A Distant Taste of Fish

When I was younger there was a very tough religious regimen within the Catholic Church. 

The season of Lent today, the runup to Easter Sunday, is simply not as demanding as it used to be. Fasting and abstention were very much part of our religious upbringing then. I still know someone who gives up ALL alcohol for Lent. 

No meat on Friday

Cruel and unusual if you ask me, but in school we were expected to give up some things during this holy season. I am not sure who came up with that, but I suspect it was not God. 

It sounds more like the Sisters from the Mercy or Presentation’s orders, or maybe the Jesuits.

With fasting and the like, the notion of no meat of any kind on Fridays was just lifestyle to us. Every Friday I was sent down to “the cove” off Water Street down by the Murray Premises to get a 50-cent fish from Mr. Boulos the fish monger.  He worked off a barrow made of two planks and a couple of sawhorses. Fresh??? The fish was caught that morning. 

Now there is a legend that I heard in school that the “No meat on Fridays rule” within the Catholic Church came from a Pope in Rome who wanted to help the fishermen of the Tiber River market their catch. 

Upon further review, as they say in football, that appears NOT to be the case. The villain of the piece, if that is the right word, turns out to be Saint Thomas Aquinas. 

Forty days & forty nights

According to Saint Thomas, Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. So, it is now that we can honour him with a small sacrifice of denial. 

Aquinas, in part two of his Summa Theologica, links the eating of animal flesh to pleasures of touch. Nudge nudge; wink wink. Saint Thomas Aquinas was talking about food and sex. Thus, Lent became a period of restraint and sacrifice and not much fun really. 

‘Fast days’

Somewhere along the way in my youth things eased up. We used to have to “fast” totally, except for water, from midnight the night before Mass to receive Holy Communion. That means  to 10:30 in the morning 

Mass at St. Patrick’s you would have had nothing other than water from the night before. Now the fast is just an hour long, I think. More importantly, the rules also eased up on Fridays on meat being banned from the menu. 

That was reduced from no meat on every Friday to just a couple of  “fast days” during the year, with Good Friday being the main event so to speak. 

So, fish it will be again for me on Good Friday. I wouldn’t want a steak to lead me down the path to being “naughty.” 

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