My brother converted to the Catholic faith a few years ago, and one of his in laws from Philadelphia tried to dissuade him. A solid Archie Bunker type, he said, “Lemme tellya about dem Catlicks. I grew up wid dem in Philly. Ya know dey all eat fish on Fridays right? Well lemme tellya why. Its because all the fish market guys in Philly are Italians, and the Italian pope makes this rule dat you gotta eat fish on Friday so all his Italian friends in Philly can sell all their fish so it don’t go off over da weekend.”
Telling this story my brother rolls his eyes, “This is the level of apologetics I’m working on…”
Remember fish on Friday was because Friday was a day of fasting and abstinence. I think no meat on Friday is a good rule, but better than that is the idea of really doing some serious fasting on Friday. No meat? OK, but why not do something radical and test yourself? Why not do bread and water or why not eat nothing at all between Thursday supper and Saturday breakfast?
Here are ten good reasons for fasting on Friday. First, it gives you a penitential day in the week. This penitential day reminds you that you are a sinner. When you fast you feel bad and this reminds you that it is because of your sins that you should feel bad. It’s very important for the spiritual life to have a day of penitence each week because it is very easy to forget we are sinners and fall into the complacent mind set that we are really ok people.
Second, when you fast you become more alert mentally and spiritually. By giving yourself a day for fasting and penitence it really does make you more aware of things spiritually.
Third, fasting on Friday is a physical, mental and spiritual identification with our Lord’s death on Friday. Its a little way to take up your cross and follow him; a little way to be crucified with Christ, and to bear his marks in your body physically.
Fourth, giving yourself one day a week for fasting and penitence helps focus the negativity in your life. If you are prone to dark moods, feel depressed at times, feel guilty and ‘down’ Friday can become the day when all this stuff surfaces. You sort of allow yourself a ‘shadow day’ on Fridays–a day when you can actually face the darkness and, by God’s grace, deal with the troubles. If you do this, you’ll be surprised how this becomes a way to control the dark moods and troublesome worries of life. It’s like you are giving your psyche a day to enter the dark places and wrestle with the dragons there, and as a result the problems (since they are controlled) are far less worrisome.
Fifth, Friday becomes a day of introspection and reflection. In this crazy, busy world we can all use a bit more time for silence, looking within and reflecting on the mysteries of the faith. Friday can become a mini-retreat day each week. Instead of eating spend more time praying, reading the Scriptures and good spiritual books.
Sixth, fasting is physical. It reminds you that what you do with your body as spiritual consequences. If fasting helps spiritually then gluttony, illicit sexual gratification, laziness and drunkenness also have their spiritual payback.
Seventh: fasting one day a week is good for you. It helps check your weight gain. It helps clear toxins out of the system. It gives your body a rest from gorging on yet more food. It aids digestion and clears the system.
Eighth: You (or whoever cooks for you or with you) get a day off cooking, washing dishes etc.
Ninth: Not eating saves money.
Tenth: You’ll really enjoy your bacon and eggs on Saturday.