enjoy sitting down online and reading proclamations. I am willing to bet there is still a sizable number of people who have no idea anew translation is coming.

  56. ndmom says:

    The problem with returning to this discipline is that most Catholics (and the mainstream media) are so poorly formed that it will end up as a distraction from far more important matters. Such as that most self-identified Catholics aren’t even going to Mass on Sundays/holy days, nor are they going to confession. There will be silly headlines, and earnest commentary from the Usual Suspects, and endless “Catholic in the pew” interviews confirming that most Catholics are clueless about the basic tenets of the faith (“The Pope can’t tell me what to eat! Why don’t the bishops focus on pedophiles?”).

    No doubt meatless Fridays are a beneficial penitential practice for Catholics who are striving to live the faith, but I doubt that many lukewarm Catholics will return to the sacraments because they are eating tuna on Friday instead of meat.

  57. GeekLady says:

    While I voted “yes, absolutely” I do have a caveat. The penance doesn’t necessarily need to be meat, but I do think that we need to have some sort of obligatory and communal penance at the bare minimum of the diocese level.

    Eating meat is just my preference, and I prefer obligatory because I’m tired of having to flex our household’s practice whenever we are visiting on a Friday.

  58. stilicho says:

    I started going for the meatless option on Fridays a few months ago as a very small sign of personal discipline and mortification. I also think it’s a significant way to reconnect with tradition and our Catholic identity.

  59. Martial Artist says:

    If I do not give my faith outward expression, even simply the tacit expression of abstaining from meat on Fridays, then what will a non-Catholic Christian, or even a non-Christian, infer about my commitment to my Lord and Savior?

    Additionally, it is a discipline which helps me remained focused on the fact that I must not simply profess, but live, my faith. And by doing so, I place myself in a position of consciously reminding myself, that the other aspects of my conduct must affirm the tenets and demands of the faith that I publicly profess by that act of abstinence.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  60. Dr. Eric says:

    I voted Yes, bring back meatless Fridays. Since last year I’ve been abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. This Lent I went full Byzantine and abstained from dairy and oil as well on those days. (I also keep the Ember and Rogation days. I don’t write this to brag but to edify my Catholic brothers and sisters and hope they will take up fasting and abstinence as well.)

    We need to get back to this practice which was laid out in the Didache. People don’t realize there is SPIRITUAL POWER in fasting and abstinence.

    Furthermore, the Byzantines (Catholics and Orthodox) fast from meat, fish, eggs, (nothing that has red blood or a backbone may be eaten), dairy, oil, wine, and sexual intercourse for the duration of Lent, 2 weeks before the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 2 weeks before the Feast of the Assumption, and for 40 days before Christmas as well as a few other days here and there. That’s half the year, folks! The Copts fast and abstain 210 days out of the year, two hundred ten! And we Catholics can’t abstain from meat for 53 days out of the year? For shame, no wonder the world is in the shape that it’s in.

  61. BLB Oregon says:

    I wasn’t sure how to vote. It isn’t that abstinence isn’t a great thing; I guess it is that it isn’t ideally a stand-alone thing.

    I think there is a great deal to be gained by stressing that each Friday is a little Lent and each Sunday a little Easter: that is, to put that a Catholic rhythm and understanding into the whole week. If some kids remember Friday not only as the day we always had fish, but the day we always visited the nursing home or the day we looked for some way to help the poor and do a little extra in prayer, that would make a huge difference, not just in identity but in virtue….and virtue is the bottom line. If we think of ourselves as Catholic, but don’t advance in virtue but only in habits that give us an identity, after all, what good is that? Likewise, we could stand to have a strong reiteration of the sense of the entire day of Sunday being a day set aside for the Lord, and not just part of the “weekend”. If that were the case, maybe there would be more of a sense that Sunday Mass is the hinge of the whole week, and not something to “fit in” to a “busy weekend”.

  62. Elizabeth D says:

    I want to suggest that the norm for this today shouldn’t be too strongly for eating fish instead. That is a perfectly licit option, but seafood can easily be a treat or luxury, and most seafood options have a significant ecological impact that should be borne in mind, due to overfishing, polluting fish farms, etc. On the other hand eating more plant based meals has many different morally relevent things to recommend it, and seems like most often the foods we crave are animal foods so this arguably mortifies the appetites a little more. I try to abstain from meat, fish, dairy and eggs on Fridays whenever practical, and I also fast on Fridays unless it is actually a feast day. My understanding is that fasting (not only abstinence) used to be the law for fridays until the 50s or something like that, and went back to the ancient Church. The near absence of Christian fasting today seems to be a significant break with Christian tradition where it was of course often mitigated for good reasons, but was a regular part of life for those who were able.

  63. Lynn Diane says:

    Catholics should be required to abstain from meat on Fridays for the reasons given above. When it’s left up to me, I often forget to do any penance, and the world certainly needs more penance! We can all do small things with love. As a child, I was taught by the nuns not to eat delicacies such as lobster under the guise of doing penance. Later I worked with a Catholic lady from Palestine who fasted and abstained during Lent and the “Little Lent” (two weeks before the Assumption), which meant that she substituted olive oil for butter in her cooking, vegetables for meat products, and made spinach and onion (sauted in olive oil) turnovers for lunch which she shared with me. That really makes Roman Catholics look wimpy!

  64. ipadre says:

    Yes, I think we need more penance as a Church. This will be a small sign of our unity in the public square. Also think we need to go back to the Holy Days of obligation on the day they fall. Each year there are fewer people on Holy Days and Sundays. Jesus made it clear that the way to the kingdom is the narrow road. The easier we make it, the less that is expected of us, the less we tend to do. That is just human nature. As the world goes down the wide road, we need to offer these small sacrifices for our conversion and that of the world.

  65. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Essentials can be internal as well, and I think that in the context of the clergy abuse scandal, that’s where our focus should lie. It will look to many as though we are rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs as we go down. I like the idea of increased mortification but the whole effort could backfire if it appears that we are more concerned with externals than internals. It could be something like reading a chapter from the gospels every Friday. In terms of mortification, it could be refraining from dessert on Fridays or dare I say alcohol. It would seems a little silly to be able to have a few drinks right before a nice salmon fillet and claim that mortification is taking place.

  66. Steliz OCayce says:

    I’ll fulfill the prediction above that someone who doesn’t eat meat might comment. Due to a GI problem not suitable for discussion here, I have not been able to eat any kind of animal muscle protein since my teens. Nothing that helped an animal walk, crawl, swim or fly onto my plate. Additionally, I am diabetic, and, while not elderly, I am eligible for that AARP card. It is entirely possible for me to go through Lent and make absolutely no changes in my diet, were I to want to do so.
    However, that does nothing to physically remind me of the sacrifices Christ made on my behalf. I cannot fast — but I can make my small meals even smaller, and still maintain my blood sugar. I don’t give up meat, but I can cut way back on cheese, or other richer foods. I can, as others have suggested, skip that glass of wine, or even cut way back on Diet sodas. Changing my diet during Lent, and adding to it a mortification on ordinary Fridays is a reminder to my body that there really is something different about my faith.
    I love the physicality of Catholicism — crossing myself, applying holy water, genuflecting before being seated at Mass, kneeling and standing with others — so much of what we do with our bodies defines us and reminds us of Christ within us. Adding dietary changes one or two days a week isn’t that difficult, and I think is laudable for all of us.

  67. Rich A says:

    I believe St. Thomas Aquinas warned that changing a law, by nature of the action, diminishes the binding power of the law. Once the discipline requiring meatless Fridays was lifted, the binding power of the rule was already weakened. To reinstitute the practice now could cause many Catholics to question the binding power of this and other Church laws. While I personally abstain from meat on all Fridays, I think making it mandatory again could be counter-productive. Nonetheless, our Bishops would be wise to place increased emphasis on the importance of voluntary Friday penance.

  68. webpoppy8 says:

    First they should have Catholics return to contraception-less marriages.

  69. esiul says:

    I voted “no, I hesitate about such a move” for several reasons. Having lived under Communism, I
    remember they used to make meat available on Friday on purpose. This was the age of no refrigeration so you had no choice but to eat and cook it especially in the summer. Fridays now are often the night that families eat out usually fast food (that’s all they can afford) fish meals are not very good. Also purchasing fish is more expensive than meat because of overfishing. I realize that one does not have to eat fish, try feeding your husband and kids beans . I think it would cause a lot of discourse in the family. In our busy lives just remembering it’s Friday alone is a job.
    I think we can give up many other things instead. I attend daily Mass and have to get up before 6
    that’s my sacrifice for the day. We can do those kind of things. For myself, I have no problems
    to meatless Fridays. And like Ioannes said, the cocktails before a meal are not exactly mortifications.

  70. catholicmidwest says:

    I honestly don’t think so. I think something else should be chosen as the thing to bind us together more closely. Perhaps occasions of public prayer in the parish church on weeknights would be better idea, both because they would be inviting and also because they would allow us to see each other during the week. People might just form a few more attachments to their fellow parishoners. Most times, Catholics hardly know each other. That’s one of the reasons we have so little catholic identity.

  71. helgothjb says:

    I didn’t read all the comments, but Fr. said to leave one, so I am sorry if I am redundant. I think there are too many Catholics out there who know we don’t abstain from meat every friday as a requirement but don’t realize they should be making some sortof sacrafice in it’s place. Therefore unless a much better job of catachizing is going to be done, a return to meatless Fridays would make more sense.

  72. jflare says:

    I almost voted yes, absolutely, but wound up voting yes, I guess so.
    My reason..is somewhat awkward. Around 2007, I began attending Mass at a parish with a much more traditional understanding of faith in general. When I attended meals with other choir members, I re-discovered the option of meatless Fridays. I genuinely like the idea.

    Unfortunately, in my case, I must deal with..unusual complications. Simply put, meatless Fridays might really be a problem for the pizza store I manage. Friday and Saturday nights are both are big nights of the week. These past two years, Lenten Fridays have been..a problem; most of the Catholics decide to go to fish fries instead of buying pizza.
    I had been thinking how I’d deal with that if we did it year ’round. I’ve considered that we could try marketing veggie pizzas (the current version of that is rather a pain to make), cheese pizzas, and other non-meat products on Fridays..but to be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with that.
    It’d be legal and–at least theoretically–acceptable morally. But..I find it very awkward to consider catering so blatantly to a religious concern. I’ll admit to being a little concerned about potential for abuse.

    ..And yet my paycheck kinda depends on it…..

    Oh bother.

  73. 1987 says:

    In Lithuania, meatless Fridays throughout the year are obligatory (and I am happy about that), but most Catholics don’t care about it or, in most cases, even don’t know about it (which is sad). I think legal norms should go along with good and orthodox catechesis.

  74. LauraPie says:

    My husband, our two daughters and I have been voluntarily observing meatless Fridays for our childrens’ entire lives; they’re 11 and 14. It has provided great graces for us individually and as a family, beyond the obvious benefit of learning to mortify the senses and train the will. For instance, since it is an act of love for Our Savior, when we slip up, we’re able to model repentance and forgiveness; this has been powerful because it has been done little by little, consistently, over time.
    Thanks be to God!

  75. Supertradmum says:

    Yes, as we have systematically destroyed Catholic culture over the past fifty years and we need definite ways to recreate it where such practices have disappeared. We should look and be different than the rest of the world–“in the world, but not of the world”….

  76. bernadette says:

    I have been observing meatless Fridays for several years since a priest-friend told me that the requirement to abstain on Fridays had never been lifted, but only changed to include an alternate penance. And I thought I was really current on what the Church taught!
    There are so many good meatless and vegetarian recipes out there that even kids will like.
    The only place I have run into problems on Friday is the local Catholic retreat center which hosts not only retreats but meetings of Catholic groups. They often serve meat on Fridays. Go figure.

  77. Supertradmum says:

    Many retreat centres both in England and in America have been serving meat on Friday. Even monasteries! Thankfully, the English bishops have changed this, but not in the states. I know of one seminary which is a monastery in the States, where meat is always served on Friday. When I mentioned this to those in power, I was told people have a choice.

  78. AnAmericanMother says:

    One can always argue against any particular devotion or penance by saying, “it’s not important compared to X,” or for pity’s sake bringing up the abuse scandal. The problem is that in that case there will be NOTHING done to recreate Catholic identity, which is an important factor in solving any “big” problem you care to mention.
    It’s kind of like the ‘broken window’ theory of policing. Ignoring the little things leads to more, not fewer, problems with the big things.

  79. Tony Layne says:

    I don’t know how far it would really go towards recreating an authentic Catholic culture, but certainly it would do us good to remind ourselves of the Lord’s Passion throughout the year rather than just for six or seven weeks.

  80. tom b says:

    I usually abstain on Friday. Gets difficult at times because no one else in the family, including my wife, believe in abstaining from meat on Friday. Almost 50 years ago, while in the Air Force, I was called a mackerel snapper. I had never heard the term and did not know it was a put down of Catholics. I think we would be better off if our actions today made others call us mackerel snappers once again.
    Proud to be a mackerel snapper.

  81. nanetteclaret says:

    Mr. claret and I have been observing “Fish on Friday” for the 5 1/2 years since I converted and he reverted. I know that we have a choice of penance, but doing Fish on Friday is much easier than trying to figure out if the “substitute” penance is penitential enough. It is also a very good means of evangelization because when people ask why we do it, we are able to say “because Jesus died for our sins on Friday so we remember His sacrifice for us on Friday.” It can be a very powerful witness.

    An interesting observation as to how our Catholic identity shaped our culture in ways we might not even recognize: here in Northeast Texas, in the midst of the Baptist Bible-belt, it seems that most restaurants offer “all you can eat catfish,” “Friday fish-fry,” or some other fish extravaganza on Fridays. Since there are only about 1 or 2 Catholic churches per county out here, I’m sure it’s not due to direct Catholic influence, but rather the idea that Fridays are for fish.

    I will say that it is very disconcerting to go to a Catholic function and to have meat served on Friday. It just seems really, really wrong. That is why I voted that it should be obligatory. At least that way we would have the assurance that Catholic institutions would help us out by not offering meat on Friday.

  82. SonofMonica says:

    Look, I get it. We need to build a Catholic culture. But it takes Catholics to have a Catholic culture. So while I usually agree with the majority here, I gotta break rank on this one. My family and I live in the South. In the Bible belt. And here’s the thing: we’ved watched folks here lose their kids to the evangelical youth groups and rock shows and emotional heart-tugs. It’s already going to be tough enough on my son living in Baptist-land and not having the same religious experiences and “getting saved” like other kids. I don’t know that my wife and I want to set him apart from his peers even more and make being Catholic at school harder than it’s already going to be. Picking the pepperoni off his pizza on Friday night sleepovers and school trips is only going to encourage the other kids and their parents to try to get him to “come out of” what they perceive to be his parents’ dead ritual-obsessed religion. When I talk to protestants about “the way it was” when Catholics couldn’t eat fish on Fridays, I’ve yet to find a single one who understands why Catholics did that back then. So it seems to me that for those of us on the front lines, so to speak, this is just going to be a case of needless factionalism, ridicule by protestants and resentment from our kids. My wife and I will do our best to be faithful if the edict comes down, but after toying with the idea of voluntarily giving up meat on Fridays, we’re of the opinion it wouldn’t be the best idea for our son in the place we live. Not yet. Before we make it harder to be Catholic, we need to make it a little easier for our kids to want to be Catholic. Let’s start by getting rid of all the hippie guitar-strumming, flute-doodling baby music that passes for sacred liturgy and recognizing that felt banners do not make anything cool. None of that stuff makes teenagers want to remain Catholic after they’re confirmed. It just reinforces the idea that their parents have really lame tastes in music. Why add to that perception by having them obey “stupid rules” that won’t let them eat hot dogs with their friends. Simply suffering through Mass is punishment enough for most teenagers (hell, even for me). Let’s work on that first.

  83. Iowa Mike says:

    Aside from the obvious that Catholics no longer fast or do any kind of organized penance except during lent, the change in 1966 did not abolish abstinance from meat unless an equal penance was performed. This was never stressed and almost all Catholics are unaware of it. The result….no one does a penance in lieu of eating meat so the whole concept of remembering Christ’s suffering on Friday’s is lost. I think it’s time for the Church to reintroduce this practice and start calling Catholics to obedience on a whole raft of other issues….contraception, mass attendance, confession, mass attendance, etc.

  84. Innocentius says:

    It was always meatless Fridays for me and my family. Fr. Z, would it be asking too much if we Catholics were also required to observe the Ember Days (Fast and partial abstinence)?

  85. irishgirl says:

    I remember when Cardinal O’Connor was the Archbishop of New York, he made the suggestion of abstaining from meat on Fridays in reparation for abortion.
    My late mother and I took that up, and every Friday we ate pasta and shrimp (that was what we usually had for dinner).
    I think that it’s good we do this (no meat on Friday) as an act of penance and to remember that Our Lord died on Good Friday to save our souls from sin, death and Hell.

  86. dancingcrane says:

    What has voluntary penance and abrogated holy days done for us? We self-described ‘mature’ Catholics are utterly indistinguishable from the immature wish-fulfillment fantasy we call modern culture, and we think we’re just fine with whatever Catholic practices suit us at the moment. Our diaffection with the little things (once a week abstinence, occasional holy days) has already made us collapse in the face of the big things (contraception, abortion, low mass attendance, lack of belief in the Eucharist). Where did we EVER get the idea that we were ‘mature’?

    Yes, bring meatless Fridays back, and all the Holy Days as well. The requirement to abstain on Fridays had never been lifted in the US, but only changed to include a choice of alternate penance. Yet, show the typical modern ‘mature’ Catholic the bishop’s document that proves it, and you get something akin to a whiny teenager insisting that they ‘don’t wanna’.

    This rebellious attitude has formed much of mainstream Catholicism. We have to stop being afraid of Catholics who ‘don’t wanna’, and return to teaching the practices that help Catholics become strong in their faith. How much more dumbed-down must our Faith get before we realize we are cooperating in our own destruction?

  87. AnAmericanMother says:

    I was an Episcopalian growing up in the Deep South, and I got flak anyhow, since Southern Baptists consider Episcopalians maybe not the Scarlet Woman herself, but her Maid of (Dis)Honor. The way straight forward proved to be the best way through. I wound up palling around with the ONE Greek Orthodox, the ONE Maronite Catholic, and 3-4 Catholic kids in my high school. Which probably contributed to my conversion. If they had all assiduously concealed their faith, we probably wouldn’t have been able to band together for mutual support.
    There really isn’t any way to avoid being hassled by the born-again Baptist kids, unless you’re a cold water Methodist or Church of God. Trying to fly under the radar by avoiding outward signs of Catholicism is only going to convince them that, in addition to being a Papist, you’re a lukewarm one at best, and then they’ll despise you too.
    Everybody knows their own kids best, but even my sweet shy daughter who wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose, stood up for her faith surprisingly well all through high school (at a Christian i.e. Southern protestant school) and at a Presbyterian college. Not only her classmates but some of her (rather liberal) professors praised her for her spirited defense of the Church. It did her good, and it did them good too.
    Now if we can only get my hard-headed son who’s convinced he knows it all back to church . . . .

  88. Gail F says:

    I hear what Son of Monica is saying, but disagree that meatless Fridays would make it harder to be Catholic. I think they would make it easier to be Catholic. I think it is better to have an identity — to BE something — than it is to be “like everyone else except have mass instead of church.” Maybe we used to overdo it, I don’t know. I wasn’t around then. But now it is too easy to think, What’s the difference? I have a neighbor who gave up on our parish (Lord knows it is a trial to go there) and switched to the big, active, friendly Presbyterian church next door because “they’re really the same anyway.” And it is all well and good to sniff and say she should have learned her faith better… but what it comes down to is that she didn’t, and that’s the impression today’s Church gives far too many people.

    But I do agree wholeheartedly with Son of Monica on this:

    “Before we make it harder to be Catholic, we need to make it a little easier for our kids to want to be Catholic. Let’s start by getting rid of all the hippie guitar-strumming, flute-doodling baby music that passes for sacred liturgy and recognizing that felt banners do not make anything cool. None of that stuff makes teenagers want to remain Catholic after they’re confirmed. It just reinforces the idea that their parents have really lame tastes in music. Why add to that perception by having them obey “stupid rules” that won’t let them eat hot dogs with their friends. Simply suffering through Mass is punishment enough for most teenagers (hell, even for me). Let’s work on that first.”

    YES. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pastors: Give us a real Church and not stuff that was bad enough when it was trendy and awful… Now it’s just awful.

  89. dancingcrane says:

    The problem with ignoring ‘stupid rules’ that don’t let us eat hot dogs with friends, is that it has encouraged us to ignore ‘stupid rules’ that don’t let us do a great many things, like contracept with friends and abort with friends. Why has Catholic culture so disastrously mirrored secular culture? The little things, like training before an Olympic event, are what makes it possible to do the bigger things. That doesn’t make the little things the core of our Faith. It makes them the kindling that gets the bonfire burning.

    If your children, or you, can’t be different from your friends in the little things, what makes you think you’ll be strong enough to be different from them when it matters?

  90. SonofMonica says:

    Thanks, AnAmericanMother and Gail F. I just know that what we say here is read by many influential people, and I want this perspective to be heard and understood clearly. I think some people forget that for many, if not most teens, the last thing you ever want is to feel awkward, outcast or different in any way. Yes, that’s not always true when the reason for being different is because of your religion, but my main point is that we need to first ensure that practicing our religion is worth being singled out for. And meatless Fridays is attacking the completely wrong end of it, from my perspective. I can’t ask more of my children than I’m willing to give, myself. To wit, if someone were intrigued about my Catholicism because they saw me giving up meat on Friday, I would be too EMBARRASSED to invite them to Sunday Mass at my parish. I don’t invite anyone now, because quite frankly, Mass is a horrible experience in just about every way to experience it. The Catholic Church I read my way into–the one that offers sacrifices and incense at the hands of its priests and has choirs that offer beautiful chants to the Lord–the Church defended by historical record, is not the Catholic Church I have to sit through on any given Sunday Mass, which is apparently governed by nothing more than the preferences of the congregation that were established 40 years ago. If “adults” in the pews won’t sacrifice their favorite John-Denver-Sings-Barney-the-Dinosaur tunes, it’s going to be more and more difficult to convince our kids to sacrifice peer acceptance and quite frankly, their time, when it becomes their decision.

  91. dancingcrane says:

    I, too, understand your perspective. I read myself into the Church also, and have found, like you, that many Roman-rite churches have slidden along with the worst of secular culture. I have talked face-to-face with priests who don’t even believe in the Eucharist, and that’s worse than bad songs.

    Emphasizing the crucial role of penance is not the wrong way, but the right way to go. How can you dismiss the little practices that created the Church we both read ourselves into? If you want that Church of sacrifice, you yourself must enter that sacrifice, and teach your children likewise. Why wait for someone else to be the light that you are called to be?

  92. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, but sacrifice without a grounding in prayer is just deprivation, and that’s where a lot of people in the church are right now, spiritually. First we must get as many Catholics as possible to pray earnestly together outside Mass, know something of their faith, and form an attachment to the church that endures outside of 45 minutes on Sunday, and then meatless days would be fine for them, good for them in fact, because they would have meaning and refer to something for them.

    Many Catholics, you must realize, don’t even come to Mass every week. That’s scary and sobering, but it is a fact. I”m not sure what meatless Fridays would mean to them, if anything at all.

  93. cl00bie says:

    My wife and I have also been meatless on Fridays for the past few years. I knew that we didn’t have to abstain, but nobody ever said we had to stop abstaining. It was much like misconception that Vatican II eliminated Latin.

    So we decided to be counter-cultural and do this (rather than having to think up something else).

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