The Big Question of Lent?

It’s lent. I wondered when it would happen and it happened on Friday. I was asked the big question of lent. Maybe you’ve been asked this question. Maybe you’ve asked it of yourself.

“Why do we not eat meat on Fridays.”

It seems like a very silly rule. If it is important, then why only on Fridays during lent?

I’ve come up with lots of good reasons over the years.

  1. It puts us in solidarity with most of the world’s population, who cannot eat meat anytime.
  2. It reminds us that meat is a luxury item.
  3. It strengthens our identity as Catholics.
  4. It simplifies our diet and deepens our appreciation of creation.
  5. It harkens back to the dietary laws in the Old Testament
  6. Friday is the day Jesus died and Fridays have been days of penance from the earliest days of the church, and still are.
  7. Those Friday fish fries are just so much fun.


But when my daughter asked me this question on Friday I had a new insight. It is an arbitrary rule. Maybe that’s the point. It is out of my control. I didn’t choose it. It is not a rule of my making. My other lenten penances are “mine.” I chose them. This one I did not. It’s like the weather. It just is what it is and I can choose to accept it joyfully, grumble about it, or even ignore it… but I can’t make it go away.

That made me think about all the things in life that I can’t control. How do I react to them? Maybe this rule about not eating meat on Fridays is teaching me, just a little, how to let go of my need to control, my need to be in control. Maybe its teaching me I’m not God.

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