Meatless Fridays

Friday, May 27, AD 2011

An article in the Wall Street Journal by Francis Rocca today discusses the potential return of meatless Fridays in Great Britain.

Every year during the 40 days of Lent, millions of Catholics honor Jesus’s crucifixion by foregoing meat in their Friday meals. But starting this September, if the bishops of England and Wales have their way, Catholics there will abstain from meat every Friday, year-round. This change marks the revival of a practice that the church abandoned a half-century ago—and it’s the latest of several in recent years.

Catholic tradition calls for acts of penance every Friday, the day of Jesus’s death, but observance of that tradition has changed dramatically since the modernizing reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Bishops in most countries eliminated abstinence from meat or limited it to Lent alone, and each Catholic became free to choose his own form of Friday penance: skipping television, perhaps, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. This effectively meant the disappearance of Friday penance altogether. In my 11 years of Catholic schooling, I don’t recall hearing it mentioned once.

That’s why the announcement by the bishops of England and Wales is so significant. To anyone with a taste for sushi or smoked salmon, missing hamburger once a week might present little inconvenience. But then, lightly beating one’s breast, as Catholics do in one version of the Penitential rite during Mass, isn’t a serious form of corporal mortification either. Catholicism is a fundamentally symbolic religion whose teachings are typically embodied in conventional signs and gestures.

That last sentence is particularly intriguing.  One might quibble with Catholicism being described as a “fundamentally symbolic religion,” but there’s no doubt as to the importance of the little things that make up our identity as Catholics.  This paragraph further along in the article explains why this is all so important.

Sociologists such as Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, who study the behavior of “religious economies,” have observed that churches tend to lose vigor when they relax demands on adherents, especially those tenets and practices that cut against the grain of wider society. In economic terms, lowering the “costs” of membership in this way ends up diminishing its benefits, among other ways by loosening the bonds of community.

This is what bothers me with the Novus Ordo.  The first time I ever attended a non-Catholic Christian service (In this case Presbyterian) it felt hardly distinguishable from a Catholic Mass, although the small cups of grape juice being passed around at Communion did seem odd to me.  That’s because I had only ever attended a Novus Ordo Mass.  One of the many great things about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is how markedly different it is from other Christian worship services.  Sure the essential elements bear strong resemblances to one another, but no one would ever walk into the middle of an traditional Latin Mass and think they were in a Lutheran church.

At any rate, I applaud the Bishops for attempting to restore this valuable tradition.  For a few years I’ve made a concerted effort to go meatless on Fridays year-round, though I confess to being not quite 100% successful in this endeavor.  It is certainly something worth pursuing.

H/t: Rich Leonardi.

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31 Responses to Meatless Fridays

  • I’m a new convert. I was just confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday, but I’ve been attending Mass regularly at my local parish since September of last year. I’ve been practicing meatless Fridays since I was formally welcomed during that rite at the beginning of Advent and I really do love it. Even though it’s something rather small, having to stop and think about what I’m going to eat so that I omit meat is a reminder of my faith. It helps me prepare for Reconiliation on Saturdays and for Mass on Sundays.

    As for the NO Mass, I hope this doesn’t open up a can of worms but I actually like it. I realize that for people who grew up in the EF it’s probably a bit of a shock. But for someone like me, coming from a very long and ingrained line of Protestantism (my grandparents are still convinced that the Pope is probably the AntiChrist,which annoys me to no end) it was quite the relief coming to Mass and seeing something not totally alien to what I was used to. I know that’s a minus for a lot of traditionalists. The thing is that even though I was feeling a very strong pull from Catholic doctrine and apologetics, it took me two solid years of personal study to get up the nerve to actually set foot in a Catholic church. With criends and family telling me that I was risking my immortal soul by converting, I was terrified of making a mistake. So when I got there and was able to participate and to understand what was going on with relatively little effort, I was extremely relieved.

    The NO helped me make the jump between Protestantism and Catholicism. Now, I’m confirmed and have had both of my kids baptized into the Church. I’m taking a home-Ed course on Latin and am hoping I’ll be able to start wading into the EF Mass before too long. But given where I was before and how far I’ve come, I really don’t like to see folks totally discount the NO Mass, and I do tend to see TONS of that within the conservative Catholic blogosphere (this particular piece was very respectful in it’s comment, so I don’t mean you guys).

  • I have been making an effort to abstain from meat on Fridays too, for the last couple years.

    One of the main problems I see with suppressing meatless Fridays, was that it has not been adequately made known to people that they’re STILL SUPPOSED TO DO PENANCE on Fridays. It doesn’t have to be meat-related anymore, but it needs to be something.

    Rather than dream up my own penance, I do the meat thing. It’s a great way to practice a little self-denial on a regular basis. Keeps me in practice, so next time Lent comes around I’m not caught completely flatfooted.

  • Mandy:

    The last thing I intend to do is judge you for your opinion about the new mass. I strongly prefer the EF, but don’t hate the OF. When I re-verted to the Church in my mid-20s (about 20 years ago), I had no clear memory of the EF, and basically cut my teeth on the OF. It didn’t drive me out of the Church, so it can’t be all bad, right? (That’s a joke, of course no valid mass can be “bad” per se.)

    But at the same time, while ignorant of Catholic liturgy, I did have some expectations of what it would be like. I expected a strong sense of mystery and mysticism, reverence, and ritual strictly observed. I was ready to revel in those things. But as it turned out, they were not to be found all that often. When they were, I basked in them. Usually they weren’t.

    I’m glad that the OF was a help to you, sort of a meeting-halfway point between Protestant worship and traditional Catholic worship (if I understand you correctly). But what if we look at this from another angle?

    Should we also have mass be a meeting-halfway point between atheistic secularism and traditional Catholic worship? Use profane musical and architectural styles, so that worldly people will feel somewhat at home, until they’re ready to go “all the way”?

    It seems to me that the scriptures paint a clear dichotomy between the world and the Church. Shouldn’t the Church’s most sacred act of worship reflect that? Shouldn’t it feel like entering a completely different realm?

    Now I know that the Church has a history of adapting worldly or pagan traditions to sacred uses. But this, I believe, was usually done in the context of a mission territory, while trying to win over entire populations to Christianity. In Europe and the U.S., Catholicism is a long-established faith of a large proportion of the populace, so I’m not sure that should apply here. Moving into a never-before-Christian territory and adapting its established customs to Christian use is one thing. But moving into an established Catholic population and changing their long-established customs to better suit the non-Catholic world around them, seems to be moving in the wrong direction.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it, and I hope you can understand my point of view.


    The Melkite Eparchy publishes a helpful calendar which specifies obligations in this regard (applicable in the Byzantine-rite).

  • Agellius,

    I understand where you’re coming from. And maybe it’s different in other NO parishes, but the one I attend is still very traditional and there is quite a bit of ritual and mystery in the Mass, for me anyway. I would also point out that over half of all people in the US identify as some type of Protestant. Only about a quarter identify as Catholic. Those stats are as of 2008. So I would respectfully disagree that adapting and bringing in traditions from outside the church is necessarily a bad thing. Obviously I don’t want to make our Masses into Protestant services, or else I’d have just stayed at Protestant. But I think, in the US anyway, having something that’s not completely alien is a good thing.

    My experience with the NO is that the focus is on the Eucharist, where it should be. That by itself is radically different than a Protestant service. Protestant churches pretty exclusively make it or break it by the preacher and his sermon. If the preaching isn’t what the people of that congregation want to hear, they either can him, go to a different church, or split into a new congregation. In the Church, the homily could stink on ice, but you’ve still got Jesus there in the Eucharist, so you stay.

    There are a lot of other differences I could name as well. But my point is that the Catholic Mass that I attend each week, which is NO, is the most reverent and worshipful place I’ve ever been in my life. I was raised in church and can honestly say that I’ve never “experienced” the Lord the way I have in the Church. I never had any sense of awe or mystery until I came to the Church. So I think that people who dismiss the NO because it’s in the vernacular or the priest is facing the “wrong” way or the music isn’t Gregorian chant (not implying you did that here, just speaking to a lot of the sentiment I’ve seen online) are doing it a disservice.

  • I’d also like to say that given the demographics in the US and the fact that our culture is getting more and more secular by the day, that I think we really are in missionary territory here. I don’t think that came across as clearly as I wanted it to in my earlier post.

  • Those who bash the NO while still acknowledging its validity replace salvation with satisfying a nostalgia as the highest goal.

    As for meatless Fridays, it ironically has the potential to court far-left tree-hugging vegans. The bishops can leverage the sustainable eating craze.

  • “Those who bash the NO while still acknowledging its validity replace salvation with satisfying a nostalgia as the highest goal.”

    Rubbish. They merely recognize that the new Mass is celebrated across this great land often with all the beauty and grace of a tupperware party in a gymnasium. The sacrifice of the Mass of course is the all important factor, but where once God’s greatest gift to man was surrounded with beauty, solemnity and awe, we now have plainess verging on tacky, banality and boredom.

  • Mandy:

    I’m glad we can disagree charitably. I can certainly understand that the OF would appear quite reverent and mysterious compared with Protestant worship services. I just think it pales in comparison with the EF.

    I get your point about the U.S. being mission territory in a sense. But in a way, this begs the question. In my view, the concessions made to the surrounding culture — concessions that moved the existing established Church *away* from its own identity and towards the identity of the surrounding culture in various ways, including in its manner of worship — have actually *contributed* to making the U.S. even more of a mission territory. Meaning, of course, that mass attendance dropped, vocations to the priesthood and religious life plummeted, and dissent skyrocketed.

    I’m not blaming all those problems on the changes to the mass itself, but I contend that the mass changes were part-and-parcel of the same changes in attitude toward the Faith which led to the rest. I contend that had the Church held firm to her own identity amid the surrounding cultural tumult, many fewer Catholics might have fallen away, and indeed many who felt adrift in society might have turned to the Church as an anchor of sanity.

    That being said, certainly God can bring good out of evil. As undesirable as I think the changes to the mass were, to some people they do seem to have had some benefit (note that I’m referring to the *changes* to the mass, not the mass itself, which of course is always beneficial).

  • Agellius,

    From what I’ve learned about some of the craziness that immediately followed VII, I can understand why some people are so vehemently against the OF. And I think there’s a sort-of nostalgia for the “good old days” amongst the more hardcore EF people I’ve come across that is fed by the perception that the OF is still the hippy masses of the past. So again, I understand the wariness. And I’m certainly not anti-EF. Like I said, I’m interested in wading into the Latin and such. But I do think that the NO can be extremely reverent, mysterious and wonderfully Christ centered. It’s also very distinctly Catholic without being alien. Maybe my parish is the exception or something, although I have attended an OF mass at the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville that was every bit as wonderful as the one at my home parish, albeit in a much older building so the style sort-of felt different, if that makes sense.

    My point is that I think the OF has a lot less to do with people leaving and a lack of vocations than the people themselves. Maybe it’s just anecdotal evidence, but my home parish is extremely full and growing. So is the parochial school run by our church. And that’s kind of surprising because the area in which I live has a very low population of young families. It’s mostly a retirement area. When I started coming to mass I was very surprised at how many younger people there were mixed in with the elderly folks and how many children were attending the religious Ed classes offered on Sunday mornings. That’s rare in my area, ever church I’ve attended was dying off, with the Catholic church being the only exception. I’ve literally been the only person with children at some congregations. But not at the local parish. So we’re obviously doing something right.

    Anyway, the gist of what I’m getting at is that if the OF is done right, it isn’t banal or boring at all. Maybe I just got lucky and walked into a parish that does it properly when most others don’t. I dunno. I can say for certain that if I’d walked into mass that first time and seen some of the stuff I’ve seen described as happening right after VII, I would have walked back out. But I don’t know how well I would have fared in an EF mass, either. I’d like to say I would have been fine, but I don’t really know that for certain. I read something the other day that the Pope is looking at coming to some kind of compromise form of the mass; basically a meshing of the best elements of the two. I would definitely be interested to see how that works out.

  • I would also like to add that I’d be interested to see what the conversion stats were from the previous eras. From what I’ve read and from the older folks I’ve talked to, it seems like the days that a lot of people are nostalgic for were also very closed off to anyone outside of the existing Catholic community- a lot of which was made up of newer immigrants and their progeny. Considering that from our founding, the US has been a predominantly Protestant nation, I think that’s it’s been missionary territory since day 1.

    Even though you are a revert- so you’re a convert of sorts- you still have some kind of foundational Catholic identity. So I think your perspective is going to be a lot more of someone looking at it from the inside. I’m someone who was totally on the outside, looking for ways to get others like me in. And from that perspective, I honestly think that returning to a closed off mindset is not the way to go. Again, I’m not suggesting that we have to make every tiny thing more palatable to outsiders. Certainly not! But I think that making the mass accessible to anyone coming in off the street is a good thing. So just to make the distinction clear, I’m not suggesting we cater to the whims of outsiders, but that we should be looking for ways to connect with them and make the mass something they can more easily understand. Does that make sense?

    P.S. Sorry for the multiple postings and any errors in spelling, etc. I’m doing this on my iPad, and while it’s a wonderful device for many things, proofreading and editing in com boxes does not fall into the wonderful category. 🙂

  • The problem with the common Mass (NO, OF) is that you never know what someone is talking about when they mention it. For that matter you never know what you are going to get when you walk into a different parish, or if you have a different priest at yours. It is very innovative and way too fluid. Sometimes you have the confiteor, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it is Eucharistic Prayer I, others it is II, III, or IV. Sometimes we pray the Hail Mary, which is beautiful, but probably misplaced and sometimes we pray through St. Michael after Mass and most of the times we don’t. This does not include all the unapproved shenanigans that go on when some priests encourage a social hour before Mass, or the sign of conviviality that continues through the Agnus Die, or the cacophony that occurs after Mass when you are merely trying to do a silly little thing like thank Jesus for His Sacrifice to save your soul.

    If you are blessed to hear the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated properly in its ordinary form that is wonderful. My diocese has excellent priests, yet sometimes It doesn’t seem like I am at the Last Supper, Calvary or the Wedding Feast of the Lamb – I have to work very hard to put myself there. Sometimes it is easier. When I go out of town, I cry. I have seen some really frightening things. I have priests seem offended because I want to receive the Lord Jesus on my knees – I mean while kneeling, I receive Him on my tongue.

    It gets confusing. The Novus Ordo can be beautiful when the priest loves the Sacrifice and fervently acts in persona Christi. Just look at the Mass celebrated on EWTN, it is quite beautiful and you always know what you are going to get.

    This is what is so wonderful about the Tridintine Mass, it is totally mystical, beautiful and awesome, every time and you know what you are going to experience. It places the priest in a the proper position, at Mass, far more important than any of us who assist, not because of who he is, but because of what he has been empowered to do. At most NO (OF) Masses, the priest is merely the dude with the cookie and the lame homily.

    What we need is a restored Mass and we have an opportunity for that with the corrected translation coming this Advent (boy is this going to be an interesting Advent/Christmas season). Bishops should ensure the translation is explained because it is not just that we will say different things, it is why we are saying them differently that matters. There is a HUGE difference between that which is unseen and that which is invisible. Will anyone notice? Why are people beating their breasts three times during the confiteor? Some so-called catholics are going to be so confused. I only wish the bishops will insist on proper rubrics. One can Hope. Are people still going to be raising their hands like they are at a Christian Rock concert when we pray the Pater Noster?

    At Mass we are supposed to go through an examen, repent, Christmas, the Law, the Prophets, the public ministry of Christ, the entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension. The Mass is a walk through the life of Christ. How is that possible when I have backed my car into the space preparing for my exit, walked in during the first reading, hung out with a bunch of Protestants who call themselves Catholics, taken my cookie and headed for the parking lot before the priest exited the sanctuary (if you can even identify it because it looks like a stage and there is no altar rail)? It is hardly possible and then you find the short, stripped down weekday Mass easier to pray and start wondering why God commands you to go on Sundays. Something has to change. Perhaps the NO could be reserved for converts, like a boot camp, until they get up to speed, but as it is how many Catholics actually go to Mass, let alone pray it when they are physically there?

    Oh, angelluis, thanks for reminding everyone that although we may eat meat on Friday, we are not dispensed from an act of penance/mercy. The cool thing about meatless Fridays is that we are all doing the same thing together. I have usually practiced that as soon after I discovered that we still had to do some penance, lately I have had trouble with it due to some health concerns and my diet was altered, funny how sometimes absence can make the heart grow fonder because I do miss the discipline. We are a community of individuals and a properly celebrated Mass, the prayer and sacrifice of the Son to the Father, and meatless Fridays do keep us united as a community, rather than a social club that has some cool religious stuff we used to do.

    Sorry, for rambling, I am just wondering what Mass I’m walking into tomorrow and it is stressing me out.

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  • I’ve been trying to keep the meatless Friday penance for about 10 years now. I’m probably about 95% successful.

    If I eat meat on a Friday, it’s not usually because I just want some meat; it’s usually because I’m invited to a dinner where I’d feel like I were insulting the host(ess) by not eating what he’s prepared. Because of those situations, I’m glad that I have the option of substituting another penance.

    However, I find that most of the time I can avoid meat simply by explaining that I don’t eat meat on Fridays. This has led to some good conversations, and helped some Catholics to learn that we are all called to do some penance on Friday.

    I live in South Louisiana, and I don’t like seafood at all (not even boiled crawfish). Believe me, when I say that I don’t eat meat, and I don’t eat seafood, I get strange looks.

    I really like the idea that Catholics – heck, all Christians – perform a visible sign that shows visible unity in Christ. Giving up meat is a wonderful way of doing that.

  • Nicholas,

    You bring up a great point. We should take reasonable measures to avoid situations that cause us to fail to keep out meatless Fridays; however, Fridays tend to have social evenings and that often involves food. We are called to penance and we are called to Charity, so I suppose if the host is providing meat it would be uncharitable to refuse. In some way that is a form of penance and if we cause discomfort to others in order to maintain our meat abstinence then aren’t we being legalistic and Pharisaical, which is a form of hubris?

    Does anyone know if we are required to keep meatless/penance Fridays during Eastertide? I know we are dispensed when a feast falls on a Friday, and I know we are exempt during the Easter Octave, but what about the rest of Easter through Pentecost?

  • American Knight,

    Given the larger social context in which not even Catholics give up meat on Fridays, then I do think that it is uncharitable to refuse to eat meat when I’m a guest.

    One of my former pastors, Fr. Randy Moreau (a truly holy priest, btw), drilled into us that we are called to some form of penance on Fridays. I count myself blessed that during an imporant formative age of my life I had a good pastor.

    As for the Eastertide, I don’t have an answer.

  • The calendar issued by the Melkite Eparchy indicates that meat may be eaten on the Fridays between Holy Pascha and the Feast of the Ascension, but at no other time of the year. It would be my assumption that the same applies in the Ukrainian and Roumanian Churches. Not sure about the Roman-rite…

  • I’m not “vehemently against the OF”. And my point was not that the OF itself was what caused the loss of vocations and reduced mass attendance. What I’m saying is that, first, the changes to the mass that resulted in the OF were not authorized by V2: V2 never said that mass should be entirely in the vernacular, and in fact said that Latin should be retained and that Gregorian chant should be given pride of place. Both of those things have been flatly violated in the vast majority of OF masses since V2.

    And second, that the changes to the mass in violation of V2, were part-and-parcel of a vast, widespread change in attitude, wherein people came to believe that everything pre-V2 was up for grabs. Thus, again Latin and Gregorian chant were jettisoned in violation of V2, religious habits thrown off, doctrines of all kinds called into question, the existence of Hell doubted, papal teachings rejected or ignored (specifically Humane Vitae), and on and on. All of this stuff, together, resulted in massive reductions in vocations and mass attendance.

    Again I’m saying it was a package, and the changes to the mass were an integral part of the package.

    I’m not opposed in principle to the revisions to the mass, including use of the vernacular. I think if they had instituted the revisions carefully and gradually, strictly abiding by the decisions of the Council, they might have been much better accepted by the people and could have had a good long-term result. Instead changes were imposed willy-nilly, in a loose and rebellious manner, in keeping with the rebellious and anti-traditional attitude that prevailed at the time in *all* areas of the Church’s life, not just the mass.

    I think it’s a mistake to believe that the these rebellious attitudes prevailed throughout the Church *except* in the area of the revisions to the mass; that somehow those making the mass revisions were sober and obedient, while everyone around them was going haywire. On the contrary, they were swept up in the same wave of hysteria that prevailed elsewhere, and it showed in the way masses were celebrated for decades afterward. It’s no coincidence that the “hippy” masses, as you call them, made their appearance at the same time as the officially approved mass revisions. Those who wanted the revisions also wanted, or at least welcomed, the hippy masses.

    By the way the new mass translations coming out this Advent reveal yet another symptom of the over-reaching that went on when the new mass was concocted. The vernacular translations were loosey-goosey, and it’s taken this long to reign them in.

  • I know that the OF *can* be done reverently and in a dignified manner. My point is, that the fact that it normally is *not* done in that manner, is no accident. Those who dreamed up the changes that were implemented were all in favor of guitars, bongos and liturgical dancers. It was the way the changes were implemented, and the attitudes of those who deliberately went beyond what the Council authorized, that encouraged and fostered the kinds of silliness and banality that have resulted.

    Yes, if a pastor is bound and determined to have a reverent and dignified mass, he can do so with the OF. It’s not impossible. My point is that it’s a lot easier to slip into banality and silliness in the days since the OF was introduced, than it was when the EF was the only game in town, because of the attitudes that accompanied the introduction of the OF, and still prevail in the vast majority OF parishes to this day.

  • With all due to respect for all bishops, I am disappointed by the decision of the English bishops to reinstate mandatory Friday abstinence. While I do not normally eat meat on Friday, and frequently do other Friday penances as a devotion, I think that making meatless Fridays mandatory year-round is not a good idea. Even if one wishes to observe Friday abstinence as much as possible, occasionally there could be good reasons to make an exception (without having to worry about sin). There are at least several situations where I think that being required to abstain would be awkward or impractical (such as birthdays or holidays). For instance, it would seem excessively harsh to require Americans to abstain from meat on the 4th of July (when that day is Friday). Also, it may be impractical to abstain while traveling. Making it a sin to eat meat could also encourage scrupulosity. While I hope the US bishops encourage more suitable voluntary penances, I hope and pray they do not make Friday abstinence mandatory year-round.

  • Matthew,

    Some of the other commenters have explained why eating meat on the occasional Friday is not something to worry about. We already are granted exceptions on feast days that fall on Fridays (ie. St. Patrick’s Day). I’m not sure why abstaining would be difficult while traveling – I do it all the time.

  • Mandy – I’ve known a few converts over the years who’ve become involved in EF parishes. Don’t worry about understanding Latin. You don’t have to become a scholar to follow the Mass. A lot of parishes will have paper missalettes with the Latin and English texts.

    But the Tridentine Mass isn’t about language. If I can say this without causing any fistfights, I think that participation in the Novus Ordo Mass in America is more similar to the pre-V2 culture of American Protestantism than to the pre-V2 culture of American Catholicism. (I can’t stress the word “American” strongly enough in that formulation.) The passive posture toward participation in the Old Mass is going to feel alien to you, just as the active posture feels alien to EF Catholics.

    The Catholic Mass is remarkably different from Protestant services. I remember taking a friend to his first Mass; he was blown away by how trinitarian it was. That’s something that a cradle Catholic wouldn’t even have thought about. For converts who approach the Church out of belief (rather than marriage or practice), the difference between the Mass and a Protestant service will be obvious. From a cultural standpoint, however, well, let me put it like this: if you were an outer space alien looking into a Protestant church, a Novus Ordo, and a EF, you’d be confused as to which two were the most similar.

  • if you were an outer space alien looking into a Protestant church, a Novus Ordo, and a EF, you’d be confused as to which two were the most similar.

    As recently as ten years ago, services in broad and high Anglican parishes in the Genesee Valley were quite dignified in comparison with the common-and-garden Novus Ordo service you see in the Diocese of Syracuse. I can give you the name of an Anglican vicar who felt compelled to resign as rector of a parish near here because his goofing about during services had provoked so many complaints to the diocesan house and so many departures from the parish. Marty Haugen et al. had not acquired much of a constituency in Episcopal parishes. (Regrettably, On Eagles Wings was played at an Episcopal funeral I just attended).

  • Art – It’s complicated, isn’t it? I think that the low-church Protestant culture has been most dominant in the US among Protestants, and it’s bled over into the way the Novus Ordo was implemented here. But there’s a high church tradition among Protestants here, too. And in other countries, at least from what I’ve heard, the implementation of the new Mass never caused friction. The example I hear most often is Poland, where apparently the vernacular Mass brought nothing but graces and the strengthening of national and religious confidence. It’s said that JPII didn’t really “get” the complaints of traditionalists at the beginning of his pontificate because Poland’s experience had been so positive.

    It’s going to be interesting to see the impact that high-church Anglicans will have on Catholicism as they return. Again, in their experience, the high/low split doesn’t break the same as the orthodox/heretical split. So the returning Anglicans should be from the entire spectrum of liturgical traditions. But would an Anglican “rite” isolate the impact upon mainstream Catholicism? I dunno.

    Anyway, I’ve kept the Friday abstinence for a while. I only rarely forget; sometimes I have to eat what’s put before me, and I try to offer up something else. It’s surprising how many restaurants still have Friday fish specials. I think if it became a Catholic rule again, you’d see a resurgence in white sauces and seafoods, and maybe even Caesar salads without chicken in them. It’d be accepted pretty quickly, I’d bet.

  • I would tend to doubt that the hymnody of contemporary Catholic parishes has any counterpart in protestant congregations. The Novus Ordinary parish nearest me subscribes to the pubications of Oregon Catholic Press and about 85% of the music selected has been published since 1966. I suspect you would find a great deal of contemporary music in most evangelical parishes, but stylistically quite different.

  • It meant something that many around you were doing the same thing. It was a phsical reminder in case you “forgot” what day it was. Even fast food places had the fish sandwich advertised during meatless Fridays. Everyone doing their own thing as led to the evaporation of the practice all together. I asked numerous Catholics I know this week what they give up on Friday and none had a clue what I was talking about. That speaks volumes. We should all in unity under the direction AND instruction from Rome and out US Bishops abstain once again from meat on Fridays, together. There always were and will be exceptions, sickness etc., but people who fight it for no other reason than THEY feel it obsolete do a great diservice to the reason for the practice in the first place. The fact remains, for all but a few, the unity and sacrifice of Friday sacrifice is gone in the Catholic world. Bring back the meatless Fridays and the majority will slowly but surely follow. It will unify many, many people.

  • Mitch, I attended a parochial grade and high school during the ’70’s (and a Jesuit university. The Jesuits have some practices that vaguely resemble Catholicism). I reverted to Catholicism in 2005, but until I read this post I swear I had no idea that we were supposed to abstain from something every Friday. I never heard it – not from any nun, priest or teacher.

    “Bring back the meatless Fridays and the majority will slowly but surely follow. It will unify many, many people.”

    I believe you’re right about this. I am now keen to observe meatless Fridays, although honestly, they are not that difficult for me, since I never met a properly prepared seafood dish I didn’t like. Nicholas Jagneaux, do you want to trade places with me? I would be in heaven eating crawfish and seafood gumbos and I hope you would be able to get through Fridays just fine relying on our Wisconsin cheeses (and the artisan cheeses from small farms are getting tastier all the time)for your protein needs.

  • “the beauty and grace of a Tupperware party in a gymnasium.”


    I don’t want to ignore the substance of the post. I kind knew that Friday’s are meatless, but for the Bishop’s intervention. However, I have seen the dietary restrictions as a personal sacrifice, disconnected with the communal face of the Church. The post and comments suggest an alternative view: that public sacrifice witnesses to the Faith. I need to ruminate on this.

    With regards to the ongoing debate about the NO, I think that the extreme actions of some tar the whole.

    The is a huge difference between a different expression of the Mass that grows “organically” and one imposed on a parish by those with an agenda. The difference between the practice of the NO in a black or Hispanic or Hatian Catholic church in America and that of a “progressive” parish is one of intentionality and therein lies the sin.

    When stationed in Norfolk, VA, I went to Mass with an entirely black congregation. The church had no kneelers attached to the pews, a decidedly black Jesus crucified above the altar, and the saints that were pictured throughout were chosen to connect with the black experience in America. The Mass was a full half hour longer, at least in part because the sign of peace was a virtual break in the Mass with everyone getting out of their pews and saying hello to people on the other side of the church. CCD was attended by everyone, not just children who went to public school but by those that went to Catholic schools too.

    It certainly deviated from my experiences growing up in Philadelphia but it was “natural” and it “fit” the community. Vatican II merely made lawful what already existed there, it gave voice to the broader expression of faith already in existence but stifled by a romish impulse that validated only the culture of a people in decline (Italians) while diminishing the cultural identity of the vibrant Church in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. This is worlds apart from the forced progressivism of parishes taken over by preening and cocksure Baby-Boomers intent on turning the Church INTO something else.

    At it’s best, the NO let’s faithful Catholic communities be who they already are, at it’s worst, it lets progressives hijack the faith and drive it off of a cliff.

  • Donna,

    I’d love to trade places – except during the winter! Brrrr Wisconsin seems too cold for this Cajun. I wouldn’t know how to drive.

    (As a sidenote – I was planning a vacation/pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Help this summer, but, alas!, things just didn’t work out. I was going to include tours of creameries, but, more importantly, breweries.)

    As for eating seafood on Fridays, it is true that for those – like my wife and daughter – who like seafood, the penance is not especially difficult. But, as our former pastor said: the Friday penance is not an excuse to eat seafood platters. He suggested we substitute something simple, like eggs or peanut butter or tuna (from a can).

    And, I’m with Mitch: Christians need a visible unity. This is a small – but wonderful – way to show that we are in the world, but not of it.

  • Of late I have attempted to observe either fasting or abstinence on Fridays. A couple of weeks ago, I got a call around noon on a Friday from the local blood center asking if I could donate ASAP… I agreed but set the appointment for several hours later so that I could break my fast first. Unfortunately, when I reported to the center I flunked the blood test (red cell count was a shade too low). I’ll try again at a later date and make sure to eat lots of iron-packed foods like spinach first….

    Although you can only do it every 8 weeks (56 days), I would suggest that giving blood, if you are able, is one of the most appropriate “substitute” Friday penances there is. What better way to honor the One who shed all of His Blood for our sake, than to shed a little of yours for the sake of another?

  • Elaine,

    That is a great suggestion. Thank you.


Saturday, May 14, AD 2011

The following is courtesy of

The Speaker and the Scholars – Carson Holloway, Catholic Vote

Torture Didn’t Lead Us to Bin Laden – Matthew J. Franck, First Things

The Meatless Mark of Identity Restored – Rich Leonardi, Ten Reasons

Subsidiarity, Funding, and the Arts – Jordan J. Ballor, Acton Institute

Bp. Conley on Transcendence in the Liturgy & the New Translation – Fr. Z

Addressing the Church’s Attrition Problem – Margaret Cabaniss, Crisis Mag

Playing the Bully Card – Anthony S. Layne, Outside the Asylum

Movie Fails to Capture Anti-Catholic Brutality of Spanish Civil War – CNA

A Real Person Can Truly Love – Anthony Buono, 6 Stone Jars

On The Power of Personal Witness in the Priestly Proclamation – Msgr. Pope

Comedy Movie Night – Frank Weathers, Why I Am Catholic

The US/Pakistan Tightrope – George Friedman, MercatorNet


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On Not Having Sex At Harvard

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

From the New York Times:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?

And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.

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0 Responses to On Not Having Sex At Harvard

  • We need more Janie Fredells and Mary Anne Marks

  • We need to pray for them and the many others that have to live in a sex-saturated society such as ours.

  • Unforetunately one night about a year ago, I stopped at a serious tv documentary which was about a Catholic author who found extensive non marital sexual activity at Catholic colleges which went on to note then the gradual regrets of the females but with this caveat…that the females doing this outnumbered the males doing so but not by much.

  • Something which seems to be downplayed in the article is the belated realization that the annoying evangelicals of the first paragraph had a point.

    I think that both young evangelicals and young Catholics are young; they have things to learn about life. The evangelicals in this case seem to have not learned how to read Janie Fredell so as to speak with a potential ally in a winsome way.

    But Janie herself seems to have misunderstood her circumstances; it took immersion in Harvard to wake her up. Little or no sex amongst unmarried teens in Colorado Springs? I doubt that. The evangelical chastity ring culture may have seemed odd to her, but it grew up as a response to something. It was a rallying cry for Jesus, but also against a threat.

    The whole secular world is engaged in undermining the sexual virtue of the young so as to preemptively undermine their relationship with God before it can grow into something world-changing. From the WWJD shirts to the multicolored bead-bracelets to the chastity rings, evangelical expressions of counter-cultural fervor are like the redness and puffiness of a histamine reaction. They may border on kitch, but they are the signs of an immune system rising up to fight an invader.

    Miss Fredell is a Catholic; I hope however that now that she’s seen the infection up close, she’ll give her evangelical brothers and sisters their due props.

  • Catholics who insist that evangelicals have had a baneful effect on us (as evidenced in the recent sparring with Vox Nova) tend to deny the importance of chastity as a criterion of Christian fidelity. In so doing, they deny the importance of what the Church teaches is the very groundwork of a just society: strong family life. It may take people like Miss Fredell, educated in an elitist environment but respectful of the position of the evangelicals, to help our co-religionists to see the light here.

  • I’m not sure delaying sex until one is 30 is “pro-family.” I take that back, 30 is when they want folks to get married. Abstinance programs tend to delay sex only until 18-21. Certainly that is better than 14 or 16, but that is more a public health issue. If stop gazing at evangelicals long enough, we’ll see that they aren’t retaining their youth either.

    The time between when one is capable of producing a child and when one gets married has traditionally been called adolescence. Our model has now stretched that well past the early twenties. Having a large adolescent culture is not pro-family.

  • MZ, I do have to agree with you – adolescence has been unnaturally extended well beyond its due course. Largely due to materialism I would wager.

  • I take that back, 30 is when they want folks to get married.


  • I’m unclear what relation, if any, MZ’s comment is meant to have with the article quoted.

Top 15 Misconceptions About Catholics

Tuesday, April 20, AD 2010

Karen L. Anderson of Online Christian Colleges wrote a timely piece on the many myths, misconceptions, and outlandish lies told about Catholics:

With nearly one quarter of the U.S. population Catholic, they make up a huge part of society and the largest Christian denomination. Yet with so many, how is it they are so misunderstood and characterized by films, television shows, etc.?

Failing to do the proper research explains a great deal of it. With a simple search on the internet, we were able to find many interesting answers to the top 15 misconceptions about Catholics. They are both from official sources, reporters, academics, and more.

1. Priests Are More Likely to be Pedophiles : The most dangerous of all myths concerning Catholics, this can lead to many negative and unfair consequences. Recently in a book entitled Pedophiles and Priests, an extensive study – and the only one of it kind – took a look at the pedophile statistics of over 2,200 priests. It found that only 0.3% of all Catholic clergy are involved in any pedophilia matter, guilty or not. This number is actually very low and according to Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit, who reports that children are more likely to be victims of pedophile activity at school with nearly 14% of students estimated to be molested by a member of the school staff.

2. Everything in “The Da Vinci Code” is True : Even author Dan Brown himself doesn’t agree to this. In this free film from Hulu, Mr. Brown admits to writing his novel as a step in his own spiritual journey. As he confesses to being swayed by his extensive research, the experts behind the research weigh in with facts. Simon Cox is the author of “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” and tells more about his work in this documentary. If you don’t have 90 minutes to view it, you can get the real story behind Opus Dei, the villain organization in the novel, from ABC news.

3. Women Are Oppressed in the Catholic Church : Although women are still not eligible to become priests as explained by Pope John Paul II, they were still acknowledged as valued members of the church as far back as 1947. In a Papal Directive from then Pope Pius XII, he expressed his admiration of women “to take part in the battle: you have not sought to do so, but courageously you accept your new duties; not as resigned victims nor merely in a defensive spirit.” Also, in 2004 then Pope John Paul II historically appointed two women theologians to the International Theological Commission and named another as the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

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12 Responses to Top 15 Misconceptions About Catholics

  • The dificulty in the myths in the article are not the fact that they are misconceptions of the Roman Catholic Church. The turly sad part is that many so called members of our Church add to these misconception by 2 basic means. They do not correct these myths when asked by friends or others who are inquisitive either from lack of knowlegde or feeling this is not their right to do so and the second most problem and perhaps the worse is that many so called “catholics” beleve the crticisms are correct.

  • I would also say 9, 12 and 15 are odd; never heard them before….

  • #1: The book looks only at data since 1982. As we’ve seen in another recent TAC post, we have far more incidents prior to 1982. The John Jay study, which goes farther back, concludes that a shocking 4% of priests were reported to have sexually abused children. The second link you posted says that 1-5% of teachers sexually abuse or harass children. Harassment is more common than sexual abuse so the prevalence among teachers is probably less than 2.5%. But then you have to take out the women teachers who are must less likely to sexually abuse students. It also might to useful to compare the prevalence of sexual abuse of boys only. Priests are more likely to abuse boys and teachers are more likely to abuse girls. Bottom line is that you need more data but it’s certain that among pedophiles, priests are outliers. Even if abuse isn’t any more prevalent, why boys instead of girls? I think it’s entirely possible that the priesthood attracts sexual deviants.

    #3: And some black slaves were allowed to sleep in the master’s house. Crumbs do not disprove oppression. If we’re going to completely honest with ourselves, I think we have to admit that the Church denies women opportunities that are open to men. We don’t have to get all defensive over that fact. Christ denied women opportunities that he gave to men.

    #5: The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus.

    #8: I’m unclear of what you’re saying here. Catholics were once required to abstain from meat on ALL Fridays. Catholics must still abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent but in the US, bishops allow Catholics to give up something else on Fridays outside of Lent.

  • RR,

    #3. She never claimed nor said that.

    #5. I corrected her post, thanks!

  • You can always count on restrained radical to bash the Church for no apparent reason.

  • Is the reason not apparent? I’m a closet Episcopalian. Which reminds me… there’s an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the debate over women bishops in the Church of England. Full article requires a subscription.

  • I think that a lot of these misconceptions come from different places. The Dan Brown stuff is probably more common among evangelicals and conspiracy-types, two crowds that probably don’t have much in common. Ditto for the claim of oppressing women, which would come from feminist atheists and faithful Protestants.

    The supposed conflict between faith and reason in #4 is the one that irritates me the most. It’s so patently wrong! I attended a lecture on data visualization (of all things) last week, and the instructor went off on a tangent about the persecution of Galileo. For whatever reason, we get tarred by the same brush as evangelicals about science, then tarred by evangelicals about Mary. Oh well. As Chesterton said, if you’re being accused by everyone of every possible error, you may be perfectly correct.

  • Yes Pinky, Chesteron really had a unigue use of words and as far as 9 is concerned ,they probably never heard of Hilaire Belloc..”wherever the Catholic sun doth shine there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I always found it so Benedicamus Domino “

  • Number 9 was news to me. Wine is even part of our sacramental life, unlike those denominations that use grape juice. I’ve never heard a stereotype about a sober Irishman, a teetotaling Italian, or a Mexican refusing beer, so I don’t know where the myth of Catholic avoidance of alcohol comes from.

  • Too often Catholics get lumped together with puritan Protestant Creationists. And too often it’s Catholics who do it.

    Catholics can drink, smoke, believe in evolution, dinosaurs, the big bang, aliens, believe that you can be born gay, reject intelligent design, and celebrate Halloween.

    Here’s a couple others:

    Catholics are anti-sex or Catholics believe sex is purely for pro-creation.

    Catholics believe being gay is a sin.

  • Catholics believe engaging in homosexual sex is a sin. Whether people are in their “being” gay, that is that it is genetically determined, is far from scientifically proven. But if so, it would be like alcoholism. There would be a genetic predispostion to sin which in itself would not be sinful but which, through grace, could be overcome.

Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

Tuesday, March 2, AD 2010

The abuse of removing Holy Water from fonts during the season of Lent is a manifestation of the Spirit of Vatican II.  Well meaning priests misinterpreted or altogether made up their own discipline by removing Holy Water.  Father John Zuhlsdorf has followed this up during the course of Lent 2010 with his most recent posting clarifying why Holy Water should never be removed during the season of Lent except for Good Friday and Holy Saturday:

To all the priests out there still… unbelievably still putting sand in holy water fonts during Lent…


And if you go into a church where you see this sort of idiocy… for the love of God, DON’T bless yourself with SAND.

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9 Responses to Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

  • Our parish moved the holy water to containers in urns in the aisles and filled the holy water fonts with vinegar.

  • Our “holy” water usually has mossy/seaweed-looking debris floating in it. There’s a penance for you.

  • I think Father’s idea of sneaking fast growing seeds and a little water into the “Holy Sand” is fabulous.

  • Must be a Northern Hemisphere thing.

    Never seen it of even heard of it Downunder.

    Why not a font full of salt? More appropriate than sand. 🙂

  • Don,

    You are very fortunate to be in a parish or diocese that has a low threshold of dissident Catholics.

    You are truly blessed!


  • Sand in the holy water fount means rocks in the collection plate. I forget who suggested it , but think its quite brilliant. Also it’s in keeping with the Lenten theme. All the whackado personal symbolism has got to stop. Just contribute less money to buy all that sand.

  • I’ve never seen or heard of sand in the holy water fonts before. I’m glad we’re behind the times when it comes to this particular innovation.

    These days, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started filling the fonts with hand sanitizer. And considering that I have a rare talent for sitting next to the kid who wipes his nose on his hand or the lady with the bad cold who coughs and sneezes all the way through Mass and then wants to hold my hand during the Our Father, well, hey, a little hand sanitizer would be welcome…

  • Hehe, I now appreciate the literal holy-water-fountain (not as bad as it sounds…OK, the little wading-pool it pours into is kinda eyebrow-raising…) at my church.

  • I buried some rubber tarantulas in the sand that was placed in the holy water founts a few years ago. We haven’t seen sand since.

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving is by Father Francis Fernandez Carvajal from his series on meditations In Conversation with GodDaily Meditations Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide, 1.2:

True conversion is shown by the way we behave.  We show that we really want to improve by the way we do our work or our study.  We show it by the way we behave towards our family; by offering up to God, in the course of the day, little mortifications which make life for those around us more pleasant, and which make our work more effective.  We can also show it by making a careful preparation for and going frequently to Confession.

Today God asks us also for a rather special mortification, which we offer up cheerfully: it is fasting and abstinence, which strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality.  It raises our soul to God.  It gets rid of concupiscence by giving us the strength to overcome and to mortify our passions, and it disposes our heart that it may seek for nothing except to please God in everything.9

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4 Responses to Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

  • A friend who belongs to Opus Dei turned me onto these books during Advent at an Opus Dei Men’s reflection. I can’t say that I have read them everyday, perhaps 85% of the time since.

    Amazing. That’s all I can say. I take them to Mass with me and read them after the after Mass prayers. What a fantastic help. The insights and lessons are inspired. What a great place to get perspective from the Communion of Saints, the Popes and the Magestirium.

    I recommend In Conversation with God to anyone and everyone who wants to increase their faith and understanding (in that order).

    We are dust but if you own these books they won’t get any dust on them.

  • AK,

    I agree.

    The In Conversation With God series has brought me ever closer to God. It is worth someones while to pick up the book and start reading.

    A great way to do something for Lent!

  • Tito,

    I never thought about the statement from your last sentence until this Lent. We all give something up and when we think of it or desire it we turn to God; however, I don’t know too many people who DO SOMETHING for Lent as opposed to NOT doing something. Sure, we may give the money we save from our habit, whether it be beer, chocolate or whatever, but that is not necessarily the same as DOING something.

    I think it is helpful, and these books are great for it, to add something to our spiritual life during Lent and God willing it will become part of us in Easter and beyond.

  • AK,

    I remember the “spirit of Vatican II” rage of “doing” something for Lent instead of “giving” something up.

    In the end I decided to do both (just to be safe!)


Cardinal Newman on Fasting

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

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