I see that the old/new abstinence from warm-blooded meat takes effect today for the observant Catholics of England and Wales. It’s been a generation since they’ve been given an open-ended choice to abstain in some way. Of course, the USCCB counseled Catholics in the mid-80’s to abstain or fast on Fridays. But peace is not a very sexy cause in some corners, is it?
My own thinking is that vegetarian Fridays would be a better sign. But again, that wouldn’t get much traction in conservative quarters. They’ve probably been abstaining all along. After some time, it becomes part of the background hum of life: no thought is put into it. Heaven forbid someone ask some true believers to dig deeper. Or make it optional for the prodigal in spirit.
For the record, I think a weekly day of abstinence–outside of the seasons of Christmas and Easter–is a good idea. I would favor adding Wednesdays during Lent. I would favor offering specific options for believers:
- television, computers, and other media
- sugar, or perhaps chocolate
… with the caution that Friday abstinence should be taken seriously.
Fasting is good, but the Scriptures also advocate prayer and almsgiving. Would you think that lauds or vespers might be a laudable addition to Friday observances? A parish fish fry is nice, but what if it were preceded or followed by the Liturgy of the Hours?
Say to all the people of the land and to the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh month these seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?When you were eating and drinking, was it not for yourselves that you ate and for yourselves that you drank?
Thus says the LORD of hosts: Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts. (Zech 7:5-6, 9-10)
So let’s not be all pom-pommy about the British fishy Fridays. It’s probably a good development, and much good might well come of it. But it’s a step to a more holy and spiritual Body. Not the end result of some nostalgia kick.