Lent is a time when we practice our faith in a very visible way, but do you know what to say when someone asks why you are abstaining from meat on Fridays? This Lent we will be answering common questions that your friends, co-workers, families, or strangers may ask so that you feel able to answer. Follow us on Facebook @StJosephGolden.

Wait, I Thought it was Meatless Mondays?”

It’s on Pinterest, Instargram, and Facebook. People sharing pictures and recipes from their vegetarian creations #MeatlessMonday. The official Meatless Monday movement is working to reduce meat consumption worldwide because they believe that going meatless once a week is good for your health and the health of the planet, but Catholics have known for centuries that going meatless once a week is good for our spiritual health.

Abstaining from meat on Fridays isn’t just a Lent thing. It’s something Catholics do every Friday. However, since the USCCB secured permission for US Catholics to substitute a different penitential or charitable act on Fridays outside of Lent (because giving up meat isn’t hard for everyone), we often talk about it more during the Lenten season when it is required for all Catholics 14 and older (some exceptions apply).

So why did the Church decide on meatless Fridays?

Sure Meatless Mondays sounds nice, but for Catholics not all days of the week are equal. Just as celebrating Mass on Tuesday is great, but does not excuse you from celebrating Mass on Sunday. Abstaining from meat on Mondays can be an act of penance, but does not excuse you from abstaining on Friday. Friday is the day when Jesus sacrificed His life for us. If someone asks, you can tell him or her, “my very small sacrifice of abstaining from meat reminds me of Christ’s incredible sacrifice for us.”

Why do we even practice abstinence?

It’s not to keep our arteries from hardening or cut-down on methane production, but rather as a form of penance. Lent is a time when we focus on turning away from sin and toward God. A sin is an act against God and the laws He has given us. Penance is a way for us to atone for our sins after we ask for forgiveness.

Why meat and not vegetables?

Meat is a luxury. It’s expensive. A juicy steak is not a humble meal. For many, it’s harder to give up meat than something like lima beans. Also, meat is often the center of celebrations, i.e. Thanksgiving Turkey, Christmas Goose, or Easter Ham. A day devoted to the Passion of Christ is not a day of jubilation (we save the celebrating for Sundays, the day of the Resurrection).

Extra factoid: Abstaining from meat means not eating the flesh of mammals and birds. We generally eat fish or shellfish, but amphibians and reptiles are allowed too.

Email Audrey at audreyg@stjoegold.org if you have any Lent questions you would like answered as part of our #EvangelizeThisLent series.