A daily rant and poll

I’ve discovered a growing pet peeve. It never used to bother me, then it bothered me a little. Now it bugs the daylights out of me.

Using Lenten feast days as an excuse to eat meat on Fridays.

First it was St. Patrick’s Day, and certain bishops wanted to make sure that the faithful could indulge in green beer and corned beef even if March 17th fell on Friday as it did it 2006 and 2000. Now as much as I love St. Patrick, his feast is a minor feast day, so this is really pushing it.

But March 19th is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Next year it is on a Friday. My Catholic homeschool group wants to do a father-son meal on this day, and many of the women felt that serving meat was fine since it was his feast day.

“We are required to celebrate solemnities,” pointed out one woman.

“But we aren’t required to eat meat, “ said I. She agreed, but she and many others thought that meat could still be an option, for example, if the dinner was spaghetti with meatballs, you could decline the meatballs if you were one of those holy-than-thou people who thought that eating meat on Friday during Lent was wrong.

Now, I don’t eat meat on Fridays as a general rule – even outside of Lent, and I’m willing to accept that others may choose different sacrifices outside of Lent. But it annoys me when Catholics socialize as Catholics on Fridays (as my homeschool group does once a month) and nobody encourages going meatless. We do a potluck, and my dish will be the only meatless dish. If we are all supposed to be doing some sort of sacrifice on Friday, wouldn’t it just be easier if we did the same one? If the Jones Family offers up cheese, they may have trouble finding a dish. And if the Smiths offer up sweets, then there will be a whole table of temptations. And if the saintly Reitemeyers give up meat, then they have to feed themselves or go hungry.

There’s not much point going to a potluck if you can’t eat anything served.

OK, so this part of my pet peeve is, obviously, growing, too. But sticking with the main part – eating meat on Fridays during Lent – I want to know how the rest of the Catholic world thinks (or at least the small fraction that comes here to visit). The Solemnity of St. Joseph is only seven months away. What do you plan to do? Do you think eating meat on his feast day is acceptable (assuming the Bishops give permission)? Do you think the requirement to “celebrate” necessitates the eating of meat or the eating of sweets?

And, since I obviously disagree with you if you do, I really want to hear some justifications as to why “Catholic-lite: the smooth, easy road to Heaven” is a good idea. Do you think this trend of minimal discomforts has made us a stronger church or better people? Do you think that voluntarily suffering is useless? Or are you just not interested in being challenged? What’s your problem, huh?

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23 thoughts on “A daily rant and poll

  1. I agree with you that there is no requirement TO eat meat on a solemnity and that a spaghetti dinner on the Solemnity of St. Joseph would be just as enjoyable without meatballs.

    We also go meatless during the year – but make exceptions for traveling and visiting people – in those cases we try to make another sacrifice instead.

    I also agree, that when Catholics meet as Catholics on Fridays there ought to be an attempt to go meatless. We were at a Deacon's house a couple of Friday's ago for a dinner and meeting about Baptism classes. There was another Deacon and his wife and our pastor at this meeting. And they served chicken. I certainly didn't want to make any kind of a big deal about not eating meat on Friday when the pastor is having chicken, so…

    Suffice it to say: I agree.

    Have a great day.

  2. If the Bishop says it's permissible, it's permissible. I agree that we are supposed to celebrate feast days. We SHOULD celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph…but you're right, we don't HAVE to do it with meat.

    The thing is, as I know you know, every single Friday is supposed to be a day of penance. If you're eating meat, you should sacrifice something else instead. Far be it for me to pass judgment on someone I don't even know, but it seems like a lot of people who jump at the chance to celebrate a solemnity on a Friday during Lent are the same people who forget that “regular” Fridays are also meant for penance. I hope that doesn't sound snarky because I don't mean it that way at all.

    I often do eat meat on Fridays (ordinary time) and I do celebrate solemnities during Lent, but I also take Lent very, very seriously. This past Lent was particularly penitential for me because I spent a big chunk of it in and out of the hospital visiting my newborn in the NICU. At the beginning of Lent I had decided to try a “mortification of the senses” as suggested by our pastor, and I gave up at least one thing for each sense (taste: junk food; smell: bubble baths and scented lotions; touch: the comfortable chair in our TV room; sound: I only listened to EWTN radio; sight: extremely limited TV and internet). When my daughter was born I kind of stopped doing those things. People brought meals for me and I was not going to turn someone away if they brought meat on a Friday, and after an emergency c-section, I usually ended up sitting in the most comfortable chair to avoid excess pain. However, I had a replacement penance that was completely undesired by me, way more difficult to deal with than forgoing my favorite scented bubble bath, and was something God chose for me instead of something I chose for myself. And, had a solemnity fallen on a day when my daughter was in the NICU, I wouldn't have skipped my visit to the hospital, gone out for steak, and celebrated the solemnity. Similarly, we shouldn't forget that Lent is a time for us to prepare our souls for Good Friday and unite our sufferings with Christ. On Easter Sunday, I went to Mass, had dinner with my family, then rushed to the NICU to see my daughter. She was never forgotten despite the other celebrations of the day. Let's give Christ the same dignity.

    Sheesh, sorry for the novella of a comment. I should have just made by own blog post.

  3. I fail to see how forgoing meat on a solemnity ruins the spirit of the celebration? Is eating meat the only way to celebrate? This is a pet peeve of ours as well. Seriously, we are asked for so little and sometimes for some people that little is too much. I hope the Bishops don't go for it and say it is permissible to have meat on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph.

    Anyhoo, I think you are spot on, on this one.

  4. We'll eat fish or veggies, like we do every Friday.

    I have issues with this topic also, Michelle, since our clergy do not, at all, discuss the issue of meatless Fridays all year. My husband invited his dear friend, a priest, to dinner this Friday. Actually, Father accepted a standing invitation and it happens to be this Friday. My husband asked him if he eats shrimp and he responded with “No, I don't eat any seafood. Please tell your wife it's not Lent and we don't have to eat meatless on Friday. I want to eat her pepperoni pizza.”

    He is a very traditional JPII priest. If he asks for pepperoni pizza, I'll make it for him. Should I be holier than he and eat cheese pizza? What's a Catholic to do?

  5. Although I agree that meat is probably NOT necessary-if it's permissible it's permissible. Fundamentally as Catholics, even prior to the meat thing, is the obedience to our Mother Church thing. It may gall you a bit to be obedient toward the “Catholic Lite” direction, but non-the-less, you cannot pick and choose what you obey….just as the more liberal person, SHOULD not pick and choose what they obey either. Obedience is a tremendous challenge to our pride. But, this might be a better sacrifice than the meat thing- (allowing what IS allowable according to the bishops and just accepting that you have to put your own sensibilities about it aside) And of course, you don't have to eat the meat, nor bring the meat! mcm

  6. It's not disobedient to not eat meat ever. It is morally acceptable to be a vegetarian.

    It is not disobedient to be critical of fluffy Catholicism.

    Perhaps I'm being sinfully judgmental, but I did say it was a pet peeve, and peeves, by their very definition are somewhat sinful. We really shouldn't get upset about anything.

    I could have a better attitude, but I'm not being disobedient. Extra mortification is allowed and even encouraged.

  7. I did not say you were being disobedient, I was simply pointing out that part of the beauty of being Catholic is obedience-meaning, that we can rely on our Church to give us guidance on matters of faith and we further, have the blessing of being able to trust this guidance. What I see among more conservative Catholics is the tendency to feel like if the Church takes a more I'll call it “generous” (catholic lite) stance on things, they get up in arms about it….but this is the whole point-we need to trust the Church on these matters-not our own sensibilities about things. This goes both ways, is really what I was trying to say, I did not have any intention of calling you disobedient, rather I was saying that as long as the your group is obedient to the teachings of the church, than whether you personally bring meat or not is your choice…but you shouldn't judge them, as long as they are within the teachings of the church. 🙂 mcm

  8. Bill wanted me to tell you that real Irish people don't drink green beer. And they don't need a bishop to allow them to drink stout.

    Michelle, you should stop going to the homeschool group on Fridays if this issue is consistently a problem. Not because there are people out there who eat meat on Fridays, but because you are vehement about this issue. And it is not the vehemence of your viewpoint (as I too feel the same way) but you are putting yourself in a position to be sinful and that is not a good thing. We are called to not lead ourselves to temptation as well as not sinning, so going to this group where you are judging them is not good for you. If you want to continue going, then you continue to be meatless and you don't judge.

  9. i dont eat meat on friday during lent, regardless of the feast day. i do eat it on fridays the rest of the year. i am just lazy.
    r

  10. Hi Michelle! We're no meat on Friday people… unless we're guests (during ordinary time) and not served another option. In that instance, we make another sacrifice. In Lent, then we starve… or beg for PB&J.

    FYI “Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Being someone who loves the liturgical year (both its sacrifices and its celebrations), I like to celebrate solemnities with meat… oh and ice cream sundaes… even if falls on a Friday in Lent. But all other Fridays, we do no meat. It's the easiest, most visible, and most traditional way for me to teach the value of the Church's teaching of sacrifice on Friday to my kids.

    So I'd be celebrating on St. Joseph's but bring Tuna to the homeschool potluck on all other Fridays that weren't solemnities. I do agree that for the preferred sacrifice — it's not often preached. 🙂

    Furthermore, I absolutely agree that you don't have to celebrate a solemnity with meat, but it's perfectly fine to celebrate it with it. Also, the Church will move any solemnity that fall inside Holy Week — so there is a limit to the partying that she allows. 😉

  11. Solemnities rule, Michelle! You don't need special permission to eat meat on Fridays. Easter Triduum is the highest of all, then 3rd on the list are solemnities. No abstinence or fasting is ever allowed or encouraged on these days.

    If you notice there are very, very few saints in the calendar during the Lenten season, because the Lenten liturgy overrides most saints days. But Solemnities bump the Lenten weekday liturgies. Now if St. Joseph falls on Sunday, St. Joseph gets bumped, because Lenten Sundays override even Solemnities.

    So while I agree with you about St. Patrick and such and it's such a terrific pet peeve of mine, there is no Friday sacrifice required for solemnities. This is MY pet peeve that there's a misunderstanding of the hierarchy of the calendar.

    Now in America St. Patrick is only a Memorial, and THAT DOES require permission from the bishop to override the abstinence from meat.

    One of my handouts from my KC speech has the Table of Liturgical Days, which is part of the Church documents on the Liturgical Calendar, so you can visually see what I mean. http://familyfeastandferia.wordpress.com/living-the-liturgical-year-at-home/handouts-from-kc-conference/

  12. I posted before I read some of the comments, and I hope I didn't sound know-it-all. Eating meatless is a real hardship for us, as we can't do eggs and cheese, so while it's not the biggest treat, having meat on Solemnities is nice.

    On the other hand, how about abstaining from meat but having the most expensive and fancy meatless meal is hardly penitential! Lobster and all-you-can-eat crab legs scarcely seem a way to remember Christ's passion on Friday.

    But my point is that for the higher feast days, we should unite our thinking with the Church and celebrate! And yes, for some, eating meat is celebrating.

  13. Do most Catholics know we are required to make some kind of sacrifice on Fridays? I went to a Catholic grade school and an all girls private Catholic high school and graduated VERY ignorant about my faith. Words like sacrifice,mortification and obedience are not commonly understood(in regards to faith)by most mainstream Catholics I know. My husband and I are considered the religous weirdos in our families. My children were made fun of by their cousins,who attend a Catholic school,because we say a family rosary and wear scapulars. Michelle, I think You might just want to go and beat your head against a wall. If a Bishop gives a dispensation to eat meat then it is ok to do so. My guess is some of the Catholics would eat meat anyway. I'm waiting for the immense sucking sound when many priests pull their heads out of their rear ends and start instucting people how to begin the difficult and narrow walk that leads one to holiness.Instruction needs to come from them to clear up these muddy waters…..I guess we all have our pet peeves.

  14. Bottom line: no, you don't NEED meat to celebrate, but yes, if the bishop says it's permissible, you MAY.

    Personally, my husband and I try to go meatless year 'round, mainly because I never am sure that whatever I come up with as an alternate penance is “good enough.” Going meatless is much simpler for my slightly scrupulous soul than wondering whether the penance I picked was adequate.

    Were I in your shoes, I would probably stop – or at least decrease the frequency of – going to the group, for the reasons barb-the-sis intimated. Your arguments are reasonable and sound, but if it's tempting you to judge others' personal sanctity, why go?

  15. OK, so the consensus is that I am sinfully judgmental. I love it when a post about how other people annoy me becomes a discussion of how I can improve my own behavior. Lovely.

    If I only associated with people who did not annoy me, I would have to become a hermit. If I never exposed myself to people with different ideas, I would never have a chance to convert them nor would I have a chance to work on charity and patience (notice that I didn't say that they would have a chance to convert me – trust me, pride and judgmentalism are up there on my repeat offense list for the confessional).

    Besides, my judgmentalist attitude is only superficial. I have my own flaws that I expect people to accept or gently, patiently try to correct. I'm hardly condemning anyone to hell for not siding with me on this one.

    I will accept that meat MAY be eaten on Solemnities that fall on Lenten Fridays. But I still won't do it myself. I don't think it's necessary.

    As for the rest of the year, I guess my main gripe is this: if the Church says don't eat meat, although another sacrifice MAY be substituted outside of Lent, why, when gathering socially, would Catholics not assume that MOST of us would do the suggested penance? The assumption seems to be that everybody is doing some alternative, and in reality, I assume that most of us are not doing any sort of sacrifice at all. I know that when I have tried to do an alternate, it tends to be something convenient which kind of goes against the whole point: oh, I'm at a party with meat and desserts, so I guess I forego the soda I rarely drink anyway?

  16. Over the years, our homeschooling groups tend to have their end of year parties and such on Fridays. Bless the priest who was our chaplain for years, as he actually threw a big summer feast for our group at his expense…lunch would be tuna and seafood salad sandwiches, and supper was a wonderful meal of baked cod and all the accompaniments.

    My current HS group was kind of middle of the road to conservative Catholics. We met for first Friday, and I tended to note who had the obviously meatless meals and those who brought cold cuts. Yes, I guess I was being judgmental. But I have made it a point when were having potluck dinners to bring a very yummy meatless meal, as did another member who abstained from meat on Fridays.

    I've noticed over the years that the families in the group that have been in the group for a long time are tending to move to the meatless stuff, and I'd like to think that it's because of my subtle example.

    As far as the Lenten stuff….I do not like the wimping out for St. Patrick's day…but I believe this was done in the US even in the good old days pre- Vatican II. When I'm in the presence of other people and something like this comes up, I kind of lightheartedly say, “oh well, we'll just have our corned beef and cabbage on Saturday.” Or maybe another option is to suggest for your group to have their dinner the day after, on Saturday?

  17. May I leave my thoughts even though I'm not Catholic?

    We are taught that when we are fasting, if you are served something that is not fasting, to eat with appreciation for the love with which it is served. In other words, to point out that you aren't supposed to eat it because…is prideful.

    However, it is *not* prideful to expect a room full of Orthodox to only serve Lenten appropriate foods if it is a meal during Lent. It seems to me that the default assumption of a Catholic homeschooling group on a fast day *should be* that people are observing the fast.

    Anyway, I think that the option of having spaghetti with two sauces – one with meat and one without would probably work (and is what is done at our parish for those of us who are vegetarian), with the caveat that like the Fathers of the church teach to concentrate on what is on your own plate and not what is on the plate of others.

    I should also mention that when feast days fall during a fast, the fast is often relaxed, but never not observed (with the exception of when a Bishop gives a blessing, like for example, Thanksgiving which falls during Advent – but honestly that blessing probably comes from the hospitality rule above)

    Hugs. Michelle. It is hard enough to navigate how our faith and “the world” intersect without having those who are of the faith creating the roadblock.

  18. When I first read through this post I thought, “oh no, something else I didn't know I was suppose to not/be doing.” I asked my cradle Catholic dh, and he was only vaguely familiar with this year round practice.

    It's okay if it bugs you though. One thing I've noticed for sure is there's a much more conservative group of Catholics here, than those I'm familiar with from where I'm from. East Coast is certainly more pre-vaticanish than the churches I've been exposed to on the West Coast. So for us, it will probably take a bit of time to acclimate and learn the new rules, because saddly, I didn't know these traditions.

  19. I was thinking exactly the same thing as Mimi. I am Eastern Catholic, and we have the same fasting observance as the Orthodox.

    I was out to dinner with some friends, including a monk, on a Friday during Lent. We ordered a pasta dish that contained cheese, and asked that the cheese be left off (no dairy for us during Lent). My monk friend's dinner came, sans cheese, mine came with cheese. My monk friend said, “Apparently God loves you more than me. Enjoy your cheese.” Not that this has anything to do with your question. I just like telling this story about fasting. Sorry. =)

  20. Whoa. I think my brain just exploded. I honestly have heard about the meatless Fridays during the year (outside of Lent) but have never observed it, thinking that it was just some kind of traddie practice that was sort of “holier than thou” and not a Church approved devotion of sorts. Boy oh boy. You learn something new every day. I think I'll institute this “new” rule in my house.

    My dad was pretty good at teaching me reverence for all things good and Catholic but he never stressed this one. Probably it was because he worked at a meat market, came from a farming family, and meat wasn't as expensive as fish-type foods.

    Oh, I'll pray for your extreme judgmentalness thingie, and your sinful pride…

    You'd better return the favor!
    (btw, the Judgmental Awards came out already and everyone already voted ME queen, so step off, Lady!)

  21. Mary Poppins NOT —-you guys have it REALLY tough, with no cheese..and no eggs…don't know how'd I'd get through Lent without those items. And butter.

  22. Okay, so I was at this meeting and I thought some people objected just a little too much to the “let's not eat meat on a Friday during Lent”. Like this is new. Like we couldn't just do a FISH dinner. Like we couldn't have two sauces (my suggestion) or CLAM sauce (my husband will make it, he's on the list to do so but doesn't know it yet…) or hey, do it another day. No it HAD to be 19 March and HAD to include meat.
    I am pretty strict about this during Lent and have started within the last couple of years to try to remember this during the regular liturgical year. When I actually PLAN meals this goes well. When I just make whatever I have in the house and I can think of at the time it never goes well. Maybe that's why people plan…hmmm…
    I don't think that it's being judgmental to expect that Catholic homeschooling mothers are going to lead the way in the teaching and enforcement of Church teachings. Yes dear, the Bishop said you could have meat this year on the Solemnity of St. Joseph but wouldn't it be lovely if we showed God our devotion to the foster father of his son by choosing NOT to have meat anyway? It will set a good example for the younger boys to see you do so. Or something along those lines.
    I haven't been to many potlucks with this group since this will be the first complete school year we have been here. I will make a meatless dish for Friday meals. That way our kids can eat each others food and we'll be sure that they might have a chance to get food while there that isn't violating what we are trying to teach them.
    I agree with Christina that setting an example is probably the best way to bring people around. What did St. Francis say, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words.” Something like that.
    It is not disobedient to eat meat with the Bishop says it is okay. It is that we are trying to educate our children and they so often remember WHAT we do but not WHY we do it. They will remember that we had a meat dinner but not that it was by special permission. As a poorly catechized cradle Catholic married to a reluctantly practicing convert I need all the help I can get without looking like I am rocking yet another boat!!

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