Fish Friday.

I am very fond of fish for dinner. Also other meats are delicious. I heard there is some tradition about fish on Friday. What is it? Why? What about:

(Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
Col 2:16
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a festival day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbaths,
17 Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.


1 Timothy 4:3

3 Forbidding …] to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth.

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Catholics traditionally don’t eat meat on Fridays for several reasons. One of them, which most people think, is that we are giving up a luxury as penance. Nowadays, that seems funny, because seafood is usually is more luxurious!

While that may be part of the story, the other part is that giving up meat on Friday is a sign of respect for Jesus, who was slaughtered along with the Pascal lambs on Friday.

Also, there is tradition that fish are not considered meat. Neither are lizards, and birds used to be lumped in with non-meat. Only mammal meat was “meat”, so we eat fish on Fridays.

From the Code of Canon Law:


Canon 1249 All Christ’s faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.

Canon 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Canon 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Canon 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Canon 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Birds are meat.

Catholic definition of meat (Modern Catholic Dictionary):

MEAT. The flesh of animals and birds eaten by human beings, as understood in Church law. Its prohibition on days of abstinence and fast has a spiritual value, going back to the Old Testament and practiced since apostolic times. “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat” (Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, Norm III, 1).

St Paul was talking about those who wrongly taught that Christians should ordinarily never eat meat or ordinarily never eat the meat of certain species of animals, for instance, like the prohibition against eating pork and the meat of other “unclean” animals that was part of the Mosaic Law. He was not talking about the occasional day of abstinence from meat as practiced by Catholics as a form of penance. Think of the Catholic disciplinary practice as a modified fast, a fast from meat. Jesus said his disciples would fast once he was taken away. (Matthew 9:15)

[quote=Mammoths] I heard there is some tradition about fish on Friday. What is it?

The notion of Friday abstinence (as a penance, like others here have mentioned) isn’t about “eating fish on Friday” – it’s about “not eating meat on Friday.”

So, eating fish is a common way to abstain from eating meat, but what’s in play isn’t the presence of the fish, so much as it’s about the absence of meat.

And, Mammoths, to your point: if you enjoy sushi, then having a nice sushi dinner on Friday wouldn’t be a penance for you. Maybe, for you, a vegetarian dish would be an appropriate penitential meal on a Friday. :wink:


Respectfully, disagree.

As you just noted, the Church asks us to express our penitence by the abstinence from meat, not by partaking of something unenjoyable – Which is fortunate for me, else I would need eat only watermelon on penitential days – Practically the only food I’ve ever met that I do not like.

Mastery over our appetites and submission of our will to that of the Church is itself an expression of penance.


I know they’re considered meat NOW, but I woulda sworn I read somewhere that at one time they weren’t…I guess I was wrong!

this is a sticking point: So Christ died fulfilled the old law of Moses, took it out of the way, and then new ceremonial laws were established? So verse 16 applies to keeping mosaic festivals and kosher, but catholic festivals and food rules are obligatory?

There is also, Roman’s 14:5-12, which seems to not be about Moses at all. This passage says holy days are a matter of private conviction. Is this a case of pastoral council that can be changed?

The sheer volume of knowledge needed to comply with canon law actually seems daunting. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Romans 14:5-12Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

5 For one judgeth between day and day: and another judgeth every day: let every man abound in his own sense.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord. And he that eateth, eateth to the Lord: for he giveth thanks to God. And he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth thanks to God.
7 For none of us liveth to himself; and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Therefore, whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ died and rose again; that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 But thou, why judgest thou thy brother? or thou, why dost thou despise thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written: As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 Therefore every one of us shall render account to God for himself.

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These passages both refer to the Judaizers and to a claimed salvation through following the Old Law, thereby not fully comprehending the New Covenant. They do not forbid fasting or to set aside something good, like meat, for the sake of penance. To interpret them in that way would be to violently force them out of their context.

Paul is addressing a mixed gentile and Jew Christian community, and again, he’s specifically addressing pastoral issues and points of conflict within this mixed community and their different backgrounds. The days he would be specifically commenting on are the new moons and keeping the Saturday Sabbath, among other things. Again, not ruling out all forms of liturgy or the idea of penance or fasting so as to build up spiritual strength and not be ruled by the flesh and to keep mindful of higher things. We know Christian communities were keeping regular fasts and abstainance as a form of penance on Wednesdays and Fridays even in the first century. This is not the same as completely proscribing certain foods from your diet because of a belief in ritual cleanliness.

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Who “judges all days”, aka, “esteems all days ALIKE”?

We could do what our Orthodox Brethren do

Weekly Fast
Unless a fast-free period has been declared, Orthodox Christians are to keep a strict fast every Wednesday and Friday. The following foods are avoided:
Meat, including poultry, and any meat products such as lard and meat broth.
Fish (meaning fish with backbones; shellfish are permitted).
Eggs and dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, etc.)
Olive oil. A literal interpretation of the rule forbids only olive oil. Especially where olive oil is not a major part of the diet, the rule is sometimes taken to include all vegetable oils, as well as oil products such as margarine.
Wine and other alcoholic drink. In the Slavic tradition, beer is often permitted on fast days.

Some people keep personal devotions or fasts. Others do not. We are not to condemn another person over their personal devotions, whether less or more than our own.

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We could. But couldn’t we just as well eat the usual on Friday and fast on Tuesday instead according to 1 Cor 14? Or for that matter, fast on no particular day except when provoked by a grave concern?

Who esteems all days alike? Isn’t that legitimate worship according to scripture?

look, I have been hungry before. avoiding a few ingredients is a small thing and I am fine with it. I am asking because I am used to seeing this passage a certain way and I want to understand the other side. Frankly, my family can’t afford meet or fish everyday anyway. so this is not about avoiding a worthy sacrifice–its about knowing what is right.

Church authorities have the power to make new disciplinary laws that are binding on the faithful. They also have the power to change old disciplinary laws or abrogate them entirely. This has to do with the power of the keys given to the Church when Jesus said, “… whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19;18:18) We see an example of this in the decision of the council at Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15. After Jesus had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), the apostles and other church authorities decided for pastoral reasons to temporarily prohibit Christians from eating certain foods, namely, “what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled.” (Acts 15:29)

Remember what the author of Hebrews said, “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.” (Hebrews 13:17)

The sheer volume of knowledge needed to comply with canon law actually seems daunting. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As far as church laws go, the so-called Precepts of the Church are pretty much all an ordinary Catholic needs to know of canon law. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, bold mine:
The Precepts of the Church

2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. the obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

2042 The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.") requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.82

The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.83

The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.84

2043 The fourth precept (“You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.") completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.85

The fifth precept (“You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.86

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.87 (source)

In eastern churches also was avoided eating any food that came in contact with blood of land animals which included that stored in leather bags such as wine and olive oil. Also eggs and milk and milk products. So there are various fast and abstinence rules related to this for the Orthodox.

In the west, the poor ate inexpensive fish and shellfish for protein so Christians imitated that diet as penance.

No, I’m not saying that you have to pick something you hate. Rather, pick something that isn’t a treat.

Mastery over our appetites and submission of our will to that of the Church is itself an expression of penance.

There we go! “Mastery over our appetites”! Exactly!

So… if you loved sushi, would it be an example of “mastery over your appetite” if you had sushi on Fridays in Lent? Would that be a ‘penitential’ meal for you?

That’s probably a good way to say it. One of the things that always bothered me when I became Catholic was KofC Lenten Fish Fries. It wasn’t that they were serving fish, but that the fish fries I attended were near on to a feast with huge slabs of fish, choice of 2 or 3 types of potatoes, salads, beer or wine, and a couple different desserts. It followed the law of abstinence, but not the penitential spirit.

A few years back our pastor had had enough and said the parish would no longer host the Lenten Friday parties. Not only were they not penitential, but the KofC advertised throughout the community so many times there were more cars on Fridays than at Mass on Sundays. Father asked why there were hundreds at dinner when there were a handful at mass, confession or stations of the cross on the same evenings. When some parishioners complained that they could not find parking to attend confession and mass he finally put his foot down.

The whole point is that it’s not about substitution something to make you miserable, but rather that Fridays in Lent (actually all Fridays) are supposed to be penitential to join us more closely to Calvary. We don’t need to suffer, but at the same time if we follow the law without turning our minds to the Paschal sacrifice then it means nothing. Since I eat neither fish, nor fowl, nor beast I comply with the law, but it is not sacrificial and hence why I try to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law through sacrificial acts; basically sacrifice in order to die to self to come closer to Christ.

CCC 1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

When one realizes that Divine Law does not state times or seasons, one can infer that every day and all day is the time for penance. As Can. 1249 states, days are ‘prescribed’ to show unity among the faithful. These prescribed days are a minimum and not a maximum, nor does Canon Law replace Divine Law. Its purpose is to help the faithful, who may not fully understand, to better observe Divine Law.


Luke 6:46 - How is it that you call me, Master, Master, and will not do what I bid you?

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