Fish on Fridays

Nothing symbolizes the supposed arbitrariness of religion to those predisposed towards skepticism towards religious belief more than does the Catholic practice of eating fish on Fridays during the season of Lent. I’ll admit to having asked myself, especially on Good Friday, what connection there is between fish and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And then there is the philosophical paradox. If my soul is lost after I’ve eaten meat on a Lenten Friday, does that mean I’m free to commit worse sins without making my situation worse? But if the rule doesn’t really matter, then why follow it? And on and on and on and on…
Here’s what I do know. With the choice of fish options available to a 21st century American, eating fish on Fridays is about as small a “sacrifice” in a material sense as can be asked for. But honoring the rule does require me to make some conscious choices that run contrary to what the surrounding culture tells me are cool and sensible. And if I am unable to make this small sacrifice, because I find it too inconvenient, or because I’m afraid to explain myself to others who don’t share my belief or who might think that I’m being just plain silly, then on what basis can I believe myself to be capable of taking a stand in more serious situations, when the choices might be a little harder and the stakes a bit higher?
Slightly edited re-post of an April 6, 2007 original.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
5 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

One of the things that is a little ironic about it is I believe the allowance to eat fish instead of red meat is because red meat was a luxury yet fish was so plentiful, anyone could get some. However nowadays, that’s reversed a bit. We don’t hear much about restricting the annual catch of steer like we do for the fish populations. And catch your own saltwater fish without a boat or just using a little dinghy and a net? Good luck with that.
When the price of fish is around $10 a pound and red meat is closer to $3-4 a pound, which one is the luxury today?

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I am not of the impression that “fish of Friday” is a matter of long standing. I also thought it was largely an Irish tradition. Cuban Catholics I have known had never heard of it.

David S
David S
11 years ago

I grew up in the 50’s and the majority catholic structure in RI dictated- friday was fish day- and that meant quite simply – fresh fish in the markets on friday. So although my parents chose to steer clear of any religion for themselves and for their children ( we were free to explore whatever we wanted to), we ate fish on fridays. My father would buy the fresh fish in Fall River on his way home from Dartmouth. It never felt like a sacrifice.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Warrington,
I believe that one of the Popes dispensed the Spaniards from the Friday fish obligation as a reward for driving the Muslims and Jews from Spain. This may explain why your Cuban friends never heard of the practice.
OTL

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.