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Meatless Fridays don’t have to be dull

As the faithful prepare once again to abstain from meat on Fridays, Fr Tim Gardner offers some lively flesh-free recipes

By on Friday, 16 September 2011

If you are feeling truly adventurous you can wake up at dawn on Fridays and catch your own fish                                                                                                         Photo: PA

If you are feeling truly adventurous you can wake up at dawn on Fridays and catch your own fish Photo: PA

“Bishops Restore Fish on Fridays” was how one national newspaper reported the decision of the Bishops of England and Wales to re-establish Friday abstinence from meat as the norm for all Catholics.

At the press conference following the bishops’ spring meeting, The Catholic Herald reporter’s well-informed questions about Summorum Pontificum notwithstanding, it was Friday abstinence that generated most interest from the ladies and gentlemen of the press. This came as a slight surprise to me, because in some measure “fish on Fridays” never really went away. I recall walking through Oxford many times surrounded by the unmistakable smell of fish and chips being extractor-fanned out of college kitchens on to the street; a menu replicated in countless other non-Catholic kitchens up and down the country. While the friars might have sat down to shepherd’s pie on a Friday night, their religious tradition had become embedded in the secular world as securely as hot-cross buns and the Easter lamb.

A great deal of what we know about the early English diet comes from a Latin vocabulary written by Ælfric, Archbishop of Canterbury from 995. It was written in the form of dialogues: with the baker, the ploughman, the fisherman, the shepherd. From it we know that in spring and summer women made cheese and butter from the milk of sheep or goats before smoking the cheese and salting the butter to preserve it.

In gardens, people grew carrots (purple in those days), leeks, garlic and herbs like rue and fennel. Kale was a popular winter vegetable and for a time gave February its Old English name of sproutkele. Ælfric lists animals eaten for their meat (pig, goat, deer, swan, duck etc), but the fact that our modern words beef, veal and mutton are Norma, rather than Anglo-Saxon suggests these animals were mostly valued for their wool, hides, milk and working abilities rather than their flesh.

The Rule of St Benedict stipulated that only sick monks could consume the “flesh of quadrupeds” but this was quickly interpreted as excluding fish and fowl, hence the monastic tradition of maintaining dovecotes and fishponds (stews). Bede railed against the excesses of the monastic table, circumventing not only the letter but increasingly the spirit of the Rule, and St Anselm complained that the clergy dined on “chicken spiced with pepper and cumin”. But fasting and abstinence shaped not only the culinary rhythm of the week (no meat on Fridays or Wednesdays) but also of the year (Advent, Lent, Ember Days). Unless you were very young, very old or very sick, meat was absent from the table for a considerable portion of the year.

For the poor this would have made little difference as meat was expensive, but for the remainder it was fish that filled the gap. Ælfric’s fisherman talks about his tackle and nets, of eels that could survive out of water and of freshwater fish such as roach, trout, lamprey, perch and pike. From the sea came salmon, plaice, porpoise, flounder, cod, lobster, oysters and more, but it was the herring which topped the list. It came first for the same reason that the pig headed the list of animals: because it could be preserved. An important character in Ælfric’s colloquies was the salter, plying his cart between the salt producing towns of Nantwich, Sandwich, Droitwich and Northwich. There can be little doubt that it was Friday abstinence that helped to create the medieval fishing industry, though whether one can attribute the discovery of America to it is another matter. What seems likely, however, is that fishermen pushing westwards in search of new fish stocks did provide navigational information that would have been of use to Christopher Columbus in his journey to the New World.

The influence of abstinence has been felt even more recently, though. The Filet-o-Fish sandwich was added to McDonalds’ menus in 1962 after Louis Groen, owner of the chain’s Cincinnati franchises, noticed that his restaurants experienced a sharp drop in sales every Friday. Even today, 25 per cent of the 300 million Filets-o-Fish sold annually in the US are during the 40 days of Lent.

Many campaigners have recently urged Catholics not to embrace fish with too much gusto as part of their Friday observance, pointing out that more than a few species of fish are dangerously depleted. Fish at the top of the food chain – shark, swordfish, tuna – are best avoided because not only are they endangered, they are also high in mercury. But some of the fish that are best for you, including anchovies, sardines and mackerel, are well managed and in some cases abundant. It seems clear, too, that sitting down to a steaming dish of Lobster Thermidor is hardly in the spirit of Friday abstinence, so perhaps now is the time to try less glamorous varieties (such as pollack, coley and whiting).

Yet, what we are asked to do is abstain from meat, not indulge in fish, and in England and Wales there is no need to rely on bizarre meat substitutes or seek to have ducks reclassified as fish; we can simply eat vegetables (though vegetarians and what Anthony Bourdain calls “their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans”, will have to find another form of abstinence). Nigel Slater’s recent two-volume paean to the vegetable garden, Tender, has more than enough vegetable recipes to keep most cooks going for a lifetime, and even the champion carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall claims to have been eating “a lot less meat”.

Abstaining from meat is a small gesture intended to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice; an absence of flesh on the dining table that leads us to recall the Lord’s gift of his own flesh on the Cross. It will occasionally be inconvenient, that’s the point, but it should always be joyful.

Fr Tim Gardner is a Dominican priest based in London

Potato Pie

This is a dinner-party version of a dish that is known in parts of Lancashire as “Catholic Potato Pie” and serves about six with salad as a light main course.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Mix 200g grated strong cheese and 200ml crème frâiche. Line a greased and oiled pie dish or quiche tin (about 23cm) with two thirds of a 500g quantity of ready-made puff pastry or rough puff, leaving a slight overhang.

You will also need 1kg floury potatoes and two onions (all thinly sliced), a bunch of diced spring onions, paprika and nutmeg. Place a layer of potatoes in the dish, scatter over some onions and spring onions, a pinch of paprika and nutmeg and repeat. Spoon some of the crème frâiche and cheese mixture on top and repeat these layers until the potatoes are used up. Press the mixture down slightly and top with the remaining pastry.

Seal the edges, glaze with beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 170C/Gas 4 and continue cooking until the pie is golden brown (up to an hour). Leave to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Root vegetable casserole

This versatile dish can often be made with what you have in the larder. Add tinned tomatoes, use different root vegetables or spice it up with some fresh chilli. Serves 4 with some yoghurt and flat-bread.

Gently cook a finely chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of oil until soft (about 3 minutes). Add 700g potatoes, cut into chunks, 4 thickly sliced carrots and 2 diced parsnips. Cook (and stir!) until the vegetables begin to brown (about 8 minutes). Mix in 2 tablespoons of red curry paste and add 1 litre of vegetable stock (Marigold is excellent) and bring to the boil.

Tip in 150g of red lentils, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are tender. Stir in a bunch of chopped coriander just before serving.

Mackerel fish cakes

A good way to introduce oily fish to your family. These can be prepared a day ahead and freeze (uncooked) very well. Serves 4.

In a large bowl, combine 300g mashed potatoes, a bunch of thinly sliced spring onions, 2 tablespoons of horseradish sauce and 250g flaked mackerel fillets (either smoked or peppered). Shape into 8 cakes and coat in breadcrumbs (first coating in flour and then beaten egg).
Shallow fry for about 6 minutes each side until golden brown and piping hot throughout. Serve with a wedge of lemon and salad or steamed green vegetables.

Mushroom risotto

It’s probably more accurate to think of this as a savoury rice pudding than a risotto, but its simplicity is somehow more appropriate for Friday than the classic version. Serves 4 (main) or 6 (starter).

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2. Pour 550ml boiling water over 10g dried porcini mushrooms and leave to soak while you roughly chop 250g field mushrooms. In a heavy casserole, sweat a finely diced onion until transparent and stir in the chopped mushrooms. Drain the porcini, squeezing out and reserving the liquor. Chop finely and add to the pan, cooking gently for about 20 minutes.
Add 175g canaroli rice, 150ml dry Marsala or sherry and the reserved porcini liquor.

Season with salt and black pepper, place in the centre of the oven and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Then add a handful of grated Parmesan, stir well and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with shavings of parmesan and finely chopped fresh parsley.

  • D B McGinnity

    Fridays used to be a great penance when we were young. Imagine waking up on a Friday mornings to the aroma of fried kippers (fried in butter) and two slices of fried soda bread, followed by toast and marmalade. Lunch was a cheese omelette or scrambled eggs. Dinner was a salmon or tuna fish salad in the summer with baked potatoes or sometimes we had large helpings of macaroni cheese. When the children were little we had cod stakes or fish fingers and chips with mayonnaise or Hollandaise sauce for dinner. What a hardship and a penance Fridays were.

  • Jane Brady

    Virtually everything in Catholicism is symbolic and is only a representation of sanctity and devotion. There is no hardship in doing without meat or poultry products on Friday; in fact it is more healthy not to eat meat at all. If all adult healthy Catholics abstained from all food on Fridays then this would mean something, otherwise it means nothing whatsoever. Catholic symbols and rituals are meaningless and have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.A close friend of the Anglican Communion does not eat anything of Friday and during lent avoids food altogether on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I do likewise, for sound clinical reasons in that it allows natural detoxification of the body. That is the meaning of fasting in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. What is the point of Catholics reciting interminable incomprehensible prayerful utterances, whilst engorging themselves on best quality ‘T-Bone’ Steak and all the trimmings. Catholics on the whole ‘do it with mirrors’, and all the fanciful ceremonies are but a veneer of devotion to Jesus Christ. Imagine Catholic priests abstaining from all food for forty days and forty nights, as Jesus Christ did.

  • Tom

    “A close friend of the Anglican Communion does not eat anything of Friday and during lent avoids food altogether on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I do likewise, for sound clinical reasons in that it allows natural detoxification of the body.” The detoxification processes of the body happen at a fixed rate regardless of the amount or type of food you are consuming. There are no sound clinical reasons for fasting in this regard.

  • Maryjanebrady

    From my clinical experience I appreciate the point you make, but from my understanding of protein metabolism, hepatic and renal function, it seems very relevant to formation of urea and other metabolites that are provisionally toxic to the body. The less first class protein (meat) that is ingested the less toxicity. However, you seem to be so sure of yourself (like any good catholic) that it is pointless to disagree with you. I suppose, what is the point of being a catholic if you cannot be infallible. After all, how can texts on physiology compare with the catechism. If you need to be in the right, then you are in the right!!  So, well done, and full marks !!

  • Rich

    Jane, your posts seem to be bitter and lacking in generosity, I’m sure this wasn’t intended.

  • Mark Castilano

    You will notice that Tom picked out one insignificant aspect of what Jane Brady said and incorrectly disagreed with it probably to diminish and belittle her whole premise. However he did not refer to the validity of her premise that the Catholic Church is superficial and symbolic and presents a veneer of religiosity with regard to fasting. I think it annoyed him that an Anglican person was said to be more sincere and devout than Catholics about the concept of fasting. This is probably true.
    I have worked in detoxification centres and I understand body excretion in terms of liver, renal, respiratory functions, together with bowel action and sweating. So the point is that Tom made a very profound but incorrect statement. Perhaps Mary should have said that fasting prevents the build up of toxic metabolites, but that is splitting hairs. It is a sad thing that all too frequently it is depicted in the Catholic Herald that bloggers are quick to retort to what they disagree, without giving too much thought to the impression they create through their hasty emotional response. Only recently, we have an example of Archbishop Smith making erroneous and disrespectful comment about the judicial partiality of HM Judges. Such action harms the Catholic Church.

  • Jane Brady

    It is easy for anyone to make trite comments without giving any substantiation to their premise. I was making a valid point that “Catholics being in the Right” is not a foregone conclusion. In effect it is this concept of implied infallibility by Catholics that “We Are Right” that has caused, and is causing it’s downfall. As we frequently read in the Catholic Herald blogs, even the semi-illiterate prognosticate about complex doctrine, and become vexed when shown to be sincerely misguided.I still think that there was no point in reasoning with Tom, because I feel that he would dismiss whatever I said. If I presented him with the formula for the Henderson Hasselbalch Equation, the molecular nature Statins, Free Radicals, toxic levels of Cholesterol and all other physiological chemical threats to the body written in in Ancient Greek with a quill pen, I feel that he would not accept anything other than his own opinion. As said, in my experience, that tends to be the nature of too many Catholics. The evidence of far too many overweight priests and bishops depict that fasting is an anathema to many Catholics. The Venerable Basil Hume lived by the rule of St Benedict and fasted, but that degree of piety is in my experience an exception amongst senior clerics, and Catholics as a whole.

  • Tom

    Of course “Catholics being in the Right” is not a forgone conclusion. You set up that straw man yourself so that you could paint all Catholics as being arrogant. This says more about your own bigoted views than it does about anything else. The point I was trying to make was simply that I do not believe fasting is of any benefit to ones physical health. Clearly you disagree, and im happy to accept that I may be wrong. If so, then I would be genuinely interested in reading a paper that shows such benefit. No need to write anything in Greek with a quill, but a link to something on PubMed would be nice.

  • Jane Brady

    Well it all depends whether we look on fasting as a clinical or an ecclesiastical matter. I view fasting and dieting as highly dangerous unless there is a clinical purpose for doing so and unless there is clinical supervision. In my case, I view fasting as psychological and spiritual rather than a matter of being healthy. I feel better when I avoid caffeine and food additives. I view farm foods as unhealthy because of chemicals ingested by animals and the use of hormones and antibiotics. That is my view and I would never suggest or advise anyone to follow my example. The best reference I can give you is “Poison on a Plate” by Professor Richard Lacey (1998) Metro Books London ISBN 1 900512 46 7 Hardback and 1 900512 45 9 Paperback. The book covers all forms of disease and toxic issues in relation to food. As you may guess it was vehemently attacked by the food industry. I do not retract my premise about the foolishness of avoiding meat on Friday. My mother used to say away back in 1956 . “The Lord Bishop can eat caviar (which he did) at five quid an ounce and it is a mortal sin if we eat a slice of corned beef on a Friday, something is not right”. How True.

  • Dr J P McFall

    It would help if some sensible free thinking senior cleric pointed out that doing without meat on a Friday is no longer a penance or hardship because there are so many other choices of nutritious foods to choose from, and the meat on Friday issue is “a red herring”. Would it not be more preferable to do something positive for someone (put one’s self out) rather than do something negative. The ‘poor old’ church is caught up in nostalgia and sentiment and it seems to long for the good old days when most Catholics were ignorant, fearful or too illiterate to understand that the Catholic Church was a big business, like a world conglomerate whose chief concern was power and money. The Catholic Church trying to regain it’s status and position in society is like bringing back the old mechanical typewriter to replace word processors. The church has lied in it’s dogma regarding the care of children and unashamedly covered up the criminal practices of priests. The Catholic Church is now seen worldwide as being criminally culpable in terms of obstruction, obfuscation and prevarication in addressing the problems of what once was referred to as “the faithful”. So, doing without meat on a Friday is ‘window dressing’ or ‘salad dressing’.

  • Parasum

    “I view fasting and dieting as highly dangerous unless there is a
    clinical purpose for doing so and unless there is clinical supervision.”

    Why “highly dangerous” – and, why have fasting clinically supervised ?

  • Jane Brady

    I do not know in what spirit you write this, because this sort of information is so easy to find out. I have read some of your other comments on other issues and you strike me as the sort of person who is well able to discover such information. Are you testing my knowledge and  asking me to clinically justify myself?   Because this is kindness to sceptics week, I will give you the benefit of any doubt I may have.This is not a time to write a thesis so I will quickly justify my stance. It is my view that unless a person has studied Physiology to at least ‘A’ level, they have little understanding about metabolism. If I may use the analogy of a garden to illustrate. It is a bit like someone planting tomatoes in the greenhouse, and expecting ripe tomatoes the following week. Sadly, so many people go on diets without the slightest understanding of the complicated processes involved and they become ill because they do not understand how their body works. Then there is great ignorance about vitamins and trace elements, not to mention all the food additives and dietary products that have never been researched that are bought over the counter. However, that is my view, take it or leave it. Let people do as they think fit.

  • Anonymous

    So sorry that such an interesting article attracted, in the main, such a looney thread. Thanks for the recipes Fr. Tim, I shall give some ago. I am looking forward to communal penance on a Friday, giving up something I enjoy and using the money saved to benefit others, and helping me keep Christ in mind.

  • Jane Brady

    Why do you not emulate the example of Jesus Christ and go forty days and forty nights without food. Why not eat on alternate weeks and you would have more money to give to charity. There is nothing looney in exposing that the Catholic Church attitude to fasting has nothing to do with the tenets of Christ’s teaching.

  • ms Catholic state

    I hope you practise what you preach Jane.  Anyhow… present a bitter face of whatever denomination you belong to.  I will stick with Catholicism.  It’s somehow more human….and of course the One True Faith.

  • Cecilia

    Jane, you say there is “nothing looney in exposing that the Catholic Church’s attitude to fasting has nothing to do with the tenets of Christ’s teaching” and earlier, “Imagine Catholic priests abstaining from all food for forty days and forty nights, as Jesus Christ did”.  Maybe it is my imagination and I am NOT a regular Catholic Herald blogger, but your comments are just this side of fair, just and informed.You know perhaps a little about the Catholic tradition of fasting but not enough to condemn the practice of fasting in the Church.  Catholic fasting unlike Hindu and Buddhist fasting has for its object God; fasting to purge oneself of toxins may have its place in a detox program but is not the equivalent of fasting as penance.  I have no idea why you should feel justified in judging not just the actions but more dangerously, the intentions of those who fast; you seem to have judged and condemned the Catholic Church using the tired and worn out excuse of challenging the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church does not claim to be perfect, she has never made that claim and never will, but she is obliged to keep trying, and fasting is one of the ways in which she tries to do this.  May I charitably suggest that you and the others responding to this article purge your intentions of malice toward the Catholic Church?  The Church’s teachings on morality specifically draw the ire of those who refuse to live by them; we have the examples of Luther, Calvin and Henry VIII, but that does not mean the Church is at liberty to toss them out.  And what does this have to do with fasting?  I think if you look long and hard enough at your arguments and the tone in which you presented them, you will know.

  • Jane Brady

    The purpose of fasting was to strengthen the will, an as far as I am concerned it does. The ‘all or none law’ applies in that it teaches the mind and body about satiation and gratification. It does not detoxify the body but it does reduce the build-up of waste products and toxins. I choose to fast because I want to and for no other reason. I see the logic of it in terms of self discipline of the body and soul. I do not preach and will not preach to others how they should live. However, if a priest accepts the role as an advocate for the word and deeds of Jesus, then he must adhere to the principles by which Jesus lived, otherwise he is a fraud and sadly there is sufficient evidence to determine that many priests are fickle and fraudulent. Fasting and Zen mediation clears the mind of all anger and all thoughts of power and acquisition and brings peace of mind, that was the message of Jesus “peace I give you”. But doing without meat on Friday is symbolic nonsensical because, and as stated, eating kippers and salmon of a Friday instead of Steak and Kidney Pudding is not a penance, but is dietary subterfuge. I am not a priest and I am not obliged to live by anybody’s rules, other than the rule of law. For most of my adult life, I have fasted all day Friday, not because the church says so, but because I say so. I must emphasise that I do not preach to others, and I will not take lessons on reason, piety or morality from anyone, especially not a priest.

  • Cecilia

    Maybe you don’t preach but sadly, you do pontificate. Someday you may be willing to give the Catholic Church a fair trial.  In the meantime,  I sincerely hope you find peace and release from anger through Zen meditation and fasting.

  • Jane Brady

    How whimsical; you telling me that I pontificate, is you pontificating. I consider living to the rule of St Benedict (which I do for logical reasons) is a fair acceptance of the Catholic Church. Because I am given to imperfection, which is one of my characteristics, I do not readily agree with the superficiality and symbolism of the ethos of the present day Catholic Church. It would be no hardship for healthy adult Catholics to abstain (by choice) from all food on Friday, and during lent to abstain from food on alternate days. Fast or don’t fast, put please do not pretend to be doing penance when this gesture is but a reminiscence for the “good old days”.  Please cut these inane and frivolous gestures of piety.

  • D Corrigan

    This is very good!!. I wonder how many Catholics fast? Not many! I wonder how many Catholics adhere to the Rule of Benedict? Very few!!. Roman Catholisism attracts vainglorious, self-righteous and sanctimonious people who seem all pious and virtuous on the surface but deep down are concerned with money, status and child sexual abuse.

  • Cecilia

    How charitable your comments are!  Or maybe you do possess superior powers that give you knowledge of my soul and my intentions and even more impressively of those of the entire Catholic Church. Sigh….I always knew I should never have stopped my Yoga and meditation classes, who knows, I may have been gifted with the same deep knowledge you have of yourself and of humanity.

  • McDuff

    “Roman Catholisism” indeed…is our computer equipped with spell check? Or is it a new religion?

  • D Corrigan

    Roman Catholicism Like Jane Brady, I also am imperfect, probably more so, and I am surprised that there was only one spelling mistake. I am very gratified to have a sensitive, modest and unassuming person like yourself to guide me. Do not hesitate to contact me in future if I make any more spelling mistakes. Catholicism does not change, if you can hurt or belittle someone, put the boot in. D Corrigan Ph.D.

  • Dr J P McFall

    You epitomise the very point Jane Brady made about catholic superficial sanctity and spiritual veneer. Your comment was uncharitable and sarcastic, hardly the stuff of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, are you a catholic priest? It would not surprise me if you were with your tendency to cause hurt and with your petty small-mindedness.

  • Jane Brady

    I am far from being perfect, thank God. The catholic church has enough of those. I doubt if you ever will embark on Yoga or meditation. You sarcasm and distain for me are barely hidden. I stick to my point as exemplified in Matthew 19:21 “if you will to be perfect, give up all your worldly goods and come follow me”. I do not give one fiddlestick for your sarcasm. Eat drink and ‘whatever’ as much as you like, but if you are to be a Catholic then you follow the tenets of Jesus Christ from which there can be no half measures. However, brandy drinking priests in Italian tailored silk suits are an anathema to all the teachings of Christ.

  • McDuff

    Professor, you are wrong on several counts. I am not a Catholic priest. I did not even say I was Catholic. One thing puzzles me, if as you say that Roman Catholicism attracts the vainglorious,sanctimonious and self righteous, you sir, are obviously not Catholic, so what are you doing posting on a Catholic forum?

    Also, I’m curious to know how Roman Catholicism is like Jane Brady….LOL

  • D.Corrigan

    Again your perspicacity fails you, maybe you are devoid of perspicacity altogether. I wrote “Roman Catholicism” as a heading so as to elucidate that I could spell it correctly, that’s all. A person of academic experience would have easily picked that feature up, because blogs do not always appear as they are presented.  Sorry old darling, but I was ordained in 1958 when being a missionary priest meant something. This was before The Catholic Church was “dummed down” and the dignity of priesthood was reduced to celebrity status like “big brother”. So, once again you are completely off the mark.

  • Cecilia

    ” but if you are to be a Catholic then you follow the tenets of Jesus Christ from which there can be no half measures. but if you are to be a Catholic then you follow the tenets of Jesus Christ from which there can be no half measures”, I couldn’t agree with you more, especially with Our Lord’s injunction of not judging others, for in the measure we judge we ourselves will be judged.  Why don’t we leave all priests, brandy drinking, dressed in silk suits or clothed in hair shirts (believe it or not, I do know priests who wear hair shirts) to the judgment of God?  When Christ gave his apostles the power to renew His Sacrifice on Calvary and to forgive sins He was giving them the power to act in His Name, don’t you think He ought to be the One and the ONLY One to judge them?
    This thread on fasting has been derailed into venomous attacks on the priesthood and on the Church and is getting tiresome.
    By the way, Jane, I did not only embark on Yoga I studied it in its birthplace- India! 

  • Jane Brady

    I truthfully accept what you say. I get ‘on my own nerves’, I’m sorry for getting on yours. This matter has exhausred itself ,so it’s over and out.

  • Jane Brady

    Sorry about the spelling mistake “exhausted”.  Spelling mistakes annoy Mr McDuff.

  • McDuff

    My apologies, Father, I had no idea from your comment to Jane Brady that you were a priest. As to my perspicacity failing me, I wouldn’t doubt it!   I seem to have lumped my replies to you and the Dr. McFall into one reply.  
    As part of a younger generation (I am not yet a quarter of a century old)  who seem to want to know more about  Catholicism and the Church, I am disappointed and sickened by the denigration of the priesthood, but fortunately I have been blessed to know many holy and humble priests who of their own choice live austerely and make a difference in the lives they touch. 

  • mitsy

    As many of the Priests are over 80, they are unlikely to be able to abstain from food for more than a day..
    Your friend most likely is using religous piety to disguise an eating disorder.

  • D Corrigan

    Jane Brady said “It would be no hardship for healthy adult Catholics to abstain (by choice) from all food on Friday, and during lent to abstain from food on alternate days”. (Read what she said) But in the e-mail you have perverted the context and omitted what Jane actually said: (REPEAT)  “It would be no hardship for healthy adult Catholics to abstain (by choice) from all food on Friday, and during lent to abstain from food on alternate days”. Your intention was to score a cheap point and to appear clever, which you have failed to do. God help the Catholic Church with your degree of reasoning.Also, your uncharitable insinuation that someone you do not know was not genuine is very petty and mean-spirited. The fact that you skewed Jane’s assertion in the e-mail says more about your lack of intellect and integrity than it does about anything she said. The old Catholic adage of ‘put the boot in’ is alive and well. Are you a member of the Legion of Mary?

  • P J McFall

    The problem seems to be that you have given so little thought to what you have written. Most 80 year olds (like me) will be quite familiar with doing without food during the 1930’s and 1940’s and when there was rationing during the war. Fasting and rationing are basically one and the same thing in that less food is consumed for whatever reason. Most healthy adults metabolism will adapt to eating patterns, so there is no real problem with eating. One should not advocate dieting and fasting without clinical guidance and support, and if there is any doubt, simply do not do it. Had you understood eating disorders from a clinical and psychological standpoint you would not have resorted to making such trite, unkind presumptions.

  • McDuff

    In fairness it seems that there have been nasty personal attacks on Mitsy (not just a decent rebuttal of her statement).  It is evident that Jane Brady was equally “petty and mean spirited” about people she didn’t know. My perspicacity must really fail me now, but what does being a member of the Legion of Mary have to do with anything Mitsy said?  Unless you are making uncharitable insinuations about all members of the Legion of Mary and that would indeed be indicative of a “lack of intellect and integrity”.

  • McDuff

    In fairness it seems that there have been nasty personal attacks on Mitsy (not just a decent rebuttal of her statement).  It is evident that Jane Brady was equally “petty and mean spirited” about people she didn’t know. My perspicacity must really fail me now, but what does being a member of the Legion of Mary have to do with anything Mitsy said?  Unless you are making uncharitable insinuations about all members of the Legion of Mary and that would indeed be indicative of a “lack of intellect and integrity”.

  • Bax

    To be honest, if one is going to observe Fridays as a day of fasting and abstinence then on Fridays fast and be abstinent. Give the money you would have spent on food or whatever to the poor.

    If all one intends to do is not have steak and chips but have fish and chips instead (with the added glow of sanctity that this gives you) then “I tell you solemnly, you have had your reward”.

  • Mitsy

    I have have an eating disorder for many years and I am not medically allowed to fast. I was responding to the comment that was made about someone’s friend who doesn’t eat on certain days during Lent or on Friday’s. If someone has an issue with food, then they will give themselves self imposed rules about abstaining from eating. I know I have done it and fasting for religious reasons is a good way to justify not eating.  As someone that does not much like fish, I loathe Sushi, am allergic to crustaceans  and has never been able to finish a portion of fish and chips, I get no joy out of the idea of fish on Friday. I most likely eat vegatarian on friday’s or I will find I like fish even less. I accept the new rule and I see it as an act of obedience but not penance. I go to mass on Friday’s too.  I am still young and friday night is still a night to socialise. Then as so many practising Catholics are over 50, it is unlikely that they will understand and consider me to be a bad Catholic, though if Catholic abstained from alcohol on a Friday night many Irish clubs and pubs would go out of business.
    The comments about priests not fasting at 80, was a response to ” Imagine Catholic priests abstaining from all food for forty days and forty nights, as Jesus Christ did.”…..Fasting on Ash Wednesday maybe fine but I would hate to see much love priests risking their health, they have nothing to prove and many have never stopped having fish of Friday’s.

  • Peter&PaulMinistries

    During Lent here in the United States, we wanted to help remind Catholics of their obligation to not have meat on Fridays. We figured humor would be the best way to do it and so came up with “Baconless Fridays” where we would challenge people to think up catchy and clever captions for pictures that reminded Catholics to not eat meat. We got some great feedback and had a ton of fun! The whole story can be found here -