A few weeks ago I was honoured to attend an event being held for a good friend’s brother. With my friend being of Italian heritage, there was quite a spread set out when it was time to eat: lasagne, alfredo pasta, veal, sausage, rapini, Caesar salad, and on the table went. Unfortunately for me, it was Friday, but I still quietly loaded up on the vegetarian options. As I got to the end of the table, an older gentleman asked me, “What, no veal? No sausage?” To which I simply answered, “Hey, it’s Friday.” After he had swallowed his amazement, my new found friend replied, “Yeah? I try to do that too.” That was all that was needed to be said, and then we went our separate ways.
I know the Catholic Church no longer obliges the faithful to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays. In fact, the only obligatory days of fasting and abstinence are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (cf Youcat #345, CCC #2042-2043). In
the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops teaches that although Fridays are
still considered a day of abstinence, if one performs a particular act of
charity, penance or piety outside of their normal behaviour, this can replace
the act of abstinence. Canada
Still, I try to follow the old rule of abstaining from meat on Friday. It may seem archaic, but I see it as doing my part in keeping God’s covenant. Despite all of my sins and shortcomings, I know God still loves me, and He forgives me through the sacrament of reconciliation. So really, is going a day without meat too much to ask on my end?
Much like Eleazar, who refused to even pretend to eat swine’s flesh to save his own life (cf 2 Macc 6:18-31), I too could probably fake it. Use my morning prayers as a sign of piety, or drop $5 in the poor box so I can have wings with my Friday beer. But I’ll know, and more importantly God will know that I’m just looking for a loophole in his Covenant law.
Although it may be awkward at times, I’ll continue try to be like Eleazar, trying to keep up my end of the Covenant. However, as a seafood lover, the difficulty won’t be in the abstaining from meat, but rather in the explaining why.