Return to Friday Sacrifice

During my times of fasting & abstinence this Lent, I kept seeing & hearing the counter-theme of “Meatless Mondays.”
For those who may not be aware, “Meatless Mondays” is an international movement begun in 2003 which promotes its followers to abstain from meat in order to, among other things, improve one’s health and the health of the planet (i.e. end global warming).  Meatless Mondays has its roots in the laudable practice set forward during World War I in a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson asking for one meal each day to be meatless, as well as, all meals on Tuesdays.
In conjunction, the United States Food Administration (USFA) urged families, at that time, to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort. Stating that conserving food would support U.S. troops as well as feed populations in Europe where food production and distribution had been disrupted by the war. Again, a very commendable endeavor.

Today the US educational system is encouraging our children to embrace this philosophy for three very different reasons:
1. Reducing environmental impact and costs
2. Improving health
3. Educating students about environmental and sustainability issues.

While following a healthy diet is good for our physical health and caring for God’s creation is good stewardship they are distracting us from the ages long tradition of abstinence on Fridays. Historically, Catholics have been called to sacrifice and self-denial on Friday, in order to unite themselves more closely with the sufferings of Christ. They would have us supplant the eternal and spiritual with the mere earthly and physical.
Sadly, many Catholics are of the opinion that, after Vatican II, the days of penitential observance are limited to Ash Wednesday & the Fridays during Lent. This is, however, not the case. Canon 1250 states that “Penitential days and times in the Universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the (entire) season of Lent.” Whereas, Canon 1251 says, “abstinence from meat or from some other food as determined by each Episcopal Conference is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a Solemnity should fall on Friday.” Additionally, each conference of bishops can determine the exact observance of fast & abstinence, as well as, substitute other forms of penance. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has promulgated that “Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. . . and every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.” Giving “first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.”
In the midst of this I have stumbled across the fact that in 2011 the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales announced that they were re-establishing a full ban on the consumption of flesh meat on all Fridays of the year, unless a Solemnity should fall on Friday.
In order to rekindle the Catholic Church of the United States, I believe it’s time for us to follow the Catholic Church of England & Wales and return to the mandatory practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during the entire year. This is a classic external marker which will once again make Catholics stand apart from the secularized world.
Which day will you abstain from meat, if any day at all? Which will you choose; the world or God? The world is telling us to embrace the idea of “Meatless Mondays,” why are we letting it substitute rags for the riches of God?

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