ASK FATHER: Friday fish and chips cooked in beef fat? POLL: “meatless Fridays”


This is a repost of a by now classic here from a few years ago.  It is still useful (and fun).

From a reader:

I was watching TV last night & on the program they were talking about fish & chips fried in rendered beef fat at a restaurant.

Fish & Chips is one of my favorite Friday dishes and I assume that it’s cooked in vegetable oil of some kind. But, if I am at a restaurant, how could I know if they don’t state something on the menu (pretty common in California where I live). If it doesn’t say anything and I order and eat the fish & chips cooked in beef fat on a Friday in Lent have I broken the abstinence rules? Or is the fat merely the method of cooking, sort of like boiling pasta in water.


Remember that if you cook pasta in water, the pasta absorbs the water.  If the fish and chips are cooked in beef fat, you are also consuming some beef fat.

This is a great question for an Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist.

Prümmer says,

“The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat, but not eggs, milk products, and also whatsoever condiments from the fat of animals.”

Sabetti-Barrett says:

“QUAER. 2. Quid dicendum de usu laridi?

Resp. Certum est non licere illud edere per frustra…

What is to be said about the use of lard?

Resp. It is clear that it is not permitted to eat it groundlessly and for an accompaniment with bread, because it is considered meat. It is permitted to use it even in evening snacks (refectiuncula), either as a condiment or in order to cook foods, provided that beforehand it will have been liquified. …

But wait! There’s more!

[Time for a COFFEE BREAK!]

Mystic Monk CoffeePaul VI’s Poenitemini says:

“The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing–as far as quantity and quality are concerned–approved local custom.”

The language of “condiments” has remained.

Therefore, you can cook your fish in beef fat.  Use of fat from beef would not violate your abstinence from meat.

Thank you for being concerned about this.

I posted a POLL about what you think about the proposition that the US bishops should reestablish meatless Fridays as our form of penance for all Fridays of the year. The bishops of England and Wales did this.

You can vote even if you are not registered here. Please give your reasons in the combox below, respecting always the people who make arguments other than your own.

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

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  1. Phil_NL says:

    Really bad idea.

    For the simple reason that, even though it’s hardly fashionable to admit, not everyone derives spiritual benefits from it. In fact, rules which make your life harder, with no upside for your fellow man or you, and increased occasion of sin (try to be civil when you have that bacon sandwich just touching your lips and you realise it’s Friday…) is something I could do without on a weekly basis. (And no, I don’t “get” Lent either, in case anyone is wondering)

    Let the bishops first build a convincing case on why this is good – except for alligator farms. I’ve yet to hear it.

  2. Nicolas Bellord says:

    Cooking fish in beef fat sounds quite disgusting regardless of what day it is. Surely the Church should have ruled against it.:-)

  3. Grumpy Beggar says:

    . . . Not that easy a question. In individual cases, there can be a lot more subjectively to this than first meets the eye.

    I remember my dear mother (God bless her soul) coming to pick us up in the car every Friday from the Catholic elementary school we attended (we took the bus home all days but Fridays) – so she could drive down to the local fish & chips shop and pick up supper and we could all observe out “meatless” Fridays by having fish & chips . I guess my mom being born and raised in England probably had something to do with it, but you had to see her face while she was, um, abstaining from meat back on those Fridays : I’d dare say there wasn’t a more joyous faster in all of North America. She loved her fish & chips !

    It was likely more of a sacrifice for me back then, as it took me an exceptionally long time to acquire even a partial taste for fish (although the fries used to go down just fine) . I seem to take after my dad’s father in that respect: The poor guy lived about a half a mile inland from the sea in Nova Scotia and fish was a staple in their household (but he couldn’t stand the taste of fish [as my dad recounted – quoting his dad verbatim :”There’s only one place for fish – the deepest, darkest corner of the ocean.”] ). I felt the same way about lobster, and lobster was fresh and plenty for the 4 years our family spent in the province of New Brunswick.

    I think if my grandfather were to have eaten a big plate of fish, and I, at the same time were to have eaten a big plate of lobster, together we may have well ended up emptying out half of Purgatory (along with half our stomachs in the process).

    BTW – anyone know whether lobster is licitly considered “fish”, or “non-meat” ? Imagine all the feasts those lobster-lovers could have on Fridays performing their good Catholic duty of abstinence. . .

    The sick, on the other hand, are not really supposed to fast . But I’ve discovered frequently in my pastoral long-term and palliative care apostolate that sick people often manifest a greater desire- an exemplary desire, to make sacrifices and offer them to the Lord. That can create a perplexing a paradox. St Therese of Lisieux dearly wanted to fast so she could offer it to her beloved Lord, but she was forbidden to do so by her Superior on account of her frail health.

    We still need some kind of guidelines to follow. Whether the bishops should re-establish meatless Fridays, is a difficult question for someone who has seen what I have seen. The inkling that there might be a vegetarian somewhere walking around thinking they are a more perfect Catholic because they , um, abstain from meat every day of the year can make me kind of paranoiacally grumpy.

    But there should still be no question that our prayer truly needs to be accompanied by fasting, renouncements, sacrifices . As our Blessed Lord made clear to his disciples when they found themselves unable to cast out the demon :

    “This kind can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.”

    I note with considerable disappointment , that the vatican website’s version of the NAB has now left that entire verse of scripture blank on the pertinent bible page [ Matt 17:21 ] (it used to be in parentheses) relegating it to to the status of a footnote -and leaving only a footnote reference number in its place .
    One can see it by clicking here (What the heck are they thinking ?)

    Thankfully, the Douay-Rheims Bible online faithfully maintains the “prayer and fasting” in both the Gospel of Mark and of Matthew :

    Mark 9: 27-28
    And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: “This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”

    Matt 17:20
    “But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.”

  4. Andrew D says:

    Fish cooked in beef fat…. that’s just plain repulsive. [Then I suggest you eat something else.]

  5. anilwang says:

    I agree that meatless Fridays are important, but I do think that the reasons for making meat substitutable with something else are also valid. Seafood is more tasty and more expense in many parts of the world so it really isn’t a fast if you can fill up on tastier food. For instance, I rarely eat meat and only occationally eat chicken. My main food is salmon vegetables and I don’t miss a thing.

    Although the reasons for making meat substitutable, I think the solution was wrong. What should have happened was to make the fasting rules more strict, like the Orthodox…though I hope not that strict. For me at least, I would be a real fast if I had to abstain from any kinds of seafood, eggs, and oil as well as any kinds of meat. Without oil, we couldn’t even have a veggy burgers and meat substitutes have have to resort to lentils.

  6. Kristyn says:

    My pastor believes the Church is weak today because when meatless Fridays went out the window, the penance went with it. Most people don’t stop and actually do a penetential act on Friday. It’s “TGIF” after all. Many of us in our parish are meatless on Friday year round.

  7. haskovez says:

    So I am young enough that I have only ever had meatless Fridays during lent. I voted that they should be year round. My concern personally is as a child going through my Catechism classes never once was I told that we were even supposed to do penance on Fridays. I had only learned about this as an adult. I think given the poor state of education given to many Catholics in the US it is better to have stricter practices so even if the people don’t understand why they have those rules they get the benefit of doing the penance.

  8. John of Chicago says:

    The practice of some form of fast and abstinence is okay as long as it’s voluntary but can too easily become a distraction from what is truly essential. The first Scripture reading for today’s Holy Mass says it powerfully and eloquently, I think:
    “Do you call this a fast,a day acceptable to the LORD.
    This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
    releasing those bound unjustly,
    untying the thongs of the yoke;
    Setting free the oppressed,
    breaking every yoke;
    Sharing your bread with the hungry,
    sheltering the oppressed and the homeless”
    Isaiah 58

  9. mburn16 says:

    Make it Wednesday, not Friday, and you have my vote. In the era of a 40 hour work week, Friday has taken on the character of a secular feast – it is quite often the day people choose to let their hair down a bit, go out with friends, and otherwise enjoy the pleasures of life. I dont think we need to put the Church into direct conflict with that. [I disagree.]

    In fact, perhaps we could take a hint from some of our Protestant brethren and offer sone form of worship (not necessairily the mass) On Wednesday evenings.

  10. Titus says:

    Huh, I really was under the impression that Paenitemini or the 1983 CIC had changed the rule regarding broths, as I recalled thinking the change was weak sauce (pun intended). Just goes to show how one has to keep up with these things.

    As for year-round abstinence, it’s astonishing how many excuses people will pull out for why they shouldn’t be compelled to do something, even something very simple. Tradition? We don’t need no stinkin’ tradition.

  11. JesusFreak84 says:

    So what if my mother cooks shrimp in chicken broth and doesn’t tell me? >.> (And if someone wants to get on me about still living at home at my age, you can pay rent around here! =-p ) She usually cooks dinner before I’m home, so I don’t always know what goes into it =-\

  12. Matthew Gaul says:

    Better yet, the US bishops should make it mandatory that every Friday you invite a non-Catholic to church with you on Sunday.

  13. LarryW2LJ says:

    To be honest with you, if I go out to a restaurant and order fried fish, I really don’t inquire as to what it’s fried in. With the health craze, I’d assume it’s some kind of non-triglyceride vegetable oil. Does anyone really use lard anymore?

    I was always led to believe that the abstinence from meat on Fridays was to remember the Sacrifice of Good Friday and to allow us to likewise honor that sacrifice in some small way. If you missed abstaining on Friday, you were to do it another day. Even when the obligation was in force, I sincerely doubt that Jesus would have had a hard time with someone who mistakenly ate a hot dog on a Friday.

  14. Mandy P. says:

    As I said the other day, I’m glad I converted to Latin Catholicism instead if Greek, because I’d be up the creek. I’m on a Ketogenic diet for health reasons, so my food sources are meat, vegetables, and dairy. Very limited fruits because of high carbohydrate and glycemic index. No breads, no pasta, no grains, no legumes (excepting the occasional bit of peanuts). And absolutely no chemically processed vegetable, soy, corn, or canola oils. I cook everything in bacon drippings, butter, lard, tallow (beef fat), or unrefined coconut oil. I use olive oil for salads and dressings. My numbers are all fantastic and I’ve never felt better.

    Having said all that, I do think we should return to the Friday abstinence. Even with how limited my diet gets on days of abstinence I still think it’s worth the sacrifice. The thing is that (a) it’s really not asking all that much to give something up for Jesus one day a week; (b) I think it would be beneficial for the entire Church to be in the habit of regularly doing something penitential. It might go a long way towards changing some attitudes; and (c) it would promote unity across the Church. Lent always makes me feel (instead of just intellectually knowing) like I’m a part of something much bigger because millions around the world are all doing the same things at the same time. Even though we’re all sort-of supposed to be like that anyway, I’ve never really felt like it. The differences just between parishes in the same town or county can be great enough that you don’t feel like you’re a part of St. Whosoit’s down the road. So promotion of some general unity would be a good thing and maybe go a long way towards helping us reclaim our Catholic identity.

  15. Mandy P. says:

    Oh, and for the person up thread who thought eating something in beef fat would be gross, if you’re over 40 anything you ate that was fried was most likely done in beef fat, also known as tallow. If you ever hear people complain about how good fast food fries *used to be* until they changed all the oil they cook with! this is what they’re talking about. Almost all restaurants used to use tallow. Trust me when I say that anything cooked in tallow tastes so much better than “vegetable” oil. The latter is gross.

  16. priests wife says:

    sometimes I feel that we Westerners are obsessed with meat and fish as our protein. When I am abstaining, I usually cook something very simple in the style of Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian foods. No need for a piece of protein in the form of meat or fish one day a week (actually 2 or more for us Eastern Catholics but still…)

    People who don’t want to abstain from meat on Fridays always talk of lobsters… alas, I have never eaten one in my entire 43 years but I have always abstained from meat at least on Fridays. And of course, even if bishops declare all Fridays should be meatless, people who have legitimate need for meat can substitute a different penance- but really- you have to eat meat every single day???

  17. Sonshine135 says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes…..Why?

    1. As mentioned above, Friday is the day Our Lord died for our sins. You can’t do without meat for a single day? Boo-Hoo. Try dying on a cross for the sins of the world. Cry me a river.

    2. Penance is not practiced on a regular basis by the laity. What is penance but denial of ones self. We Westerners do not deny ourselves enough. I agree with the one poster who mentioned that they were never taught Friday was a day of penance. Me neither.

    3. It separates us from the Protestants. Good! I’m not a Protestant.

    4. It gives Catholics an opportunity to get together on a Friday and live our faith together. Maybe instead of kicking it with your secular friends, you should kick it with your fellow Catholics, study scripture, have a night of reflection, and otherwise enjoy a meatless dinner together.

    Sorry if this comes across as harsh. I’m tired of excuses. Give a dandelion to the Lord people.

  18. Elizabeth D says:

    Then again, fried fish is a treat and maybe not the most suitable food even if it is allowed. If you can “legally” eat fish, scallops, lobster, alligator, muskrat, or blue whale, that doesn’t mean it should be your preference if your intention is to make a sacrifice and do penance, as opposed to finding fun loopholes that let you indulge yourself anyway.

    The purpose is to do penance, and if we rarely or never actually have any intention of doing penance, this is spiritually a problem.

  19. tgarcia2 says:

    Soy oil

    burns clean and lasts 5 KoC fish fries

    There’s my .02 lol

  20. Andrew says:

    As someone who grew up with the meatless Friday discipline I am surprised how many objections can be invented to contradict this practice. This is not about some microscopic particles: one can easily see if there is a chunk of meat on your plate. It is also not about this or that exception. If you are traveling and you can’t find a place that serves a meatless dish and it comes down to where you either have some meat or you don’t eat at all: by all means have your meat. Or if you are concerned because some health condition prevents you from abstinence, have your meat. If you never eat meat because you don’t like it, realize that this is not about your taste buds, or about your personal preferences. This is a communal practice embraced by the entire ecclesiastical community as a bare minimum in order to set a penitential tone for certain days. To this day, whenever I hear loud music on a Friday or attend some gathering where the mood is festive, I cringe. I suppose it had been successfully inculcated in my subconscious that Friday is the day our Lord suffered on the Cross. Also, to those who say: “what good does it do? We should engage in acts of charity instead” I say: have you read the Bible lately? Have you read about Jesus fasting? About the Apostles fasting? About the disciples fasting? Have you read the Acts of the Apostles? Nobody stops you from being charitable. The Church asks for the minimum with generous exceptions for the young and the old and the ill. So, if you can, on Fridays, especially during Lent, join the Church in imitation of Her Lord. At least do the minimum, but you are surely free to do much more. And obviously, if you are going to stuff yourself with meatless delights, you are missing the whole idea. Is this so difficult?

  21. Mary Jane says:

    Yes to meatless Fridays! There are plenty of things to eat instead of meat (and it doesn’t have to be lobster). If Friday is your day to kick back and relax with friends you can do it without meat. There are plenty of things to order at restaurants that are meatless (and okay so if you’re at a steakhouse there may only be two options…usually steakhouses offer fish of some kind, or salads…so, offer it up and order one of the two options). It’s not that hard.

    There are a lot of surprising comments here, but I specifically want to respond to Phil_NL who said, “In fact, rules which make your life harder, with no upside for your fellow man or you, and increased occasion of sin (try to be civil when you have that bacon sandwich just touching your lips and you realise it’s Friday…) is something I could do without on a weekly basis. (And no, I don’t “get” Lent either, in case anyone is wondering)”.

    Okay…so perhaps there is no perceived benefit but does that mean there is no real benefit? Does that mean we should just give up on something? I may attend Mass and, between singing in the choir and juggling our three young children, I often do not have a lot of time for my own prayers and for reading the missal, but does that mean there is no benefit to my going and I should just stop? Also, I don’t see how it is an occasion of sin to stop eating something after you’ve realized it’s Friday and whatever you ordered has meat in it. That happened to my in-laws once – they ordered green beans as a side with their fish and when their plates arrived they saw the green beans had been cooked with chunks of bacon…they asked for to-go boxes for their green beans so they could eat them another day. They were willing to not eat part of their meal because they believe in meatless Fridays. How can that possibly be an occasion of sin?

    I can see how not eating meat on a Friday might be uncharitable … say you were invited over to dinner and your host worked hard and cooked a lovely meal that contained meat…out of charity (someone correct me if I am wrong) I think it would be better to (on Fridays outside of Lent) eat the meal and substitute another penance later in private (pray an extra decade of the rosary or whatever). On a Friday during lent, think ahead and let your host know you have a dietary restriction … that way you don’t need to worry about it.

    This isn’t that hard.

  22. Mary Jane says:

    One more comment…regarding “(And no, I don’t “get” Lent either, in case anyone is wondering)”. You need to come to my parish and hear one of our priests talk about the point of penance and suffering – I one of the points made during the homily on Ash Wednesday about one reason why we do penance is because penance helps us conquer our wills and helps us resist temptations when they assail us. If we can’t resist indulging our senses in small things (not eating meat one day out of the week) how will we resist indulging our senses in larger things when real temptations are before us?

  23. Cafea Fruor says:

    I think it would be great for us all to have one, uniform penance on Fridays for the sake of a little Catholic identity, but I don’t think meat is it.

    For many people, myself included, giving up meat just isn’t a penance. I eat little meat because, quite frankly, I could take it or leave it, and because I’m cheap (living solo in an expensive city on a church salary). Most of my protein comes from legumes, eggs and dairy, and sometimes fish. At most, I eat meat maybe once a week, if that. Abstaining from meat for me is empty, so abstaining on Friday would be like any other day. And in this age where so many people are into their special fad diets — vegetarian, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, raw food, paleo…you name it — I think meat abstinence has lost a lot of meaning for people.

    Now, tell us to give up our spiced chais, beers, Starbucks lattes, chia protein shakes, Dunkin’ Donuts coffees, Cokes, Friday night cocktails, etc. and to make Fridays water-only, and I think that would mean more to more American Catholics.

  24. Cafea Fruor says:

    As you can tell from my nom-de-screen, going water-only would actually be a penance for me. ;-)

  25. defensoris says:

    On a related note, in an official issued earlier this month, H. E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India, reiterates abstinence on all Fridays during Lent and strongly recommends abstinence on all Fridays of the year. He also commends fasting on every Friday of Lent as a beneficial spiritual exercise.

  26. Eric the Read says:

    It’s not been a huge hardship for my family to observe meatless Fridays year-round. When my wife entered the Church a couple of years ago, she asked about traditions and such, and remembering this blog, I suggested we observe meatless Fridays year-round. She agreed, and at this point, it’s become a normal part of our lives.

    Most days, I honestly don’t even think about it, but from time to time (today being one such day) I’ll remember that my father probably grew up having meatless Fridays, and his father before him. It’s a nice way to stay connected with my Catholic ancestors.

  27. slainewe says:

    I think it very important for the reason others have mentioned above, that is, so few understand we are obliged to do penance on Friday. I do not know how serious a sin it is to miss one’s Friday obligation, but it is terrible to have so many in objective sin for lack of knowledge or plain sloth. A universal obligation would seem an act of mercy, encouraging those doing no penance to begin to do so and reap the fruit of showing appreciation to Our Loving Savior for His Sorrowful Passion.

    Then, perhaps, allow individual souls to ask their pastors to substitute another penance if abstaining from meat is more difficult for them than what Our Lord suffered for us? At least then they would know they had to perform some penance.

    Those who find it no penance to abstain from meat can always offer something else to the Lord (and recipes to the rest of us. :-) )

  28. Uxixu says:

    Meatless Friday year round would be best out of immemorial tradition of centuries of Catholic saints, much as with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass itself…

    That said, if priests and deacons everywhere would just mention to do ANY penance on Friday in their sermons and homilies, I’m sure many of the faithful would comply. The silence is relatively deafening on it, unfortunately enough, though. Needless to say this should be stressed in CCD and RCIA, as well.

  29. Uxixu says:

    For the whole Church Militant, as a matter of recommended piety it would best to take up the fast for ALL of the weekdays of Lent, with abstinence on Wednesday as well as Friday. For those of us who love seafood, we can still sacrifice something else, as well. Would be great if that was made the law, as well, but baby steps…

  30. acricketchirps says:

    Re: Mandy P on tallow.
    YES. I can’t say it too strongly: YES! Who are these people that think beef fat is gross?!

    Re: Elizabeth D on whale.
    Blue wha?!!
    Waiter: How would like your whale, sir?
    Diner: Blue, please.

    In other queries, RE:Prümmer says,
    “The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat,

    Does this mean I have to confess that the rice and beans I ate on Wednesday was cooked in the water from the Christmas ham?

  31. Imrahil says:

    Well, dear Uxixu, I wonder.

    Back in the days when there was the precept of fasting (technical term) for entire Lent, there was also a whole bundle of dispensations and a Catholic pious populace which were not afraid, I guess, of using them. This attitude is somewhat recommendable (doing what is the duty, but not taking for duty what isn’t), but I wonder whether we now could bring ourselves to it – fearing, as we regrettably do, the “that’s not really a fast, is it, you hypocrite” much more than actual sin.

    So, we are just not the “I’ll ask my pastor for dispensation” type – and still less the “I dispense myself on the rule that I need to keep me able to work” type, for what could bring us the safety that we really took only as much as needed and not more?

    And thus, some people have got work to do; and menial-but-not-heavy work seems to have diminished compared to earlier times.

    Dear Mary Jane,

    I think I remember an old rule that when invited, you eat what you get, regardless of the day, and you need not even to substitute some penance.

    Of course, that does not say one should accept an invitation to the usual sort of Good Friday barbecues which militant unbelievers organize to celebrate their adversity to the Christian Faith.

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear slainewe,

    Then, perhaps, allow individual souls to ask their pastors to substitute another penance if abstaining from meat is more difficult for them than what Our Lord suffered for us?

    That line of thinking is, of course and forgive me to say, unfair to the petitioners. Their petition might be denied, but they do not deserve to be treated as if the petition were in itself sinful.

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    The reason many people have trouble with understanding the need for penances is because they really do not understand what sin us all about. It is fine to preach about penance, but if one does not explain the nature of sin, then the talk on penances will not be grounded. In most liberal parishes, the problem isn’t understanding penances, it is understanding that that they are sinners and exactly what that means. The best illustration of sin I can think of comes from the Star Trek original series episode, And the Children Shall Lead, when the supposedly, “friendly,” Angel is exposed and he mutates into a hideous form. That is what sin does – it takes our capacity to love and perverts it. If people could compare the souls of one in sin and one in a state of grace, they would break down the doors of confessionals trying to get in. No penance would be too much to restore the health and vigor of the soul. St. Teresa of Avila was shown the soul of a man in a state of grace and she knelt before him.

    The Chicken

  34. CAR says:

    Being in the Jewish faith before I converted, I kept kosher. Oy, when I hear our beloved Catholics whine and complain about fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, I have to laugh. For me, it’s not difficult at all. Try fasting all day without food/drink (Yom Kippur and other fast days in the Jewish year, as well as observing strict dietary kashrut laws. Agreed…meatless Fridays year-round! Oh my, so much kvetching.

  35. +JMJ+ says:

    Only if we also get back to teaching the spirit of the law and the reason behind it, as well as the letter. Take a look at how busy the local seafood restaurant is on a meatless Friday – it’s anything but penitential, when folks are out spending big bucks on a “meatless” Friday. If you ask most Catholics why we do a meatless Friday, you’ll draw a blank, or get “because the Church says so.”

    We need to teach rice-and-lentils for a true meatless Friday experience. Or make it hot dogs and boxed mac-n-cheese instead. :-D

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear +JMJ+,

    If you ask most Catholics why we do a meatless Friday, you’ll […] get “because the Church says so.”

    Which is called obedience, and praiseworthy, in my book.

    Let’s not let the better be the enemy of the good.

  37. Marc M says:

    Yes! Primarily as an act of unity. Of course not every penitential act will speak to every person the same way. That’s not the point. It’s an exercise in catholicity. Here’s a universal penitential act that everyone in the Church takes part in once a week. It constantly reminds us of our connection to each other and to the Church. And, no small thing, it constantly reminds those around us, too.

    If it’s not an act of penance for you because you’re already free range lactopescovegetarian non-GMO and gluten free… then do something that is penitential! Great! But we don’t make rules based on the exceptions. You’re still participating in the universal actions of the Church.

    On top of that are the other benefits- an act of healthy obedience in a culture that calls radical individualism a virtue, a return to the idea of any penance at ALL, etc. I also never learned growing up that there was a Friday penitential requirement. Never heard of it until the last couple of years thanks to places like this. My wife entered the Church last year and they never mentioned it in RCIA either. The current practice obviously does not work!

  38. Grumpy Beggar says:

    LarryW2LJ says:

    “. . . Even when the obligation was in force, I sincerely doubt that Jesus would have had a hard time with someone who mistakenly ate a hot dog on a Friday.”

    I have to agree Larry – Besides, nowdays it remains uncertain whether there is anything at all in a hotdog’s contents which could ever technically qualify as meat. :)


    While a personal type of penance/abstinence might, in favourable circumstances prove to be the most effective on an individual basis – especially were one to undergo it willingly and without any obligation , that still doesn’t seem to address the Church’s need to pray and fast together . . . as one: If everyone remains free to do their own thing , on their own day, it can end up looking quite disorganized in the big picture. Fr. John Hardon S.J. , reminds us in his Modern Catholic Dictionary that abstaining from meat also has the added dimension of linking us spiritually to the Old Testament:

    The flesh of animals and birds eaten by human beings, as understood in Church law. Its prohibition on days of abstinence and fast has a spiritual value, going back to the Old Testament and practiced since apostolic times. “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat” (Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, Norm III, 1).

    How about the fasting of Anna the prophetess ? 84 years old and still fasting and praying night and day. . . Kicks butt !

    Luke 2:36-37 [DRV]
    “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day.”

  39. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    As a Catholic who isn’t a meat eater, I make a point of not eating fish on Friday – because I do like to have it through the week. Besides, the grease/oil soaked battered cobblers we get these days are not particularly good for anything, except as an extreme form of penance (“he straitened his stomach”).

    Where can one obtain alligator grease in Europe?

  40. HyacinthClare says:

    CAR, you made me laugh! And Sonshine 135, you are a man (?) after my own heart!

    Last year, I decided to conquer a long lifetime of being overweight, and to get where I wanted to be, lots of things had to go: mac and cheese, rice and beans, peanut butter. If fasting from meat gets me where I want to be with God, and the Church says it does, then I’m in. I can’t remember when I started meatless Fridays all year long, but it was when I was in my Episcopalian “phase” before I made it all the way to the Catholic Church. My husband and I want to make Lent more than just a succession of Fridays, and so we don’t eat meat any weekday during Lent. Focuses the mind. Mine needs lots of focusing!

  41. priests wife says:

    As a Byzantine catholic- I try my darnedest to be vegan at least during Wednesdays and Fridays of our fasting periods (which are more than Lent)- but for all of the Church- Roman rites and others, it is a beautiful thing to be meatless on Fridays- the day of our Lord’s suffering. And again- so much is being written of luxurious fish, lobster and oysters. This is not the point. We abstain from warm-blooded flesh because of the blood of our Lord being shed on Friday. It would be ‘more perfect’ to eat lentils, but anything that is not warm-blooded is the point (I think) so that we can remember our Lord’s sacrifice.
    My husband (a Romanian Byzantine Catholic priest) does not hunt, but he fishes. The old canon law (of our rite) forbids a priest to kill a warm-blooded animal. When he was 17 and decided to study to be a priest, he stopped killing the pigs and chickens on his grandmother’s farm because of this- he could help process the meat, but not actually kill it- this might seem arbitrary, but I think it is like meatless Fridays

  42. Mary Jane says:

    Cafea Fruor says: “I think it would be great for us all to have one, uniform penance on Fridays for the sake of a little Catholic identity, but I don’t think meat is it.”

    Meat “was it” for a long time in the history of the Church…if it was good enough back then it would seem to be good enough now. If, as others pointed out, many people are now on meatless diets for whatever reason (health reasons, cost, etc) then they can continue to abstain (to show unity with the Church as a whole) and they can also give up something in addition that would in fact be a penance for them personally (coffee, dessert, whatever). :)

  43. Mandy P. says:

    @Elizabeth D., I actually don’t like seafood. The only way I manage to choke it down is battered and fried or in a cake form like crab cakes. I’ve managed to come up with a non-wheat based batter that’s acceptable, but even so eating fish on Friday kinda a penance if you find it generally as gross as I do. :D

  44. frahobbit says:

    I have an old cassette tape titled “the Virtue and Practice of Penance” by Rev John Hardon. After reviewing some of the similar content on the website, (see below) I realize that I tend to forget it is still an obligation to do penance on Friday. I usually get fish for my meals on Friday, or a vegetarian variant, but more as a habit, without reflection. This is not the greatest, since I can just as easily have meat and forget the need to do penance. Perhaps for that reason, it would be better to have meatless Fridays brought back so as to heighten awareness of what I do and why.
    Also, it is a good thing to remember vicarious reparation.
    The Blessed Mother asked for penance because so many sinners go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.

  45. Elizabeth D says:

    If anyone wants ideas, one thing I make every year during Lent and only during Lent is a delicious recipe called “African Beans” that I got from Allrecipes, that involves blackeyed peas, coconut milk, onion, red bell pepper and some jalapeno or hot sauce, and some tomato paste, I like to eat it over mashed potatoes. I will be making some burgers out of canned kidney beans and other kinds of canned beans that I have an excess amount of, eaten with oven fries on the side. Lent is my time for using up canned or frozen vegetables of all kinds. Canned black beans or vegetarian refried beans will be eaten in tortillas with sauteed peppers and onions, guacamole and salsa. Stir fry with tempeh over sticky rice. I like to have pasta with tomato sauce and walnuts. There is always bread with peanut butter, hummus, preserves/jam/jelly, or a friend gave me a jar of cashew butter and a jar of coconut oil that she likes to use like butter. Almondmilk smoothies with frozen bananas and strawberries are a good dessert, as is bread with honey on it.

  46. Elizabeth D says:

    By the way that is not what I eat on Fridays in Lent but what I eat on other days… on Fridays I am a bread and water and maybe orange juice or something like tomato soup person.

  47. Supertradmum says:

    Well. with all the other possibilities of oils and vegetable fats to use, one day out of seven is not too much, imho, to avoid animal fat. I have not fried food for over thirty years, but will eat fish and chips sometimes out, but not in Lent, oddly enough.

    I make vegetable soup in the morning and basically eat is for two meals, having cheese and crackers with one meal in addition to the soup. Porridge and a banana or yogurt and a banana for breakkies. Simplicity is a good idea for Lent.

  48. Supertradmum says:

    PS when I say I make veggie soup, that means from scratch, and not out of a can.

  49. Supertradmum says:

    mburn16 …what about being a sign of contradiction in the world as a good Catholic?

  50. John Grammaticus says:


    I don’t see how abstaining from meat on Fridays is a sign of contradiction, for the sole reason that nobody knows that Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays, its not the same as dressing up in Sunday best where everyone you walk past on the way to Mass still has a vague cultural memory that of such things.

    I understand completely the need for penance, but as Catholics work the same hours as everyone else surely don’t don’t begrudge them a little celebration at the end of a weeks work? My favourite Friday tradition is a pop down to the local high street for scampi and chips.

  51. Patikins says:

    Elizabeth D: The African Beans recipe sounds good but I can’t find it on Would you provide a link to the recipe?


  52. Elizabeth D says:

    I thought I got it from Allrecipes because I get most recipes from there, guess I didn’t. I hunted around and found several versions of it (search for “African beans Alison Holst” to find other variations–that is apparently the name of an Australian woman who originally published the recipe). Here is the same version as the one I have made and really enjoy:

    I use one full bag of dry blackeyed peas soaked overnight before boiling, and I use more than 2tbsp of tomato paste but usually at least half of a mini can of it, and sometimes I have used 2 cans of coconut milk. Spice it up a bit more if you like spicy. You can use lite coconut milk such as Trader Joe’s has very cheap, it works fine with that. You can eat it on any type of starch really, mashed potatoes (instant if you are lazy), rice, bread, etc. If you are like me and it makes a bit too much to eat all at once, it does freeze okay.

  53. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There has been a time when everything in your cupboard was considered a luxury, and envy is a sin. Please, folks, quit complaining about people at the fish fry, when you have no idea whether or not it is their first meal of the day, or even more than one day. If everybody would mind their own fasting and not worry about other people’s, we might actually have a better Lent!

  54. Elizabeth D says:

    I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing how to make Friday penance to be real sacrifice of some kind and not a kind of legalistic adherence to a rule. There are different ways to do so.

  55. slainewe says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    Sorry… I should have bracketed the sentence as follows:

    “Then, perhaps, allow individual souls to ask their pastors to substitute another penance [if abstaining from meat is more difficult for them than what Our Lord suffered for us]?”

    I did not mean that I expected the pastor to ACTUALLY lay a guilt trip on those who asked for less inconvenient penances. (Although I would kiss the feet of a priest who loved my soul so much that he challenged me this way.) It was just my attempt to emphasize the fact that, if we understood WHY we abstain, no inconvenience would be too much.

  56. A.D. says:

    No, I hesitate about such a move.

    The whole point of meatless Fridays (and even more severe abstinence in the past) was to do penance. As can be seen from the replies here, many people today have no problem with abstaining from meat or, missing the whole point entirely, going out of their way to feast on fish on Friday (say that 10 times really fast).

    What if the bishops started with a year-long campaign to actively teach about the need and the obligation to do penance, including information on the historical and common methods practiced by Catholics. Subsequently, the bishops could call for a renewed commitment to penance on all Fridays, specifically encouraging the practice of abstinence as the preeminently common penance to be practiced by Catholics. However, as an alternative for those who cannot abstain, propose an alternative, such as a decade of the Rosary and a Penitential Psalm, etc. A third alternative could be offered, if neither of the first two can be done, to choose a comparable penance of one’s own choosing.

    The emphasis, then, should be on the obligation to do penance for our sins, not on the requirement of a single method.

  57. Patikins says:

    Thank you for the link, Elizabeth.

  58. frjim4321 says:

    Fish fried in beef fat?

    Yet another reason not to eat ANYTHING fried.

  59. HeatherPA says:

    Gee whiz, we think our tuna noodle casserole is the bomb diggedy. The kids love Lent because of tuna noodle casserole. Hahaha!
    Is it the spirit of Lent to get this twisted up over beef tallow??
    I’ll share the tuna casserole recipe. I promise it’s good. Cheap, too.

  60. Vincent. says:

    My wife and I have been going back and forth about if cooking food in broth on days of abstanance (and all Fridays since I like to observe meatless Fridays all year).

    I cited Fr. Z’s source which states “The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat”.

    She countered with a site from the USCCB which states that it is technically allowed.


  61. The Masked Chicken says:

    Since I am the offended party, I am eminently qualified to speak on behalf of chickens. The USCCB site says:

    “Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.”

    Fr. Z say:

    “Therefore, you can cook your fish in beef fat. Use of fat from beef would not violate your abstinence from meat.”


    ““The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat, but not eggs, milk products, and also whatsoever condiments from the fat of animals.”

    All I can say is: FOOD FIGHT :)

    The Chicken

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