Meatless Fridays

September 25, 2006 | 9 comments

Another quick, random question: do meatless Fridays serve the same purpose if you don’t like to eat meat in the first place?

I’m a recovering vegetarian (I went meatless for a long time but am slowly coming back to my senses) so I don’t particularly like to eat meat much anyway. So meatless Fridays would be something of a treat for me.

But, from what I understand, the purpose of foregoing meat on Fridays is to make it a day of penance. So how would that work if you really enjoy eating meatless meals? Should you do another form of penance?


  1. knit_tgz

    I’ve wondered this myself, as I really like fish, and don’t mind eating some foods without meat.

    I think the purpose is penance, but not only penance. I believe there is a ritual/remembrance aspect here, the aspect of making an effort when choosing the foods. For me, it’s mostly that, the effort of seeing my range of choices become smaller, because of Christ and the Church. And the effort of choosing the fish dish in the canteen, even if it doesn’t look yummy 😉

    Truly, I don’t know. I have sometimes struggled with the idea, trying to convince me to forego sweets or even coffee (gasp… I don’t know if I could forego coffee). I hope there will be more, and better, answers.

  2. Kate

    A lot of Catholics are under the impression that Vatican II eliminated the friday sacrifice, when in fact what happened is that it made allowances for other forms of penance/remembrance to be substituted.

    If you find that meatless fridays don’t help you be mindful of Christ’s passion (as it does for the person who eats meat most days and has to make an effort to avoid it), then you might want to consider making an alternate sacrifice, or an additional one. Some fridays I forget what day it is, and rather than beat myself up the rest of the day if I’ve had bacon with breakfast, I’ll say an extra rosary, or give myself smaller portions (effectively fasting), or some such additional penance.

    I’ll look up the teaching and post a link here if it looks like it will shed light on this question.

  3. Jennifer F.

    Kate – thanks for that link! I misread some stuff I came across online and was under the impression that meatless Fridays were optional. I didn’t understand exactly what it was Vatican II said. Thanks for the clarification!

  4. SteveG

    When it comes to this sort of thing, I always turn to Jimmy Akin for info. He is always so thorough and balanced in his approach that I feel confident I am getting good info.

    Here are a few posts he’s made over the years on various Lenten related issues (including Friday & Meat).

    Lenten Resources
    Annual Lent Fight
    Meat on Lenten Fridays: A Mortal Sin?
    Fish Fridays
    …and he has even more stuff on Lent if you are interested (Just hit his main page and type ‘Lent’ in the search box).

    Finally, I think we always have to keep in mind the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Of course we want to obey the letter, but not only for its own sake , but ideally for WHY it is laid down. That’s what we should always keep an eye towards.

    And of course we can always do more (give up meat AND something we enjoy on Fridays of Lent) if we feel that is in better keeping with the spirit of the law. While not required, certainly no harm can come of that.

  5. Sharon - "foster's home"

    hi there,

    well I’m a 15 year vegetarian, so I imagine this will come up for me as well. I’m interested to read the comments.

  6. SmartBlkWoman

    Why are you starting to eat meat again?

    I’m in the process of becoming vegetarian and I thought that once you go tofu you never go back. 🙂

  7. Martin

    I think the main question is whether the regular Friday penance is an obligation or one that is only urged and recommended. I don’t do as well on this as I should. The priests I have asked this question to in Confession (just covering my bases!) have told be that it isn’t mandatory.

    One more article from This Rock by Jimmy Akin:

    Is Friday Penance Required?

    His findings ….

    Excerpt: “As a result, there appears to be no legal obligation in the United States to practice penance on Friday, but Friday remains a day on which the bishops have urged all to do penance and, in particular, recommended the continued practice of abstinence.”

  8. Catholic Mom

    I do know there are some communities that are strictly fish eating all year so there are special arrangements made to accomodate them since eating fish on Friday would be no penance at all. A humorous situation is the capybara, a South American rodent. It is considered a non-meat and acceptable for Lenten Fridays.
    The easy answer to your dilemma is to abstain from meat on Friday since you do occasionally eat meat. However, make sure you do something else as well. It doesn’t have to be a food fast. Spend some extra time in prayer, volunteer with a charity, make a phone call or write a letter to someone with whom it is difficult for you to stay in contact.

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