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Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Fridays During Lent?

Grilled Fish Fillet
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It’s the Lenten season, 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 asked listeners why Catholics go meat-free on Fridays during Lent we got a lot of different answers. Some said it was because cows, chickens, and pigs are considered “unclean” animals, but if that’s true, why is it ok to eat them during the rest of the year, including on non-Friday days during Lent? Other listeners said it was because 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!

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 aren’t going to help you!

Turns out 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. Bring on the fish!

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