Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meet Me at a ... Fish Fry?

So, through the amazing charity of HSMom, I am given the opportunity once again to post on My Morning Cup.  Wow, twice in one year .... I may need to get my own blog.

Probably like all Catholics in the archdiocese we receive the Saint Louis Review every week, and in this week’s issue there was a ‘Living Our Faith’ insert entitled ‘meet me at a fish fry’.  Not that long of an article actually, and quite a number of nice shots of people enjoying each others company in Catholic fellowship in their local parishes ... heck, there is even a picture of a couple of musicians who serenade with mariachi music.  Lenten fish frys, as the article says, is ‘a tradition that brings together Catholics who abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent’.  I guess in the strictest sense, perhaps, but then I noticed towards the bottom of the inset a link to an article by Father John Mao entitled ‘Why do we abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays?’.  Father brings up several good points, but to me it seemed incongruous to the Fish Fry article I just read.  

I have always thought it was odd ... fish frys, that is, to have such a festive, joyful celebration not only in Lent, but on Fridays in Lent.  Saint Paul says that we must ‘live by the spirit while mortifying our sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:13).  Father expands this further ... “... (Paul) is saying that we need to put ‘sarx’ to death.  This is the sensual part of our body that gets cravings to indulge in food and pleasures: some of which are good, others of which need to be limited or eliminated altogether”.   I started to see a dichotomy between what he said and what I just read, in the framework of Lenten fast, abstinence and penance.  I did a little more digging and came across a helpful article entitled ‘Six Reasons Why I Don’t participate in Friday Fish Frys’ written by Marge Fenelon several years ago.  No doubt, some will read this and find it as appealing as stink on socks, but put in the light of our Catholic faith, there is much to be taken from it.  From her article:

1. Our Lord fasted for 40 days…he did not take time off. We’re called to follow his example in all things, which is why the Church promotes strict observance of the Lenten liturgical season. 
2. When I was a child, our parish pastor encouraged us to hold the fast prescribed by the Church for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday on all Fridays – especially during Lent – to deepen our unity with our Suffering Savior, strengthen us against sin, and as a symbol of our love and gratitude for him. This so inspired me, that I’ve kept the resolution throughout the years. 
3. Fish frys normally are “all you can eat”, thus encouraging the very gluttony and over indulgence we’re supposed to be avoiding. Additionally, those who go, go because fried fish appeals to them, and to me, that doesn’t seem to be much of a penance. I know, I too love fried fish. 
4. Fish frys have the tendency toward carousal and, when the beer starts to flow too freely, debauchery. I’ll agree that many fish fry events are family-oriented and that we can and should enjoy all the marvelous things in God’s creation. But it seems to me that the atmosphere at fish frys collides with the atmosphere of penitence we’re asked to foster on Fridays. 
5. Fish frys are often used as fund raisers. It strikes me as morally wrong to capitalize on our Lord’s suffering and death, on a sacred season of the Catholic Church, in order to make money. 
6. This puts the groups that use and promote fish frys as fund raisers — whether intentionally or unwittingly — in the position of contributing to the weaknesses of the Christian faithful, opening them to the possibility of the sin of gluttony and breaking the Lenten Friday fast.

A blessed Lent to all of HSMom’s readership ... meet me at the Stations (the Stations of the Cross).


Marc said...

Well said HSDad!

We typically don't do these because of time (we usually do Mass and stations) and I am just too cheap :). It is unfortunate that parishes need to capitalize on this when the faithful ought to support their parishes thru the usual collection.

thetimman said...

Sorry, HSDad, I can't go with you here. Fish frys serve non-meat dishes on a non-meat day. Catholic fasting, even the strictest kind, allows for at least one full meal. There is nothing incompatible, as I see it, with Catholics enjoying fellowship and food in Lent. Our Lord warned against the glum fast-er. Alcohol, even if it is served, is not counted as food that would break a fast, is not sinful, and is not obligatory.

Under the reasoning of the article you quote, I think that any place that serves food could be seen as an inducement to gluttony, any place that serves alcohol is an inducement to drunkenness, and anyplace with men and women together is an inducement to impurity.

After all, it is just a fish fry.

Blessed Lent to you and the Mrs.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to be sorry about Timman, it’s not a popular position. Yes, our Lord warns against fasters with a sour disposition; put on a good face so that only your Father in Heaven knows you’re fasting. I don’t think you will get an argument there. I would be following my fasting obligation in the strictest sense if I went to Red Lobster, ordered the Fisherman’s Platter and a couple of ales, but there’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

Beyond the specific points of Fenelon’s article is an overarching concern of propriety. Are Friday’s in Lent the appropriate time for jovial festive fellowship with our parishioners replete with festive music, beer and desserts? Indeed, Catholic fellowship is a life blood of any Parish, but there is a time and place for everything and the point is that these things can easily be incongruous to and undermine our Lenten preparation.

During Lent, the Church in Her wisdom deprives us of things that affect our senses and desires to prepare us for the journey. At Mass, the Gloria is omitted, statuary are covered, music is sparse or silent and the whole disposition of Mass is one of somber preparation, and anticipation. This same theme of deprivation should naturally follow in our public and private preparation.

A blessed Lenten season to you, Sharon and the kids.