Fishy Friday

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.
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  • Anonymous

    This of course brings up the ever-debated-question: are U.S. Catholics still REQUIRED to abstain or fast on Fridays? If so, what if anything replaces a meatless fast?Jimmy Akin contends that Catholics are not obliged to do anything:'s a canon lawyer when you need one?

  • An excellent post! I must add it to my favorites…

  • Why not? It will lead to spiritual pride, for one.I agree with the “old school” opinion that fasting, as with any other ascetic discipline should only be undertaken when under the influence of a competent and holy Spiritual Director.Self-appointed penance is an easy way to sin through pride.

  • Flambeaux, there is always the possibility that one’s spiritual pride is the result of saying, “Of course, I don’t engage in any kind of self appointed asceticism without a spiritual director!” I wouldn’t presume to do so.Subtext being, “I’m obviously better than those spiritually proud people who fast…What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

  • benfan

    You know I was just thinking about doing a little fast. Not with a spiritual director, just myself. I eat fish on Fridays anyway. This topic is really helpful to get started.Thanks Fr.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post, Father! Your brother’s story is a hoot, and I know it’s true cuz I grew up in PA; except that “Catholic” would be pronounced “Cat-lic”–just trying to round you out since you got the dialect so well otherwise. Blessings! Jenny

  • My wife and I usually do Mondays, for whatever reason. Being Protestants, I guess we make it up however we want…

  • SF

    Wonderful post. This one goes to the printer and out to the family….thank you Father.

  • “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.”Very good advice, I will do this next Friday–Thanks Good post.

  • In Mathew, just before Christ taught us the Our Father, he tells us how to fast, give alms, and pray. In the CCC, #1969 these are referred to as the acts of religion, and we are told that the “New Law” involves their practice.In CCC #1438 we are told that “Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord” are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice, and are particularly appropriate for signs of penance such as “fasting and almsgiving.”While many today want a religion without sacrifice, it is an important part of our faith. I for one, can use all the reminding I can get – thanks, Father.

  • I fast from my Thursday evening meal to 6:00 PM on Friday and abstain from meat. I’ve considered adding another fast (bread and water) on Wednesday but haven’t stretched myself there yet.

  • Thanks for the “nudge” Father! I will be entering the Church this Easter and have been thinking a lot about adding a bit more fasting to my Fishy Fridays. I’m going to start this Friday! I’m glad you listed ALL the benefits because I was concerned that my fasting might encompass a loss of weight (which I need!) and that since this would be a benefit to me “physically”, it might not be considereded a penitential practice. Thanks for helping me understand this better. This post will definitely go on my bathrooom mirror! (that’s where I put things I want to remember. (-:)