Meatless Fridays

We all know that the seven Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat. We have the fish symbol on those days of our calendar to remind us of that law of the Church. But what about the other Fridays of the year? When the requirement to abstain from meat on all Fridays was lifted in November of 1966, the American bishops made this statement:

"Even though we terminate the traditional law
of abstinence as binding under pain of sin
as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday,
we give first place to abstinence from meat."

When the law was removed, most of us took up eating meat on Friday. Predicably we did not substitute some other form of penance as the pope and bishops asked of us. Perhaps it is time, more than thirty years later, to consider again the practice of meatless Fridays.

The American Life League, with the support of Cardinal O'Connnor, Cardinal Maida and other bishops, is encouraging Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays for an important purpose. Jesus said, "some devils can only be driven out by prayer and fasting." One of the greatest arms we have in combating the culture of death which engulfs so many of our children is precisely fasting and penance.

Easter season reminds us of the incalculable dignity of each human being, from the moment of conception till natural death. Jesus in fact died and rose so each of us could have eternal life with him. From Jesus we receive our worth, not from our "contribution" to society. Our consumer society measures people's value in terms of what they can produce--and consume. Our Easter faith tells us that view is superficial and wrong. Only in Jesus risen from the dead do we discover who we are.

As part of our effort to promote a culture of life during the Easter season, we will Mass for the unborn on Saturday morning, May 16, at 9 a.m. It will be followed by exposition and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Those who wish may also join in prayer before a local abortion clinic.

At the other end of the spectrum of life, we will be having an anointing service for those who are seriously ill on June 7 (Sunday) at 4 p.m.

Please consider attending these two services. Also consider again the penitential practice of meatless Fridays as powerful way of promoting a true culture of life in our country.


The question naturally arises whether the American bishops should restore meatless Fridays as a mandatory practice for U.S. Catholics. Last year the 325,000 families of American Life League made that request. While I tend more toward the "minimalist" position and am not in favor of multiplying laws, I can see some good reasons for restoring this practice:

1. Most of us know we should practice some austerity or penance, but will not do it on our own. (cf.#7)
2. As St. Thomas pointed out, doing something out of loyalty (obedience) can increase its worth.
3. For those over 45 it is something we actually experienced and almost all Catholics have heard about it. (The idea of fish on Friday is in our consciousness in a way few other parts of our tradition are.)
4. In a diverse society it would be a ready mark of our common Catholic identity.
5. The stakes are very high in the present cultural divide. This practice would help us keep focused.
6. Abstinence and fasting remind us this is a spiritual struggle.
7. We need communal support to do things that are good for us. (Consider that only 10% of Americans eat the daily recommended servings or vegetables and fruit.)
8. Fishermen and their families would benefit. :-)

If you would like to add further reasons or make any comments please feel free to send me an e-mail.

The Abortion Issue.

A letter from Eileen about this issue.