Catholic Classroom: Abstaining from Meat on Lenten Fridays
Question: Why do Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent?
Perhaps the most commonly known Lenten practice for Catholics is abstinence from meat on Fridays. Though Catholics all over the world follow this practice faithfully, some are unsure about the reasoning behind it. There are two main questions to answer:
1. Why Friday?
Friday is the day of the Passion and death of Jesus. In remembrance of Jesus’ incredible sacrifice of love, Catholics treat Friday as a day of penance. On Fridays, we unite ourselves to Jesus’ suffering by making a small sacrifice. During most of the year in the United States, Catholics are permitted to perform a different act of penance or an act of charity rather than abstaining from meat. But during Lent, Catholics join together to participate in the collective abstinence from meat.
2. Why meat?
In much of the world and through much of history, meat has been considered something special, even luxurious. It has been associated with celebrations. Since Fridays are established as days of penance, it makes sense to abstain from something celebratory on Fridays. Many theories have circulated about why meat in particular is avoided on Lenten Fridays, especially since fish is permitted. What we know for certain is that the tradition dates back hundreds of years. By obeying the Church’s teaching on abstaining from meat, we are showing, in a concrete way, our love for God and remembrance of the Passion.
We can never match or repay the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That is not what God is asking us to do. What we can do, however, is offer our small, humble sacrifice by abstaining from meat on Lenten Fridays. When we give God even that little bit, he can do amazing things with it.