Fonticulus Fides

Friday, July 29, 2005

Penitent Friday: An Experiment

It's Friday, a meatless day for many Catholics.

Giving up meat on Fridays seemed pretty strange to me at first. But it would, since I live in modern times in the center of the U.S.A., when pigs and cows and chickens are fairly cheap, but seafood is quite dealy priced. Back in the days when the practice was first instituted, it was quite the opposite. Beef and pork were the luxury foods, because if you wanted to eat them, that meant starting with a young animal, feeding it and caring for it, then butchering it and having an enormous feast because there were no deep freezes in which to store the surplus meat. If you wanted fish or seafood, on the other hand, you just went fishing.

It's an odd temptation for me. Maybe I'm the only one who struggles with it, I don't know. But I've never much cared for pork, and typically the only time I really enjoy beef is when I'm pregnant. I'm indifferent about poultry -- whether I have it or not, it's all the same to me. But I adore fish -- salmoln, halibut, mahi mahi, orange roughy, yum! And seafood -- scallops, shrimp, lobster, calimari, oysters... I don't think I ever ate fish or seafood without enjoying it.

So you see the dilemma. Quite some time ago, I realized I was looking forward to Fridays because I wanted to indulge my love for fish and seafood. I rationalized it because I was pregnant or nursing a baby, both valid reasons for consuming protein. I considered myself lucky that I was either pregnant or nursing for over 3 years straight. But when our youngest self-weaned about three months ago, I had to face the truth: observing a penitent day does not include self-indulgence. So the fish and seafood have been removed from my Friday diet.

There are plenty of alternatives. Most Fridays, you'll find me cooking eggs for supper, or a rice-and-legume mixture, grilled cheese (because my kids love it), pasta with a meatless and seafoodless sauce, or something like that.'s not much of a sacrifice for me. It's the kind of food I ate all the time when I was a younger, vegetarian woman.

Last week, it occurred to me that while I can observe the traditional meatless (and seafoodless) diet on Fridays, I can make it more of a sacrifice by giving up some other food that I really enjoy and consume daily. M'Lynn has already guessed it if she's reading my blog today: chocolate! I am almost ashamed to admit it: that nagging "Me want chocolate" voice is much harder for me to resist than any inclinaiton to eat meat or fish.

When I went to bed last Friday night, though, I felt the experiment was a success. So, I had every intention of doing the same today. I forgot it was Friday first thing, though, and since I was in too big of a hurry this morning to eat a proper breakfast, I grabbed a granola bar instead. Which, of course, had chocolate chips in it. And chocolate coating. Yeah, I biffed. Didn't even realize it for several hours. But I've stayed away from chocolate the whole rest of this day. Can't take back what's already done, after all. And I've got that nagging voice going. Every time I hear it, I pray my thanksgiving to God for what the Lord did for us on the Cross.

And yes, I do know that you can substitute a different sacrifice, such as saying an extra Rosary, on Fridays, but praying doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice, either.



  • What about the mercury issue with fish? Without getting into how likely you are to have another baby, I figure you're still technically in the childbearing years. I am not a fish person, but I miss canned albacore tuna; there'll be none of that while I'm pregnant or nursing, and I don't know how long again before I'm neither.

    By Anonymous ro, at 10:11 PM  

  • Good point, RO, but you can eat SOME fish while nursing or pregnant. It's a matter of what kind and how much.

    Here is the FDA guidelines

    and here is another article that summarizes safe fish/seafood consumption for pregnant and nuring moms.

    On my budget, I can only afford to eat fish/seafood once a month as it is -- at the most. It's pretty darn expensive out here. I stay away from shark, swordfish and the other dangerous varieties. So I'm well within the safety guidelines, if God should bless us with another child (and the accompanying income having another would require, since our budget is squeaky tight as it is).

    By Blogger Sparki, at 10:47 AM  

  • Oh yeah, I know it's not exactly that fish is "forbidden." I'm apparently more cautious than your average person on many of these things (and I don't necessarily equate being more cautious about such things with making the better choice all the time.) If you were eating fish regularly (esp. delicious albacore tuna, sigh) I just wanted to make sure you were up on the latest :)

    I'm interested in ordering some especially "uncontaminated" fish but that's kind of on the "someday budget" list along with my interest in building an addition to the house or something...

    By Anonymous ro, at 3:34 PM  

  • um, just to clarify the above, i meant that "cautious" is just a description and not a necessarily positive word like "prudent" -- i'm apparently cautious enough to edge into imprudence a good part of the time. don't want to imply that people who eat fish now and then are not careful about their babies' health...

    By Anonymous ro, at 3:37 PM  

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