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That was the term used by many as an insult to Catholics. It was not as though no one else ever ate fish, but no one else had the practice of eating fish as a part of their faith. It is the way that Catholics used to be known: they practiced a faith where God could touch every part of their lives (even what they eat on a certain day of the week). In fact, historically speaking, next to black people, Catholics endured the most prejudiced attacks in these USA (especially by the KKK).

Our forefathers were called "fisheaters" and they mostly did not mind. It would be like being called "Mass attenders" today. It was a part of their faith and they were not ashamed. We have fallen a long way. Today, most Catholics I meet think that there is no obligatory Friday abstinence outside of Lent (if this shocked you, please continue reading). Years ago, the Bishops in America gave permission for Catholics to choose another abstinence besides meat if they wished. The communication of this fact went poorly. It came across as "you don't have to abstain from meat on Fridays" and nothing more. Few Catholics knew that they had to choose an alternate if they did not want to continue to abstain from meat.

So, if you do not currently abstain from something every Friday of the year (except solemnities), then you need to start yesterday. It is a grave sin to refuse to do so (no other way to put it). Thus, here is my push for the traditional abstinence of meat. With the fact that so few Catholics have any idea that they are supposed to be abstaining on Fridays, it is a helpful example to educate them by doing something that is noticeable. After all, it is easy to hide it if you abstain from wearing orange or playing tennis on Fridays (plus, things like that have nothing directly related to our faith). Yet, if you abstain from meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) and have fish instead, it is obvious, especially if you are in the workplace. It is also obvious in the home because you have to re-plan your menu for every meal that day.

This is also a great example to the world (along the lines of "let your deeds be seen by men so that they will glorify your Father in Heaven"). When you go out to eat with a non-catholic on a Friday, it often makes them ask something like, "why?" or maybe even, "you don't have to do that anymore, do you?" and you have the opportunity to explain the Catholic faith to them (even just a little). It says, "I take my faith seriously and live it out every day."

Thus, yes, you can still choose something to abstain from other than meat, but why would you want to? I hope it would not be because you prefer to hide your faith; that would not be good. If it is habit, then maybe you should create some new habits. If it is because you do not care, then there are even greater problems (and some of the Bishops in America have been talking about returning to required meat abstinence precisely because people are ignorant of what is required of them).

Finally, what do you do during Lent if you choose meat abstinence all year long? When the Church requires you to abstain from meat, and you are already doing so, then you take the rule that Jesus gave, "if men require you to go one mile, go two" and you choose another thing to abstain from (maybe even on every single day of Lent!). You never know, if you started living your faith like that, you very likely might change the world around you!


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