My favorite quote:
Nothing says “penance” like fish-sticks.
So true. So very true.
Now let me be a tiny bit contrary, and give you a little encouragement on the penitential living. Marshall writes:
A couple of years ago, Joy and I prayed about it and switched our family over to meatless Fridays all year long.
Now I agree: Decisions to take on greater penance for your family than the Church requires should be made prayerfully. If you have one of those extenuating circumstances that makes abstaining particularly penitential (example: seafood allergy), discern carefully. But for most of us average Catholics . . . it’s not that big of a deal.
Especially, especially, if you do like the US Bishops have allowed for now, and leave yourself the emergency back-up plan of substituting another penance outside of Lent, going meatless all year is fairly straightforward. Now I know you have that one friend who was scarred by eating tuna noodle casserole every Friday of her life until she finally saved up enough money to get her own apartment. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our Friday menu list:
- Miscellaneous baked fish, served with rice & vegetables.
- Vichyssoise, per The Joy of Cooking, with omelet & asparagus on the side.
- Assorted made up soups that are like Vichyssoise, but with other things in it because: Need to use it up.
- 7,000 different versions of grilled or toasted cheese sandwiches. Good way to use up the leftover bread and cheese at the end of the week. Oven @350, bake 10 minutes, done.
- Pizza, homemade. Or: Pizza, frozen, the good kind that feels like you’re on a date, except you’re at home and your kids are there.
- Pasta. Every possible kind of pasta.
- Mexican Beans & Rice type things. We use the recipe from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures and adjust. When served with tortillas wrapped around slices of super-sharp cheddar cheese and toasted, it is called “Sleeping Cheese” and is a house favorite.
- “Crustless Quiche”, aka scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, pour in greased baking pan and bake per quiche recipe. Salad & bread on the side.
- Lentils & curry. I like Patak brand because it’s not made in China. Food made in China worries Chinese people, so it worries me too. The QVP has a curry recipe in it if you like to make it from scratch.
- Salad + Miscellaneous. If your salad has avocado, nuts, and shredded cheese in it, in addition to the assortment of vegetables, it’s a very substantial meal. Bread on the side for the kids.
- Fried rice, per The Joy.
Not complicated. You can do this. And here’s the double-bonus spiritual benefit of trying this in the United States, where you do have that back-up choice.
If that week you decide to stick with meatless, by the end of the day you’ll be totally committed. Lunch may have been hard. But at 11pm when a tiny slice of salami is calling your name, you’ll think, “But I’ve held it together all day. And now, if I go for the meat, I’ve got to stay up and say a Rosary or something for my alternate penance. I’ll have salami for breakfast on Saturday.” And that will help you.
If that week you actually need to do a different penance, it works the other direction, too. Let’s say your back-up Friday penance (outside of Lent) is to stay off the internet all day. And you need to stay off the internet because you have work to do, and the FB addiction has ramped up a bit more intensely than you’d like to admit. Then outside of Lent, in the United States where these things are permitted, first thing you do Friday morning is have that slice of salami. Or whatever. And then you’re committed. Too late to take the easy way out and
roll in nettles serve fish sticks.
See? Your bishop loves you, and has set up a win-win for your poor weak American self. Not an American? Your bishop loves you too, but in a different way.
Lenten Penance Troubles Book Tip: This Lent I’ve been re-reading Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s The Gargoyle Code. The advice about Lenten penances is dead-on. I was two days in and already in need of a little reboot. Highly recommended.