Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Q & A: Are you holier than the Pope?

I write that title with a little chuckle under my breath. That's always been my mantra. Well, not
always, but for many years. If it's good enough for the pope, I say it's good enough for me. Anything, really. I can not be holier than the pope.

And it is with
much levity that I ask the question, "Are you holier than the pope?" because I recently made a discovery that makes me wonder if I have made that mistake.

For many years we have been a family of meatless Fridays. It was not long after we began homeschooling that I made the discovery that Catholics, according to the Code of Canon law, are still called to be meatless on
all Fridays, not just those that fall during the 40 days of Lent. It was quite a revelation when I made this discovery, especially since it is never a topic of a Sunday homily. Since that time, we have been meatless on Fridays, much to the irritability of my offspring, who like their meat.

We have friends who are priests who do not follow this practice and I always thought that was kind of funny. But, recently, when my second son went for a weekend visit at the Pontifical College
Josephinum, I discovered that the pope's own seminary does not follow the practice either (the Pontifical College Josephinum is the pope's only seminary in North America). When Josh came home from his weekend, I asked him what they ate on Friday, and he answered "burgers, pizza, chicken," typical dormitory fare.

Wow. No fish Friday at the seminary? Maybe I'm being a little too picky about it.

So, in the nature of Q & A (I ask, you answer), I ask (
again, with much levity, and absolutely no judgment) "Are you holier than the Pope?" In other words, "Do you eat meat on Friday?" For the time being, we are (eating meat), but the jury is still out.



Anne said...

We usually abstain from meat, but I was taught that all Catholics were still called to make a sacrifice every Friday, not necessarily giving up meat. I prefer abstaining from meat but we simply pick a different sacrifice if our circumstances make the meat-free too difficult.

Sara said...

I haven't read the official word, but dh tells me all the time that Fridays are still days of sacrifice. We are required to make some sort of sacrifice, but it doesn't necessarily have to be meat. However, I find that if we don't abstain from meat, no one manages to make any other sacrifice unless I force a rosary out of them!

Kimberly said...

You're absolutely correct in stating that abstinence from meat is no longer required...however, it is necessary that Catholics engage in some sacrificial action. Fridays that we don't abstain (we generally choose abstinence just because it's easy to remember!), we usually offer an extra rosary, and usually on the way to our favorite Chinese restaurant! Like I tell the children: sacrifice is a "heart" long as the Church permits us to choose our own Friday sacrifices, no one has the right to judge those who choose differently. Excellent for thought!

Esther G. said...

Barbara, since we are called to sacrifice on Fridays, we do abstain from meat. We do this as a way of making reparation for the sin of abortion (someone once suggested that). However, we do relax the set Friday no-meat rule on the day after Thanksgiving. I feel it would be more sinful to not eat a refrigerator full of turkey and to buy fish or seafood instead.
Interesting discussion.

Barb, sfo said...

I plan meatless meals on Fridays. But if we are visiting then we eat what the host serves.

For the record, my younger kids' Catholic school does not offer meatless meals on Fridays except during Lent. (Why they can't make Friday pizza day all year long, instead of Monday, is beyond me, if they can do it 6 weeks of the year). I don't know about the high school since Big Brother never buys the school lunch and they don't post the menu on the website.

I don't think my kids (or husband) have much noticed that I don't serve meat on Fridays. It just happens and that's how it is around here.

MAB said...

I try to cook meatless on most Fridays. I find it to take an effort on my part (as meal planner / shopper / cook) to make a meatless Friday. I'm not sure how much of a true sacrifice the rest of my family are making, since they just have to eat what I make for them :)

The Code of Canon Law does still call for abstaining on Fridays in the universal church. The US bishops asked for, and received, permission to substitute any act of penance I stead of abstaining. The idea was that the penance would be more meaningful if it was personally chosen. Something went awry in the implementation, and we wound up simply giving up the meatless Fridays without picking up the true purpose the bishops intended.

Just another point: solemnities are never days of penance. So if a solemnity falls on a Friday feel free to indulge. You can always pick another day that week to do penance (but I don't think that's even required).

Ellen said...

We abstain from meat on Fridays all year round. I suppose it has become a habit now. We should be more conscious of what we are doing and offer it for the Holy Father or for an end to abortion as Esther mentioned. It does take an effort to come up with good meals. In fact, we even went without fish last week. We had tabouli and home made matzo with falafel.

Thank you for bringing this up. I am trying to guide the family to be more thoughtful of their choices. This is just one situation where we can give God a small sacrifice that probably helps us be a bit more healthy anyway. Now if I can just get us to remember to say prayers AFTER meals! ;)

Jamie Jo said...

Great topic!

We heard this a couple years ago, that we should still abstain from meat on all Fridays, otherwise give up something else. I try to do the meatless thing, but my hubby would rather eat meat and give up something else. My question then, is, do we remember to give something else up? (probably not)


J.C. said...

No, I don't think you're being too picky. First, I wouldn't judge the Pope's personal actions based on the actions of his seminary. There is a lot of Church bureaucracy between Benedict XVI and the hot meals in a cafeteria! My bet is that the Pope does not eat meat on Fridays, as a general rule. Plus, as Catholics, we are not necessarily called to look upon the Pope as our primary source of individual moral actions. The official moral and legal teachings of the Church which he upholds and promulgates in his capacity as the Vicar of Christ?.. yes! After all, we had some popes who had children out of wedlock! Do as they say (or the Code of Canon Law says!), not as they do. But, finally, as Catholics, can we, should we, strive to be holier than the Pope? It is a loaded question, but I think an accurate answer is, yes.

Kathy said...

I would have to say that because the Pontifical College is located in North America, that may have something to do with the non-meatless Fridays. I was reading on another blog, the requirements for fasting and abstinence. They had listed that abstinence was required "on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent".

I'm beginning to think that this is a decision of the USCCB to allow meat on the other Fridays of the year. I plan to start meatless Fridays in our house now that I've read the Code of Canon Law from the link you provided. Thank you for linking to the Code of Canon Law. That was helpful and informative.

Kate said...

I think it's funny that people ask that question. Aren't you familiar with Church history? Of course you can be holier than the pope. We've had some pretty mediocre to rotten ones. St. Catherine of Siena was definitely holier than Gregory XI. I'd say St. Dominic and St. Francis were holier than Innocent III. You can be holier than the pope because Christ asks us to be holy as the heavenly father is holy.

scmom (Barbara) said...

Kate, Maybe I'm crazy, but I do think Pope Benedict XVI is far from some of the fairly corrupt popes we've had in the history of the Church. Though I do see your point. I suppose because I feel he is very holy -- holier than any other person I can think of on earth today, I would strive to be as holy as he.

Faith said...

This is very timely for me. I used to try to be meatless every Friday but then it felt funny because Lent didn't feel any different than any other season. Meatless Fridays are a huge sacrifice for my kids (pathetically, I must say!) but they got much more out of it during Lent because it would be part of doing other Lenten things, like Stations, etc.

So then I would ask them what other sacrifice they'd like to make and it usually wound up being TV/Computer which is very hard for us too. But I have completely gotten away from any sacrifice lately. Just being lazy, I guess. But yesterday, for some reason I started thinking about this. So I was going to announce to my kids that we are going to give up screen for Fridays.

I enjoyed your post.