As the thing seems to be in the headlines again (Cardinal Dolan seems to have picked this in his effort to reestablish a good reputation), please allow me to say a couple of words about meat abstinence on a Friday.
I started again sometime in, if memory serves, early 2011, and was somewhat lucky a couple of months later the UK bishops announced the reintroduction of this beautiful “obligatory” Friday penance for all of the Kingdom. I had difficulties at first, because being single and rather forgetful I ended up forgetting rather often; but I insisted, as I was desirous to recover for myself another small piece of the beautiful Catholic world V II had taken away from me and had been part of the life of so many generations before this disgraceful one.
In time, I forgot less and less, and now I do not forget (almost) anymore.
The beauty of the exercise is that, like many other Catholic practices, it shapes one gently but irresistibly. I now have to plan my groceries in advance for the Friday, and must stop and think what day is it much more often. This way, the sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary becomes more and more of a daily recurrence, something present in many small activities of the day, “sneaking” into your consciousness with far bigger frequency.
Then there are the times when it’s uncomfortable, like when you go out with friends on a Friday and are the only one not to choose that succulent steak everyone else is enjoying. This is the most useful time, because it reminds me that though He died on the cross for me, I still manage the feat of considering it a problem to pick the vegetarian plate instead. I assure you the shame that follows helps one to miss the steak a lot less.
Catholicism is made of many small things, gestures, habits. They may seem trivial at first sight, but in time they truly help us to get in spiritual shape. It’s like in many other spheres of our daily activity, where we can easily observe that – say – the best way to lose weight is to slowly change habits, and wait for time and patience to work their magic.
Sinner as I am, I pray that Christ may allow me, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to slowly change my habits. Friday penance is a little, but effective way to do so.
How stupid was the generation who abandoned Friday abstinence from meat (together with many other salutary practices) as “old” and “out of touch”.
The old generations, they really got what is important in life. We have managed to land on the moon, and don’t think about Salvation anymore.
My suggestion is: don’t wait for the Cardinal, and start your own meatless Friday now.
In time, you’ll see how good it is for you.