Attention, carnivores: one last Friday splurge

Attention, carnivores: one last Friday splurge March 4, 2011

I had a hamburger for lunch.  Next Friday:

Catholics are getting ready for Lent — and so are purveyors of fish:

Aw Shucks & Big Shucks restaurants, for example, will serve grilled tilapia with rice and veggies for $8.95 on Fridays during Lent. That’s two $2 off the regular price, which, ahem, would fit nicely in the collection plate on Sunday, perhaps. And Taco Cabana restaurants sent around a press release last week announcing that through mid-April the chain will bring back its “fan favorite” shrimp Tampico, “just in time for the Lenten season.”

Yes, in a miracle of modern marketing, even a period penance, prayer and sacrifice can be turned into an opportunity to make a buck. (To be fair, Taco Cabana is based in heavily Catholic San Antonio, and anyone who has ever tried to get a lunch table at a fish restaurant in there on a Lenten Friday can appreciate the chain’s P.R. savvy.)

Even in Dallas, whose diocese is home to 1.2 million Catholics, Lent is a boom time for fish sellers. Jon Alexis, owner of T.J.’s Fresh Seafood Market, estimates his Friday sales rise about 10 percent during Lent. (It doesn’t hurt that his market is not far from Jesuit Prep and the shop is a school booster.)

“It’s huge. It’s great,” Alexis says. “I wish every religion commanded people to eat fish.”

Fish fries will start blooming in some parishes, too:

Roughly half the parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will start Lenten fish fries next week, continuing every Friday through April 22nd.

William Hill, communications consultant to the Diocese and a chronicler of the tradition, said at least 96 parishes will be serving fried fish sandwiches and other seafood suppers throughout Lent, which begins March 9th with Ash Wednesday.

It’s a combination social event and revenue-raiser, though data is not collected on how much the fish fries generate.

“As far as I know, it is (a revenue-generator),” Hill said. “The three or so parishes that do it year round obviously make some money from it. The rest of them sell on Fridays and Ash Wednesday.”

The annual record for combined fish consumption was 2006 when the participating parishes went through 205,000 pounds during the nearly two-month season. For an individual parish, Hill said Holy Angel, Hays, sold 14,000 pounds of fish during Lent 2009.

Truth be told, fish fries aren’t that big in Brooklyn.  But what are they doing in your neck of the woods?

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21 responses to “Attention, carnivores: one last Friday splurge”

  1. As per the direction of the USCCB post-VII, the normative way of observing Friday as a penitential day is abstaining from the meat of warm-blooded animals, not just on the Fridays of Lent, but all Fridays, unless superceded by a solemnity or major feast. Of course, we are only required “on pain of sin” during Lent.

  2. And when was the last time anyone heard THAT mentioned in the pulpit (or even in the parish bulletin?)

  3. I’m glad that restaurateurs are acknowledging the practice of Catholics and making it easier for them to follow the law of the Church during Lent.

    Dcn Scott’s point is definitely not widely known. A visiting priest got an argument after Mass from a good woman when he had told us in his homily that Fridays are still days of penance all year long, and that the change in law merely allows us — outside of Lent — to substitute another form of penance for abstaining from meat.

    Even so, when I go to a restaurant for dinner on non-Lenten Fridays, I’ll have meat most of the time.

    I’m told that in pre- Vatican II days there were Jesuits from Fordham who used to delight in going to a fine restaurant in the area and ordering chicken in order to demonstrate that the law forbade eating the flesh of four-footed animals, which meant fowl were legal.

    When I was at Georgetown in the early ’60’s it struck me as ironic that the cafeteria would serve the most delicious meatless things they could come up with during Lent — kinda defeats the penitential aspect, I thought. But I suppose people still aren’t getting their steaks and hamburgers. Along with the cheese omelets and other tasty stuff, I’d have the beets or the spinach, which I didn’t like, so there’d be some genuine penance.

  4. In our neck of the woods (Des Moines IA) almost every parish has a fish fry. Our parish celebrates Mass followed by the Stations of the Cross, and then the fish fry/bake put on by the KOC. They have pizza for the children.

  5. Penance and all other forms of acknowledgement should come from a true desire and not simply because we are told to. Why should Friday be the only day on which we acknowledge our deep regret for sin? It seems to me that humility dictates to all of us that we be repentant and penitential in all times. There are times when the legalism of the Church actually inhibits worship and communion with God

  6. Katie:

    The bishops agree with you. You should read before you criticize. Their guidance takes aim at exactly the kind of legalism you are writing about.

  7. Katie: that is the idea. The Church however provides laws such as the law to fast and abstain on certain days for miserable sinners like me who greatly, greatly benefit from the motivation. I don’t know if I would ever choose to fast or do penance on my own if it were not for the minimal laws which have helped me to understand its value!

    Anyway, though little known, the laws about abstaining on all Fridays (or substituting outside of Lent) are still there. Others can claim ignorance, I cannot because I know better.

    So I have given up meat for all Fridays of the year. On Fridays in Lent I’m not sure what to do. Last year I avoided dairy/eggs. This year I may try to fast on bread and water — but I don’t want to overdo it and anyone reading should be careful for their health before taking on something too rigorous.

  8. Friday should not be the only day of acknowledging our sorrow for sin. We do this in community at every Mass during the Introductory Rites and at Night Prayer daily. And as individuals we can be penitent any time. However, the tradition of emphasizing penitence on Fridays is because Our Lord, Jesus Christ died for our sins on a Friday.

  9. My father was a Protestant before he and my mother were engaged to be married. When he was preparing to become a Catholic, he was eager to know about eating fish. Dad loves fish.

    This did not sit well with the priest, who tried to make the point that this should be a sacrifice. There may be something to that; if we have a lovely fish dinner, are we really giving something up?

    But Dad would eat fish every day if he could. 🙂

  10. From as early as I can remember — until Vatican II (when I was in college) — we had one standard Friday night menu as I was growing up: salmon patties (made from canned salmon); Kraft Dinner Macaroni and Cheese; and Broccoli. No exception! Trust me! That WAS a penitential supper considering what some of my more affluent Catholic riends had on Friday Nights!

    My wife, who was raised near Lake Erie, confesses to having fried beer-battered Lake-Erie walleye or even grilled lobster tails on a regular basis during Lent (the latter provided by a very affluent Reform-Jewish family who she baby-sat for as they went to Sabbath Services.)

    Our menu next week? Ash Wednesday is Tuna Helper and that Friday may well be salmon patties, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and broccoli!

  11. TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE! (at least when I’m at my parents 🙂 )

    Given the choice, I would RARELY choose fish so even though my dads TNC is delish – so we’ll probably have it 90% of the Fridays between now and Easter.

  12. @Deak Pete:

    If God didn’t want us to eat meat, why did He create us with canine teeth? 😉

  13. Our Knights of Columbus council, in “celebration” of our newly renovated kitchen/hall, will be starting Fish Fry’s this Lent. With the relative “smallness” of the hall, we’re hoping enough people opt for the take-out choice.

    PGK Jim

  14. We Eastern Catholics ease into Great Lent. At Meatfare last Sunday we ate the last meat we’ll have. This Sunday for Cheesefare Sunday we’ll clear out the butter, eggs, etc. from our kitchens. I’m making tiropitas for this Sunday’s agape meal. 🙂

    Two favorite quotes I read this week:
    Fr. Alexander Schmemann “…the purpose of Lent is not to force upon us a few formal obligations, but to “soften” our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, experience the hidden “thirst and hunger” for communion with God.”
    HH Pope Benedict XVI: “…fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God.”

    We sing “Let us begin the fast with joy! Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts!…” The fast isn’t something God needs, it’s something we need to find our way back again to Him, as the prodigal sons that we are.

    Fasting (more accurately abstinence and some fasting) has changed my life in wonderful and challenging ways. It has really changed my relationship to Holy Eucharist!

    The 10 minute video interview Catherine Alexander has on Youtube with Father Moses of Holy Resurrection Romanian Catholic Monastery about Fasting in the Byzantine Church Year with Fr. Moses of Holy Resurrection Monastery, and the wikipedia section on Eastern Fasting are both good resources about how “the other lung” of the Church approaches with joy this great season and its fast. 🙂

  15. It wasn’t until a few years ago while watching EWTN during the right time (or wrong depending on how one looks at it), that I saw one of those mini commercial blurps about how Friday is STILL a penential day.

    Funny thing, I wasn’t even a big meat eater, but made the decision from that day on, that I was going to fast from meat every Friday (in trying to think of other petential acts, going meatless made the most sense to me. Needless to say, I crave meat like crazy on Fridays! Of course, for people who don’t even like meat, that wouldn’t be “penetential”, but for me, it is penential so I keep all Fridays meatless.

    Sometimes I try to go meatless on Wed’s too, but usually my human weakness wins over. I truly find going meatless a real penance, even if it’s just the little bit of pork in my hot and sour soup.

  16. The thing is, I have meatless throughout the year. I hear that in pagan Europe they are trying to flog meatless Thursdays for environmental reasons. I, in turn, note that they are avoiding meatless Wednesdays and Fridays just in case they might be misunderstood as being Christian!

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