Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Days of Meat and No Meat

There's been a lot of talk lately, in the media, in the blogosphere, and in my real life, about eating less (or no) meat. I started down the road of thinking harder about the meat we eat when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and picked up speed with Real Food. For the past year we have been splitting a meat CSA share with Johnny Falschgedank (we miss your blog, Johnny!) and Umami Girl; starting in June my family is taking on the whole thing (which is good because NSLR, between the diabetes and the rapid growth, is constantly clamoring for more protein).

So one suggestion that's floating around a lot is Meatless Mondays. Now, I like alliteration as much as the next girl--I was named with alliteration in mind. And I get the concept that starting the week with a mindful practice can help us continue to be mindful as the week goes on. But I am also very capable of taking things personally, and this feels like a deliberate flouting to me, to wit: if you are a Catholic, or even a believing and practicing Christian, please consider meatless Fridays.

It is commonly believed that Vatican II did away with abstention from meat on Fridays, retaining this practice only during Lent. In truth, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence in November of 1966 which read, in part:

1. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified;

2. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday be freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ;

3. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence as binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations;

a. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became, especially in times of persecution and of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity in Christ and his Church.

b. We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.”

Obviously, if your sabbath begins on Friday night, that would be a terrible time to abstain from meat, and I would never suggest such a thing. But if the story of Christ's passion continues to hold any meaning for you at all, you might consider marrying that meaning to the meaning of your choice to abstain from meat. Amidst the noise and waste of life today, it behooves us to heap up meaning where we can.

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