Given that as of the writing of this post it is Friday, I thought an interesting topic of Catholic identity to discuss today was the sacredness of Fridays as days of penance and abstinence.
As I have mentioned before, I am not theologian and my discussions of Catholic identity are of those things that non-scholars at one time could identify with their Catholic friends. There was a time when a Catholic could easily be “spotted” in any restaurant or diner on a Friday evening based on what they ordered – Fish.
As kids in Catholic school, we knew Fridays were “different” because we always had morning confessions and Mass. After the morning classes, lunch served in the cafeteria was always fish or macaroni & cheese… even in the public schools!
Outside of schools, the restaurants ran their seafood specials and the all the local social clubs from the Knights of Columbus to the Elks & Eagles Lodges would hold their weekly “Fish Frys”.
But alas, as with many “implementations” of the “spirit” of Vatican II, we decided that we no longer needed to abstain from meat on Fridays... if we choose some other act of charity or suffering. But with poor catechesis on the “change”, the outcome did nothing but cause us to loose complete focus as to what is being commemorated on Fridays, and ignore the abstinence with not other act of penance.
It was also one of the significant changes to our “external” Catholic identity that caused us to be indistinguishable from non-Catholics. Walk into a school cafeteria now on a Friday, and you will see Hot Roast Beef sandwiches or Chili con carne! Any Catholic still wanting to hold the older Tradition is reduced to the pagan vegan menu to find a meatless substitute. Business luncheons and conference no longer take Friday into consideration when creating their menus. Our unique identity to the non-Catholic world has been completely lost!
Still worse, it lead a generation of Catholics who had been taught that you could not eat meat on Fridays one week, but starting next week it’s OK … leading many souls down the slippery slope of Cafeteria Catholicism where they say, “I only believe X, cause the Church can change it like that meat on Fridays thing.” So causal with fasting and abstinence are the “faithful” now, that since they do not have to abstain every Friday, “why should I bother during Lent?”
Fridays were “different” and not because they were the beginning of the weekend; rather, they were days when you were encouraged to think about want happened on that Holy Friday 2000 years ago; to remember that the Sacrifice on the Cross and the shedding of His Holy Blood for the Redemption of His sinful flock; to confess our sins; and to add our sufferings to His.
The Cross & Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is as important to our salvation as His glorious Resurrection three days later, and we must remember it! We must commemorate it! We must understand that our sins are the source of His Suffering on that Cross…so many Fridays ago.
It was for these reasons that we went to Confession, to Mass, and were required to abstain from meat every Friday! It is for these reasons that we should continue to do this every Friday, not just during the Fridays of Lent.
Pray for a return of greater penance and abstinence in commemoration of His Sufferings.
“And it was almost the sixth hour; and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour” (Luke 23:44)
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