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What Can Catholics Eat During Lent – Get the Facts Directly From the Church

Today is Fat Tuesday, and tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, begins the Catholic season of Lent. It’s a time of “giving up” things, and eating fish on Fridays. I was always taught that you can’t eat beef or chicken on Fridays during Lent, but I never really knew why. It took some doing, but I found out the reason!

When we put the question before our listeners, we got some pretty good answers as to why chicken and meat are no-no’s during Lent:

– One caller said it’s because those are considered “unclean” animals. If that’s true, why is it ok to eat them during the rest of the year, including on non-Friday days during Lent?

– Another caller said Catholics can’t eat the meat from animals who have sex. Ok, I still want to know why it’s ok to eat them all the other days of the year except for Friday’s during Lent! Turns out, sex might have a role in the Church’s Lenten no-meat on Friday’s policy, but it has to do with humans, not animals!

I decided to go the source to find out exactly what is wrong with cows and chickens, and ask if God made sure that 97% of fish species don’t have sex to make things easier for us during Lent.

I spoke with Monsignor Rick Hilgartner of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. Monsignor Hilgartner said the abstinence policy of the Church, which is what Lenten fasting is officially known as, revolves around sacrifice and honoring the suffering Christ endured.

Then I asked him some silly questions:

1. Are cows and chickens miraculously “clean” except during Lenten Fridays and Ash Wednesday?

He said there’s nothing wrong with cows and chickens, it’s just that they are considered “luxury” type meals, and Lent is all about sacrificing your regular luxuries as a remembrance of Christ’s suffering.

2. Did God make sure 97% of fish don’t have sex so we could be fairly certain that we are eating the right things on Lenten Fridays?

The Monsignor said fish can also be a luxury item. If you say, ‘no meat Friday, so I’ll have a lobster dinner’, you aren’t really sacrificing. The point during Lent is to pare down your luxuries and think about the solemnity of the season.

3. Did the Church want to help the fish industry by saying we can’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays?

That’s Mike’s theory, but the Monsignor say we Catholics talk about Jesus being a fisherman all the time, and you would think that would be enough to help the industry! Sorry, Mike!

4. Did the Church want to give us a reason to ‘restart’ our New Year’s resolutions to lose weight?

The Monsignor said, no, the Church isn’t Jenny Craig. You have to make yourself lose weight, they are going to help you!

So what did we learn about Lent today? We learned that Monsignor Hilgartner is supremely patient with out-of-left-field questions from morning show DJs. We also learned that the point behind fasting during Lent isn’t to drop 10 pounds, or make money for the fish industry, it’s to remember and feel the sacrifice Christ made for us.

And to watch this classic M&M’s commercial. Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

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