It’s Friday! And it’s Lent! Did you remember to abstain from meat today? Don’t fret, that’s why we reminded you with this blog post. And if you did eat meat already, make a resolution not to eat meat for the rest of the day. We would also like to take this opportunity to revisit why we abstain from meat on Fridays and clarify other Lenten observances that the Church asks of us.
1) What are the guidelines of the Church when it comes to lent?
The Church recommends abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent. A fast is also suggested on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Fasting means decreasing our intake of food. A recommended guideline is one normal sized meal, and two smaller meals that together add up to a normal sized meal. The Church asks that we “fast” from a certain luxury during Lent. This is what we normally refer to as our Lenten sacrifice. So technically we are “fasting” all of Lent. But because God is good, we are permitted to celebrate the resurrection Sunday and break our Lenten fasts. If you count the number of days in Lent, you will see that the 40 days does not include Sundays.
Abstaining means refraining from eating meat (or another type of food or luxury). It is a good practice to abstain from a luxury every Friday (not just during Lent), but especially to abstain from eating meat during Lent. It is also a good practice to make a sacrifice through fasting, prayer and giving alms. Many people will make three Lenten sacrifices, one in each category.
• Catholics who have celebrated their 14th birthday are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays in Lent, and Good Friday.
• In addition to abstaining from meat, Catholics who have celebrated their 18th birthday, until they celebrate their 59th birthday, are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
2) Why do we abstain from meat during Lent?
While the true reason for this remains a discussion, there are many theories to this age only practice of early Christians. We abstain on specifically Friday because this was the day of Lord’s death and passion. Some say the Church was trying to support the fisherman’s industry. Others say it was safer to eat fish than meat or that meat is a luxury that should be sacrificed on the same day of the week Our Lord was crucified. Fish is a humble meal while meat was seen as a celebratory meal eaten on feast days. St. Thomas Aquinas says:
“Fasting was instituted by the Church in order to bridle the concupiscences of the flesh, which regard pleasures of touch in connection with food and sex. Wherefore the Church forbade those who fast to partake of those foods which both afford most pleasure to the palate, and besides are a very great incentive to lust. Such are the flesh of animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breath the air and their products, such as milk and eggs.” (ST II-II, q. 147, a.8)
In other words, it is believed that flesh-meat causes an increase in temptations to lust and anger, and abstaining from it helps us control our passions. Regardless of the true reason, it is a good practice to mortify the flesh and is recommended by the Church even outside of Lent.