History behind not eat meat on Fridays


:confused: Why did Catholics begin to abstain from meat on Fridays


It is quite old: Tertullian says in the early third century (after he became a Montanist)

Why do we devote to Stations the fourth and sixth days of the week, and to fasts the "preparation-day?

Clement of Alexandria:

He knows also the enigmas of the fasting of those days – I mean the Fourth and the Preparation."

One of the canons attributed ot St. Peter of Alexandria (early 4th century) says:

No one shall find fault with us for observing the fourth day of the week, and the preparation, on which it is reasonably enjoined us to fast according to the tradition. On the fourth day, indeed, because on it the Jews took counsel for the betrayal of the Lord; and on the sixth, because on it He himself suffered for us.


but, why no meat. I read that is was because meat had to be purchased whereas fish and vegatbles could be obtain for free, therefore meat was a luxury item.


I have read that meat was a luxury in ancient Rome - I think Jewish practise also had something to do with it - but in any case, the early Christians fast was very strict and did not include meat at all, and I *think *also fish. If you read Tertullian letter meat and wine were viewed as being “of the flesh”


Also, no eggs or dairy (milk or cheese, yogurt, etc.) And in addition to abstinence (which is the technical term for not eating a certain food or foods) the FASTs were quite strict; often one meal or at most two per day with pretty much small amounts of vegs and fruit if available, pottage or porridge, thick bread basically of flour, salt, and ‘fresh’ or ‘wild’ yeast.

Even by the 13th century, if you look at the Rule of St. Francis you’ll see that people are ‘abstaining’ from meat for 4 days weekly, and fasting for long periods (2 meal fasts with abstinences) such as from November 11 through Christmas, from Epiphany through Good Friday, etc.

Penance is something we think we don’t ‘need’ (smacks of GUILT and a LOVELESS, ANGRY GOD). . .or we’ve advanced beyond (hey, WE don’t have to be FORCED to love God).

But we do need it and far from advancing, we have fallen behind our brothers and sisters of the past.


Fr John Corapi says fridays are a day of penance, and that the not eating meat thing was a way of doing penance. I don’t think he elaborated more than that.


I understand it is a form of penance and I do not eat meat on any Friday not just during lent. But I still can’t find a reason for no meat, why not no turnips or no olives or no what ever, why meat?
I am looking in my catechism right now and still can’t find a answer


Especially once one gets into the Middle Ages, meat is a luxury in most of Europe. Most of the land belongs to a king, or to his vassals, and the game that is available also belongs to those men. Poachers were killed. Instantly.

As for other animals such as cows or pigs, well again, cows were more valuable for milk and dairy; bulls needed for ‘stud’, pigs were often killed just after birth (suckling pig) or just before winter and their parts salted and pickled. Remember–fresh meat was a rarity. Meat was salted, smoked, dried, or pickled, otherwise it had to be used as quickly as possible before it spoiled. That’s a reason the spice trade was so important; spices could aid in preserving some foods, and ‘disguising the spoiled taste’ of other foods. Poultry like chicken could and did become more popular but again, eggs were often more valuable than the flesh of the bird itself.

Again, most people were serfs, peasants, slaves. Most of their ‘property’ belonged to the lord. His fields were the first to be ploughed; the ‘common folk’ could do theirs later–if there was time. And every year, the commons PAID for the privilege of living on the lord’s land–with goods.


Something to do with the flesh of Our Lord being nailed to the Cross. Our abstinence honors it. That is how it was explained to us.


A person can not be forced to love.
When a person is forced, they will respond with force (generally in the opposite direction).

There is a great difference between doing (or not doing) something because it is a Church rule and giving of oneself when no rule requires it.
The first is a forced action, the second is an action of love.

Go with Love, Go with God


Yes, Ceil comes close to the reason of not eating meat on Friday. I believe it is “No red bloody meat because of our Lord on the cross, and only fish because it is a cold bloody meat”.:shrug:


Here is the law as written by the US bishops. See that is says meat or another food.

Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Canon 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.


Thanks nitadianne,
Also see this from the Catholic Encyclopedia…


This *may *help slightly.

Objection 1. It would seem unfitting that those who fast should be bidden to abstain from flesh meat, eggs, and milk foods. For it has been stated above (6) that fasting was instituted as a curb on the concupiscence of the flesh. Now concupiscence is kindled by drinking wine more than by eating flesh; according to Prov. 20:1, “Wine is a luxurious thing,” and Eph. 5:18, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury.” Since then those who fast are not forbidden to drink wine, it seems that they should not be forbidden to eat flesh meat.

Objection 2. Further, some fish are as delectable to eat as the flesh of certain animals. Now “concupiscence is desire of the delectable,” as stated above (I-II, 30, 1). Therefore since fasting which was instituted in order to bridle concupiscence does not exclude the eating of fish, neither should it exclude the eating of flesh meat.

Objection 3. Further, on certain fasting days people make use of eggs and cheese. Therefore one can likewise make use of them during the Lenten fast.

On the contrary, stands the common custom of the faithful.

I answer that, As stated above (6), fasting was instituted by the Church in order to bridle the concupiscences of the flesh, which regard pleasures of touch in connection with food and sex. Wherefore the Church forbade those who fast to partake of those foods which both afford most pleasure to the palate, and besides are a very great incentive to lust. Such are the flesh of animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breathe the air and their products, such as milk from those that walk on the earth, and eggs from birds. For, since such like animals are more like man in body, they afford greater pleasure as food, and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust. Hence the Church has bidden those who fast to abstain especially from these foods.

Reply to Objection 1. Three things concur in the act of procreation, namely, heat, spirit [Cf. P. I., Q. 118, 1, ad 3, and humor. Wine and other things that heat the body conduce especially to heat: flatulent foods seemingly cooperate in the production of the vital spirit: but it is chiefly the use of flesh meat which is most productive of nourishment, that conduces to the production of humor. Now the alteration occasioned by heat, and the increase in vital spirits are of short duration, whereas the substance of the humor remains a long time. Hence those who fast are forbidden the use of flesh meat rather than of wine or vegetables which are flatulent foods.

Reply to Objection 2. In the institution of fasting, the Church takes account of the more common occurrences. Now, generally speaking, eating flesh meat affords more pleasure than eating fish, although this is not always the case. Hence the Church forbade those who fast to eat flesh meat, rather than to eat fish.

Reply to Objection 3. Eggs and milk foods are forbidden to those who fast, for as much as they originate from animals that provide us with flesh: wherefore the prohibition of flesh meat takes precedence of the prohibition of eggs and milk foods. Again the Lenten fast is the most solemn of all, both because it is kept in imitation of Christ, and because it disposes us to celebrate devoutly the mysteries of our redemption. For this reason the eating of flesh meat is forbidden in every fast, while the Lenten fast lays a general prohibition even on eggs and milk foods. As to the use of the latter things in other fasts the custom varies among different people, and each person is bound to conform to that custom which is in vogue with those among whom he is dwelling. Hence Jerome says [Augustine, De Lib. Arb. iii, 18; cf. De Nat. et Grat. lxvii]: “Let each province keep to its own practice, and look upon the commands of the elders as though they were the laws of the apostles.”


It’s an extreme relaxing of the original Christian custom (referred to as something quite ordinary by Hipollytus, The Didache, Cyril of Jerusalem and others) of a STRICT fast on both WEDNEDAY AND FRIDAY (except during Paschatide).

Orthodox, as well as many Eastern Catholics, still practice abstinence on most Wednesdays and Fridays.


<<but, why no meat. I read that is was because meat had to be purchased whereas fish and vegatbles could be obtain for free, therefore meat was a luxury item.>>

As a matter of fact, it was a STRICT fast until mid-afternoon (9th hour) if not till Sundown.

And abstience would exclude the eating of fish and dairy (including eggs and cheese) as well as meat.

See why I’m saying it’s a LAX custom to merely abstain from meat on Fridays?


Orthodox, as well as many Eastern Catholics, still practice abstinence on most Wednesdays and Fridays.

Exactly what is the rule for Eastern Catholics? I would like to observe it in my family. The harder the better, I say. We could use the discipline.


Oh, you just answered my question, sorry about that.

In our indulgent society, the harder the better, I say.


<<Exactly what is the rule for Eastern Catholics? I would like to observe it in my family. The harder the better, I say. We could use the discipline. >>

The traditional practice–I don’t think it was ever a “rule” actually written down–for both Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics boils down to this: on most Wednesdays and Fridays you MAY eat fruits, vegetables, and shellfish.

Animals with backbones (including ordinary fish) and anything that comes from an animal with a backbone (including eggs and dairy products, is technically forbidden. Some lesser feasts falling on a Wednesday or Friday also allow olive oil and wine.

One of the 12 great Feasts (except Christmas and Theophany) falling on Wednesday or Friday allows fish.

There’s more (including the exceptions, such as fast-free weeks) but this should give you the idea.


If no turnips would truly be a penance for you, you could institute that as your personal penance for non-Lenten Fridays.

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