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Vegetarian Fridays | Catholic Life

Vegetarian Fridays

Christ Died for Our Salvation on Friday.

Gratefully remembering this, Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitentialobservance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that theymay one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of thetradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where thattradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church.

Sometimes the US bishops are quite a pain. In much of the world Catholic vegetarians do not have to think about Fridays as any different than the rest of the week. They know that meat is forbidden on Fridays, and they don’t meat any day, so there is nothing to think about.

But years before I was even born the pesky US bishops had to make such a point of emphasizing Fridays as a day of penance that they downgraded abstinence from meat from a hard and fast command to just a really, really strong suggestion. And in doing so they made it very clear that Fridays are still days for profound penitential conversion.

I cannot be satisfied with the fact that I never eat meat. Instead Fridays should find me

doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.

I know all of this, but somehow I constantly fail to keep Friday as a special day of penance. Oh I’ll try to skip some food sometimes if I remember, and I may toss in a few extra prayers or refrain from taking painkiller for a mild headache. But often I do next to nothing, and what I do do is of little service to others.

If I weren’t a vegetarian I would follow the bishops’ instructions to give first place to abstaining from meat on Fridays, and not stress too much about what else I was able to add to that. But as it is I struggle to find a penitential practice which works every Friday. I need something which is so fitting that I can do it every single Friday and form a habit which will protect against the Saturday morning effort to figure out whether I can justify calling what I did or did not do “penance.”

The best thing that I can figure out for right now is to pray the complete liturgy of the hours on Fridays. But I also know that I personally need to do something of more direct service to others. And I have no idea what that should be.

I suspect that most of my readers do not find abstinence from meat to be the most meaningful way to follow Christ on Fridays. So, will you please share your penitential practices for Fridays? It’s not bragging, it is giving me a chance to copy you! And if you really can’t get over your fear of what others might think, then fake names are always allowed.

Note: I realize that this is something which simply is not a part of the religious lives of many Catholics today. If you don’t currently keep Friday as a day of penance, why not start by giving up meat for a meal or two? I suspect that you will soon find that it is fairly easy to give up meat for Fridays.

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19 Responses to “Vegetarian Fridays”

  1. marie 10. Jun, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    I wish I could say abstaining from meat was meaningful for me, but even as a meat-eater, I find I do this more out of obligation and less out of consideration for Christ *or* others. So I’m glad for your post to remind of the true meaning! That being said, I think your offering up the Liturgy of the Hours is wonderful – and who says it can’t help others? I just finished reading a short story on the life of Bl. Mary of Providence, who dedicated her entire life to saving the souls in Purgatory. If there’s another thing I don’t appreciate enough, it’s the Church Suffering as well as the Church Militant, as mentioned in the book.

    So this could actually be a great way to help!

    • Rae 11. Jun, 2010 at 6:30 am #

      Good point! I’m actually in the “middle” of reading Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Good stuff, and maybe I should turn to this thought more for inspiration.

  2. krissy knox 10. Jun, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    Hi Rae. First let me say that I can’t abstain from meat on Fridays. Or any other day for that matter. I am diabetic and have other health problems, and my doctor has asked me not to abstain, not even during Lent. So my priest has given me a dispensation for Lent, and asked me to do some other pennance on those Fridays, as well as the rest of the year, of course.

    First, let me tell you — be at peace, my sister! You are doing great! Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is of great worth for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes prayer can be the most efficacious thing you can do for those in the Christian community, and even the unsaved. Your prayers will bear much fruit so that others may carry on great works in the Lord. And your prayers will encourage others to grow close to the Lord by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. And prayers merit great favor with God, if you read Scripture.

    Prayers enable you to become more Holy, closer to the Lord, and transformed into the image of Christ. And we as Catholics know that sometimes the Lord allows some of our prayers to be of merit for others. So they will become closer to the Lord. Both the saved and the unsaved. Those who are Christians will become closer to the Lord by your prayers, and those who are unsaved shall find Him. What kind of work could be more important than that? :)

    In your work as a “prayer warrior” you can rest assured you are doing a GREAT thing. Saint Paul prayed and he even offered up his sufferings. St Paul actually said in, i believe it was 1 Corinthians, “I rejoice in my sufferings, to make up for what is lacking in the body of Christ.”

    Yes, Jesus did say “It is finished.” But we are the Body of Christ, and as such, we will do His work until He returns at the Second Coming, and we will make up what is lacking in the Body of Christ. What that means is, yes, it is finished, He did it for us, but, at the same time, He also wants us to fulfill a certain amount of work also until He returns to earth at His Second Coming. And He wants us to help change the world. We CAN change what happens in the world with our prayers. And that is perhaps YOUR calling in life, to offer up your prayers, sufferings, and even joys to the Lord, so that others may be saved, as well as yourself! :)

    Know that you have a very special place in His heart to do such a very special work, and that He is really trusting you! No, it is NOT easy to pray and to suffer. Prayer can sometimes be suffering. Wouldn’t it sometimes be easier to merely sing in the chior or bring some bread to Grandma on Sunday, then it would be to pray all day (or a lot of) Sunday?

    To pray consistently for the salvation of others, or whatever you are offering up your prayer for, can sometimes be VERY difficult. So know that you are very special that the Lord has chosen you for such a very special and important ministry, and that you are even sustaining others to go out and do their ministries!

    Now rest assured that the Lord is very pleased with you. Go forth in peace. You are doing enough.

    yours in Christ, another praying Catholic Christian, krissy knox :)

    • Rae 11. Jun, 2010 at 6:31 am #

      Wow, thanks for the encouragement!

  3. practicinghuman 11. Jun, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    The Orthodox Church has a bit more to offer in terms of a food fasting rule that may be helpful for you. The standard abstinence is no meat and no dairy. People often regard eggs as the same category as meat and dairy (although I do not know how people regard it). Additionally, strict fasting rules also avoid fish, wine, and olive oil. Another common custom is to eat vegetables “dry” on fasting days, preferring to eat vegetables raw or steamed only with water.

    Peace be with you!

    • Rae 11. Jun, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      Oh, good reminder! I try to follow eastern fasting requirements during Advent and Lent, but it finally got a lot easier, so I started slacking more on Fridays in general. How’s that for bad logic?

      Since I am bound by Roman Catholic rules rather than an Eastern Catholic or Orthodox rite I think that each item should be meaningful rather than simply “grabbing” someone else’s standard. And as it is I rarely consume fish, wine or olive oil it did not seem like much of an improvement for me. But you’ve made me think of eating raw and giving up salt on Fridays might accomplish for me what giving up meat does for the average meat-loving American.


      • practicinghuman 11. Jun, 2010 at 7:01 am #

        You might also want to consider looking into Roman Catholic monastic customs as the stricter Orthodox fasting rule stems from Orthodox monastic practices. It’s not so much about the specific particulars as it is about an intention to embrace self-discipline. Since Vatican II greatly shifted the fasting obligations for Roman Catholics, I have had a hard time finding how strictness of the fast increases in the Roman Catholic situation. As a vegetarian, keeping the letter of the fast proves to be too easy for you since you do it anyway.

        But I know how hard it can be to keep a faithful schedule related to performing works of mercy. You may also want to consider something like delivering for Meals on Wheels on Friday or volunteering somewhere every Friday, if your schedule allows for that.

        OH, I do know something about Western practices because I have friends who are Western Rite Orthodox. Their practice is 1 meal a day, with no more than 2 snacks that compromise a quarter meal each (so 1 meal and a half).

        • Rae 14. Jun, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

          We don’t have one ladder of strictness for fasting and abstinence. Some orders still abstain from meat for most of the year (except for feasts and Easter) while others only follow the general guidelines. I think that the hardest part for me is that I don’t have a spiritual director to say “do this” so I either feel like my chosen penance is too easy, or else I consistently fail to keep it!

          I really admire your work with Meals on Wheels! Now that we’ve moved to a more populated area I’m hoping to find a place to work with something like that.

          Your idea of eating less is also good.

    • Bianca 31. Jul, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      It’s all in the approach…absolutely! MG reredas today are the YA of tomorrow. Life is full of wonders and terrors, both awesome and fearsome. For writing to remain true, it must be able to encapsulate the entire spectrum. It’s the reason, and the finessing that will determine the author’s success. Here’s to brave authors creating new work of literary art.

  4. Kathleen 11. Jun, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    You know, when they downgraded it from requirement to suggestion, it totally changed everything. I used to try to keep it, but have slipped away for a long, lllloooonnnngggg time. Lately I’ve been feeling convicted to do it again…this is the final nail in the coffin. Off to the grocery store for tonight’s dinner.

    • Rae 11. Jun, 2010 at 6:44 am #

      I think that it must have worked that way for a lot of (most?) people. Good for you for giving it another shot.

  5. alison 11. Jun, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    my husband and I gave up meat for lent and it was HARD. at the Easter service our pastor encouraged everyone to continue in some way in the lenten fast throughout the year. If you gave up smoking, don’t go crazy with the smoking again and loose all discipline you gained, but try to smoke less, or something like that. So we decided we’d continue to give up meat on Friday’s as our penance. We actually both didn’t realize that you were never NOT supposed to give up meat…Eating a tuna sandwich as we speak…
    I think giving up the salt thing or some other modification to the diet is a very real and concrete way to show penance. I like the physical aspect of literally changing what I consume.
    Also…I bought green lentils the other day on a whim…what do I do now??

    • Rae 14. Jun, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Good for you! Though now I feel the need to do an entire post about lentils. They are one of my top 10 foods ever. ::dreamy sigh::

  6. Christine 11. Jun, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    I only recently (last year or so) started abstaining from meat year-round on Fridays as a penitential observance. I think I do it, not because it’s the most profound way to unite my sufferings with the cross, but because it is: meaningful, workable to do on a weekly basis, something that other Catholics do too (so if I’m with other orthodox folks, it’s a point of bonding).

    • Rae 14. Jun, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      “meaningful, workable to do on a weekly basis, something that other Catholics do too” That is great!

      • Tharika 30. Jul, 2014 at 11:33 am #

        , “boring.” Then I gave the same chapter to the same girl when she was 14 and I had to get her mhteor’s permission to give her the whole book.There is sex, pagan rituals, murder, homosexuality, and material that could be considering insulting to three major religions…Her mhteor gave her okay and the the girl read it one sitting saying that it was the most fun read she had in years…The thing is teenagers are interested in those “controversial matters” which are not controversial at all if you ask me.Not to write about them or editing them out, is lying, and teens spot lies a mile away.When they become adults they start believing lies but when they are on the cusp of adulthood they still have this innate ability to smell a rat.Or is it the other way around? Once we lose this ability, we become adults?Anyway. I’m dying to hear what Kristin has to say!Come on YouTube!By the way a whole bunch of social media is experiencing problems. Twitter is as good as down – massive problems.

  7. Princess Christy 12. Jun, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    The school where I teach has gone to meatless Fridays. I try to buy my lunch on Fridays or bring something meatless with me. It doesn’t always happen, but it does more often than not!

    • Rae 14. Jun, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

      More often than not is quite a bit better than not! :-)

    • Tokatli 31. Jul, 2014 at 4:07 am #

      I hope there are no off-limit topics in YA fcition – but that they should be addressed responsibly (if a teen girl is going to be handing out the goods to the entire football team, there’s bound to be consequences). MG is a bit more questionable, with a similar thought to PG movies.I do think if an author would like to push the expected boundaries of what is acceptable, the polite thing would be to make it known before the book is read.

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