Friday is to Sunday what Lent is to Easter.
The Church has always celebrated each and every Sunday as a mini-Easter. In harmony with that, Fridays are meant to be days of penance as a reminder of the Passion which Jesus suffered for us on Good Friday.
The first and most important practice for Friday penance is that of abstaining from meat. While this is no longer obligatory outside of Lent, the U.S. bishops have nonetheless strongly recommended it, and stated that another act of piety or penance should be done in its place if we are unable to do the meat fast.
From the first century, the day of the crucifixion has been traditionally observed as a day of abstaining from flesh meat…to honor Christ who sacrificed his flesh on a Friday.
—Catholic Source Book by Rev. Peter Klein
Furthermore, when the no-meat tradition first began, it appears that meat was special, a real treat, even celebratory—the Scriptures speak of “slaughtering the fattened calf” for a feast or celebration. Giving up meat was an important reminder that Christ suffered His Passion and death for us on a Friday. It was a way of loving and thanking Him, with this small gift of abstaining from something special.
Today, of course, meat isn’t a rare commodity. It is easy to get, in many forms, and is sometimes even passed up for something more fancy, such as a fish delicacy.
This does not, however, mean that abstaining from meat on Fridays is pointless or not as helpful in our spiritual lives. The spirit of abstinence, the reason for a sacrifice on that day, remains just as important.
Most people still love meat, and the time and effort it takes to give up easy access to a quick meal (and the intention it takes to select a meatless one) is one more reason why it’s a solid sacrifice.
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