Meat Demon reports to duty at midnight tonight. He prowls around every Lent, quietly working behind the scenes six days a week so that come Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays, all you can think about is meat, meat, meat. You are not helpless in this fight. In addition to the grace of God, you also posess the ability to think, plan, and act.
1. Have a cheeseburger on Thursday.
Meat demon will try to convince you that you are anemic, wasting away, and cannot possibly survive until Saturday without a big ol’ slab of meat to see you through. And hey, maybe you do have one of those bodies that does better with relatively more protein, more iron-rich foods, and so forth. But you can definitely make it 25 hours with no meat. Eat what you need to on Thursday so that you aren’t falling for meat demon’s nonsense on Friday.
2. Eat down the meaty leftovers earlier in the week.
I’m writing this on Mardi Gras, but you can think of it, and every Thursday, as Empty the Fridge Day. Trust me — that doubtful chicken wing tucked behind the old Jello is utterly unappealing today, but come tomorrow you may find you desperately, desperately want it. Eat it today or throw it away.
3. Toss that slab of steak in the freezer.
Meat demon is sneaky. He knows you’d never, ever, go to the steakhouse on a Friday. So he sends you there on Thursday, and puts a to-go box in your hands at the end of the evening. You cannot have this thing in your refrigerator on a day of abstinence. Stick the leftovers in a ziplock freezer bag and toss it in the freezer. In the back. Deep. It’ll be just fine there for a couple days, until it’s time to make a lovely steak sandwich not on a Friday.
4. Grocery shop on the proper day of the week.
There are two ways to do this, depending on what your ideal Friday meal is:
If you eat frozen fish or non-perishable vegetarian dishes on Fridays, shop earlier in the week – Saturday or Monday is ideal. Buy, cook, and consume your meat foods early, so that the fridge is emptied out come Friday morning. What’s left in the pantry or freezer for Friday is something Lenten-compliant.
If you eat fresh fish or perishable vegetarian dishes on Friday, shop Thursday or first thing Friday morning. You’ll want to use up those foods before they spoil, so you’ll be motivated to abstain. Make sure any fresh meat you buy has a sell-by date for Saturday or later, so it can wait in the back of the fridge a couple days; if not, bag it and freeze it as soon as you get home.
5. Remind yourself that this matters.
Meat demon will try to convince you that it’s impossible to abstain for 24 hours. If he can’t do that, he’ll try to convince you that it doesn’t matter anyway. He’ll point to vegetarians and tell you that since it’s not a difficult penance for them, it’s not a penance at all. He’ll point out that there are many good meatless meals, so you aren’t really suffering, so it can’t be doing any good. He’ll point out any historical tidbit, no matter how utterly unrelated to your life today, to convince you that somehow therefore the current discipline of the Church can be set aside.
- Obedience is meritorious even when it isn’t difficult. It is more meritorious when it is difficult. No matter how easy or hard you find meatless Fridays to be, it’s a win.
- There is spiritual value in even the smallest penances.
- Satan can’t stand for you to get along with the Church. Who knew a properly timed grilled cheese sandwich had so much impact on the netherworld?
Does it matter whether you win big or win small on Fridays? No it does not. If the best you can pull off is moving the company dinner to a place with seafood on the menu, or convincing Uncle Billionaire to eat lobster instead of steak on Fridays, go with it. One day you might be the picture of self-denial, capable of great penances that work for the good of many souls. But if the best you can do is to obey one very small thing, start there.