Fridays in Lent: Party Time?

Alligator OK to eat on Lenten Fridays, archbishop clarifies – you have to live in the South to not ask yourself if these people are serious.  Alligator is on most menus down here.

Euphemism of the day: “terminal sedation.”  No, really, kids…Dad is just singing his favorite Ramones’ song.

 Of the myriad of things I gave up for Lent (like Facebook), the one that is hardest for me is not getting on the scale every day.  I’ve considered simply moving it to an out-of-sight location, but there’s no challenge in that.  It’s all about impulse control.

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Someone writes:

I have to ask: what’s your stance on the parish Lenten fish fry?

My husband and I struggle with this one; on the one hand, it’s a major fundraiser for our parish and a way to have fellowship with our parish community.

On the other hand: it just seems a wee little bit like too much fun, lol. I’m off the hook for making dinner! Pierogies, huge fish sandwiches, beer, dessert, chinese auctions and 50/50 raffles. These are certainly not bad things in and of themselves, but I’m starting to find that my kids LOVE Fridays in Lent because it means fun.

Does anyone else struggle with this a bit? Maybe I am over-thinking it…I don’t mean to sound more Catholic than the Pope, for lack of better words.

I’d love to hear other opinions on this.  My own thoughts are a work in progress.  Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

 Each of the last 5 parishes where I attended Mass had Stations of the Cross on Friday nights.  Three of these parishes also had some sort of meal prior to it.  Of the two that did not, I did not attend Stations at one because of little children.  At the other, I only attended a few times because my daughters had dance class on Friday evenings.  This church did not have a large turnout for stations (at most 30 people in a parish of over 800 families).

At the 3 parishes that did have meals, including my current parish, both the meal and the Stations were well attended.

Two parishes were at military chapels: small, close-knit communities.  At both, the event was billed as “Soup and Stations,” and the meal was a potluck soup and bread/rolls.  At one, the event was very family-focused and many people brought cheese pizza, mac and cheese, and other meatless dishes in addition to soup.  The kids played and had a great time; the adults kibbitzed; it was fun! At the other, PB&J was made available “for children only” and a dim view was taken if you weren’t on board with the sacrificial nature of the event.  The kids still played and adults talked, but it was a bit less rowdy, in part due to the demographics of fewer families with little children and in part due to the “Friday-penance” attitude.

At both of these parishes, just about everybody who attended the meal also attended the Stations.  The chapel was filled – not uncomfortably filled like Sunday morning Mass, but certainly not empty.  Compared to the parish that did not have a meal, and had very few attendees, I have to believe that a shared meal and social hour – whether it is fun or more sober – increases participation in the Stations.  Note that the Stations themselves were as reverent as can be expected due to the age of the participants in every parish I attended.

Briefly, I will note that the one parish where I did not participate in the Stations and which did not have a Friday meal, instead, if I recall correctly, had a soup dinner on Wednesdays during Lent.  I believe the idea there was to keep Friday Stations as quiet, reverent, and introspective (how can I personally love Christ better?) and to use our love of fun and community to add a joyful sacrifice on Wednesdays by eating a small, meatless meal on an extra day when it is not required.  I do not know how well either of those events was attended, but I suspect that many people did go.  It’s just how the parish was. 

Last night was my first experience with a fish fry.  I can see how it is a tremendous fund-raiser for a parish: two adult and four kid dinners cost me nearly $40.  They had a line out the door most of the time, and they even had a drive-thru for take-home fried deliciousness.  Because this was the first Friday in Lent, my parish also had activities for the kids, all seasonally appropriate, as a Lenten “kick-off”.  I did raise an eyebrow at the face-painting.  I have no idea of the profit margin, but I imagine, assuming you have the right people running things, that it is quite good, and multiplied out by 6 Fridays, makes the venture quite lucrative.

And it’s not like they take the money and buy BMW’s with it.  It goes to the ministries and other charities or church overhead.  And the church was full for Stations, too; not everybody stayed, of course, but many did.  So, people gave up money they might not have otherwise and they prayed at a time they might not have otherwise…I have a hard time saying it’s wholly wrong.

However, what is the purpose of Lent?  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church we have this:  

1438    The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). 

and from the Gospel of Matthew:

9:14-15  Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Penance, self-denial, fasting…these are not words that go along with fun.  And the imagery of a wedding feast ended and the guests in mourning for the bridegroom certainly bolsters the idea that we should not party our way through Lent.

How does your parish do Fridays in Lent and how do you feel about it?

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This blog post took me ALL DAY to write.  This is why:

Instead of blogging, I should have been lowering his crib mattress:

But that’s tomorrow’s all day project.

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14 thoughts on “Fridays in Lent: Party Time?

  1. I know I should comment on Stations of the Cross, but oh, my! George has filled out and is just ever so cute!

    OK, back to Stations…I ordered a CD that is kid friendly and we will be doing them at home this year. We will see. Last year our parish did some really weird things that I was not comfortable with, including one week which seemed very new age and feminist.

  2. At our parish the Kinghts run the fish fry and it's a fund raiser for them. Every Friday. I love it, mostly because it's a chance to fellowship with friends. My kids love it also for the same reason. However, we don't have all the “fun” stuff you described. Just the food. The serving ends at 6:45, with Stations at 7pm. We have actually never done the stations on Friday, also because we have had small people, but we may start. I run a Stations on Good Friday morning every year specifically for kids, led by older kids.

  3. Ha! Distracted by cute chubby George!

    Great post with lots to consider. Thank you again for posting your Stations for Children. Our sux year old led the entire prayer last night. He was one happy boy.

  4. Well, I have to say that George is one of the cutest distractions you could ever want to meet.

    They have Soup & Stations at the church where Little Brother attends school. But the school kids go during the day, so he never asks to go back. Just Stations at our parish, and very few attend.

    I see your point about the carnival atmosphere during Lent, but by the same token, a meal & Stations is a wonderful way to foster community within the parish.

  5. I'm glad they worked for you, Maurisa. This is the first Lent in maybe 4 years where we are trying to go to the church to do Stations. Each week, a different ministry sponsors it and our homeschool group is using mine in a few weeks. It was approved by one of the priests, but it's nice to have friend-approval too. I'd hate to be responsible for driving somebody away, as Jenny was. I have seen some that were a bit wacky, but fortunately most of them are thought-provoking. Having different groups do it also helps bring in more people as that group at least encourages its own to come. But if there is no oversight, some bad stuff can get in.

  6. Barb, does your parish have different ministries sponsor each week? I'm pretty sure my last parish did NOT except for one living stations sponsored by the RE Dept which had a huge turnout. I wonder if ministry sponsorship is the way to generate attendance.

    I agree about fostering community…I only felt comfortable going with my little kids when another family assured me that the kids had fun during dinner and were not unwelcome at the stations. We very much looked forward to Fridays.

    But where do we draw the line? Dessert is ok but raffles are not? Face-painting? Pony rides? I don't think we should hand out sack cloth and ashes, but?

  7. I agree with your comments about Fish Fry, though our church's is not a carnival — just food. Still even going and buying dinner out on Friday during Lent seems wrong (although this past Friday because of other commitments I did order cheese pizza — same thing I suppose). Our parish offers stations on every Friday but Fish Fry is only every other I think.

    Why is it we feel we should be flogged for dinner on Friday? I think because people have lost the idea of sacrifice. Buying fish sticks and cooking them is no sacrifice, nor is eating them…well, maybe it is, at least for me. All in all, things are so easy for us. I would love to know the circumstances under which the Church decided no meat on Friday would be a sacrifice. Was meat so extravagant?

    I like the idea of soup and stations. Soup is simple enough to be a sacrifice for most people. Soup and bread. Of course, there probably would not be a line out the door. 😉

    George is absolutely darling. What a sugar.

    Did I ever send you the information I promised? My brain is mush.

  8. I don't know how Soup & Stations work since we've never attended. The bulletin does not provide much info beyond “it's happening, here's when and where.”

    I've been to fish fries long ago and they never had all that “party time” stuff about them. Just food and socializing. And that part, I could definitely get behind. Pray as a community, eat as a community, enjoy time with other families and people from other generations. Support each other in faith and vocation during Lent.

    We normally get cheese pizza on Fridays in Lent. Hubs gets to pick, and that's what he usually picks. His schedule keeps him from family dinner more often than not, but on Fridays he's usually here and we just try to enjoy that.

  9. Barbara, I don't know the history of meatless fridays but I've always assumed that impoverished people throughout the world rarely eat beef, chicken, pork, or even game because they would not be able to afford it (game being owned by the landowner and poaching being illegal) whereas fish were exempt because the poor could go fishing in public rivers -a solidarity thing? And no, I'm still waiting for that info but its no rush, unfortunately.

  10. The book called SALT: a history (I think that's the title) says that it used to be no meat or seafood at all no Fridays as a way for everyone to unite themselves with the poor of the world. King Henry VIII post his break with the Church required fish on Fridays to bolster the fishing industry. At least that's what I remember, but fact check it!

    Our fish fry comes after Stations and the Stations are well attended and beautifully reverent. The fish fry is also well attended. It is a single serving of fish and sides and it has the atmosphere of a large family meal with none of the extra fun stuff the questioner mentioned. The money earned by the KOC goes only to support the seminarians of our diocese .

    For us, the cost of the dinner is sacrificial as well as the single serving of yumminess, so we don't go every week. At home we only eat meatless soup.

    I do have to remind myself that the fun of being social is not against the spirit of Lent, (right?), that we are not supposed to act like we're fasting and wander around with long faces.

    Good thoughts to ponder, and George is a CUTIE!

  11. I've never seen a Fish Fry – they must be east coast????? Although, admittedly I'm not Catholic either.
    Having said that, we do a Soup Supper on Fridays during Lent after the gorgeous, beautiful, and really one of my favorite services of all the year PreSanctified Liturgy. It's not a fundraiser though.
    And, alligator. Huh. Who knew?
    (PS George is so adorable!)

  12. Michelle, what's your take on birthdays and Lent? Today we got an invite to a party which was scheduled at a time when many of the young lady's friends were going to be on an AHG outing that she wasn't attending. When her mom realized, she scheduled a 2nd birthday party so the AHG friends can come….on a Friday in Lent. Hmmmm……

  13. (Sigh) You know what it's like to have a lenten birthday! You have to feel sorry for Catholic kids with March birthdays where they are always in Lent. Is this Maria? She's old enough to think it through: is the girl Catholic, will the food be meatless, did she give up sweets, can she go and enjoy herself while not partaking in the food? Maybe a gracious no is a better way to handle it (sorry, we're going to stations of the cross all day long). We need to live near each other again because I'm so tired of being the only family that thinks lent should be somewhat un-fun. I know that sounds so dour, but aren't we supposed to be contemplating our mortality, the state of our soul, our relationship with God, and making our daily life unpleasant enough that we long for Easter as we should long for the Eternal Easter?

  14. The girl is a Catholic friend of Maria's who has timed the party to so everyone can be at church in time for Stations. (!) I agree, we know what it's like to have Lenten birthdays, but I'm also hampered by the fact that my family didn't do parties. A piece of cake at home on my Dad's birthday was all the celebration I wanted or needed. So I try to be very sensitive to people for whom it must be a big deal.

    I like the idea of participating and not partaking in what they can't have. “No” didn't work the first time, and not only does it allow my girls to celebrate with the birthday girl who can't help the timing of her birthday, but it lets them practice their penance graciously. (I love being so mean.) Yes, please come live close to us. We can make Lent deliciously penitential. 🙂

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