Fish every Friday?

I was wondering why every Friday at school, none of my Catholic peers eat meat. They say it’s a sacrafice like Jesus made when he fasted for 40 days. I was thinking, what if you don’t like meat? If that’s the case than your not really making a sacrafice. Even if you do like meat, surely one can think of a more challenging temptation than meat to give up during Lent.

I’m a lifelong Catholic and I do not know a single Catholic who still practises this tradition. Not one. Where do you live?

Rickjay, you’ve never known a Catholic who gave up meat every Friday or never known one that gave up meat every Friday during Lent? Most practicing Catholics I know give up meat on Fridays during Lent, and I was not raised in particularly devout areas (think Southeast). The reason you never see people giving up meat on every Friday is because that restriction was lifted after Vatican II in 1964.

Lent is a time of fasting and charity, a time to do without without yourself and give to others. My church and many others participate in operation Rice Bowl. On that Friday you are to eat a very simple meal, and donate the money that you would have spent on yourself.

Giving up meat was explained to me as giving up a luxury most of the people of the day didn’t have and that fish was allowed to honor the Apostoles that were poor fisherman.

Those that don’t likemeat should still eat simply on that day in the spirit of sacrifice, a reminder that there are people out there with much less than you.

Of course this is as it was explained to me. I have no cites as to why the early church set it up this way.

The practice of abstaining from meat dates back, in one form or another, to the second century. Eventually it became a rule of the church. The rule (but not the discipline) was modified in the 1960s. The church still suggests that every Friday be a day of abstinence, but only makes it a rule during Lent.

As to the sacrifice aspect: if you live in a fishing community where they never even see meat (not that difficult to imagine as recently as 100 years ago), or if you are a vegan and never eat meat, anyway, then the church would suggest that you find a different action to remind yourself of the sacrifice of Jesus. The original rules were made when there were far fewer options for anyone’s diet than there are today. The assumption was made that this specific act would help believers call to mind in a small way the suffering of Jesus. Although it became a big deal when the RCC went through its period of absolutes in law, the intent was never to impose a hardship, (missing meat for a whole day!), but to simply provided a visible reminder to the community.

No. I know they USED to, but in my lifetime I’ve never seen it practised.

I was born in 1967, and my family did it while I was growing up- still do. I myself do it during Lent, and have been thinking about going back to it- it kinda feels funny, eating meat on Friday, though I stopped when I went to college…that happy rush of rebellion. I was raised in northern Ohio, and through middle school, fish was served in school on Fridays- don’t remember for HS, since I never ate in the cafeteria.


Never have eaten meat on friday during lent, I’ve never (since adulthood)eaten at all on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, and it doesn’t even occur to me to change. I don’t know a single person who is catholic who does eat meat on fridays during lent. And I’m living in a community less than 40 miles from downtown Chicago.

No one who knows me would exactly consider me a “devout” person, in fact my religeous views are strictly my own and I generally make every effort to avoid even discussing them with anyone else.

OBTW, the original deal behind the abstenance thing was one of the early popes- memory doesn’t serve but I think it may have been Clement? or Sixtus? who came originally from a fishing village, and fishermen were hurting pretty badly. SO the Pope declared that everyone would abstain from meat on friday. I like fish, so it’s not a big hardship for me.

It’s really about remembrance and self-sacrifice, and unfortunately much of the original meaning has been lost or ignored.


Sorry. This story seems to have been invented back in the days when Catholics and Protestants were openly hating each other (think Jack Chick and Fr. Feeney across the whole of Europe).

The only Clement whom I have seen associated with abstinence was Clement of Alexandria, (fl 200), who discussed it, but who was never pope.

At the time that Clement of A. and Tertullian and several others were discussing abstinence in various tracts and epistles, (and noting that the practice was already well-established before their writings in 200), the papacy did not yet have the power of issuing edicts with which we now associate it.

If anyone has a verifiable citation for this purported edict, I’d love to see it. (There may have been later edicts regarding abstinence as the church changed its rules from time to time, but the tradition is obviously far older than the story that “the pope orders people to eat fish to help out his buddies/family/village/creditors/whoever” would allow.)

I always thought it was kind of dumb-think about it: what’s REALLY fasting? Eating leftover meatloaf, or an expensive shrimp dinner with caviar blinis? Sheesh.

I’ll have to do some digging. It will probably take me a while. But I was taught this by a Jesuit in seminary, a man who never, to my knowledge, deliberately OR accidentally allowed a mistruth to pass his lips. I only mentioned it because my source, to me, is absolutely trustworthy. I don’t know where Fr. Jean is now but I’ll try to hunt him down so he can quote me his sources.


Alright, I’ve got a different but relevant question to add here: what’s the difference between fish and meat? I always thought that fish was just another kind of meat, like beef or poultry. Is there a biological reason, or was it just declared so?

The Catholic Church has some rather detailed definitions of “meat” and “fish”. Poultry is out, but I am pretty sure you can eat eggs. At least my family ate a lot of eggs on Fridays during Lent.

Although I may not be the most devout Catholic, I still observe the no meat on Fridays during Lent thing. But I really like fish, so it’s not a big sacrifice.

The definition for the type of meat to be avoided was “flesh meat” which corresponds pretty closely to our idea of “warm blooded.” The specific reasons for that choice have not been spelled out in any of the articles I have read. At different times in different places that practice varied. There are examples of areas where all animals and all animal products (milk, butter, cheese, etc.) were included in the guidelines of food to avoid. The most frequently followed rule was that of avoiding the flesh of mammals and birds (which allowed eggs that had no flesh).

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907 - 1919) – Abstinence includes this definition:

The paragraph continues

but the section I have italicized indicates that this extended definition is intended for particular days (specifically the Rogation and Ember days of the older Liturgical calendar that are no longer observed), not the general abstinence indicated for each Friday.

If they had banned eggs, my dad would have been a whole heap of trouble. He’s not a fish guy, but he loves eggs. And he used to be a dairy farmer.

RickJay: You’ve just proved to me that Canada is, in fact, Bizarro world. Reading your posts here was like reading somebody say “None of the Protestants I know believe that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior.”:slight_smile:

I can tell you that in Pittsburgh (60-70% Catholic) even the PUBLIC schools don’t serve meat on Fridays, much less during Lent. Most of the people I have known in my life are Catholic and I do not know of one of them who eats meat on Fridays during Lent. I would imagine that the same is true of Boston and Chicago and other cities with large Catholic populations.

As for “meat not being a sacrafice anymore” is not the point. The point is that it is something that one ACTIVELY does to remind one of their faith, something that people don’t always think about during their day to day life. It makes you think “MMM, that cheeseburger sounds good, oh, wait, it’s Friday, I’m Catholic, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert and died for our sins, and I’m not supposed to eat that. I’ll have the shrimp and caviar instead.”

You know, I grew up in rural Georgia, and our public school always served fish sticks on Friday. Darndest thing too, since I don’t think there was a Catholic in the whole county. Maybe it was a state-wide policy or something.

Why Fridays? Why not Wednesdays, or Mondays?

Christ died on a Friday.

I wonder if the Catholic practice of considering fish to not be meat for the purposes of abstinence is rooted in the Jewish origins of Christianity. Or it could be a curious case of convergent evolution of religion. At any rate, the Jewish dietary laws prohibiting mixtures of meat and dairy do not consider fish to be meat. Fish are considered pareve (neither meat nor dairy), which puts them in roughly the same category as plants with respect to with what other foods they may be eaten.

An aside: I used to kid around with a Catholic co-worker when she complained about not being able to have her customary Friday night pepperoni pizza during Lent. Try keeping kosher and giving up pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers, shellfish, bacon, etc. for your entire life. Also, it’s the middle of Passover, and, let me tell you, eating during Passover…that’s a sacrifice!


Moadim l’simcha (enjoy the intermediate days of the festival [of Passover]–much more concise in Hebrew, eh?)!