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Faith/Spirituality Forum: eating fish and fridays

by Catherine Frakas 02 Aug 2001

eating fish and fridays QUESTION from Mark Bleasdale on August 31, 2002 Dear Br. Ignatius,
I know this is the wrong forum but the Church History forum is temporarily closed and you answered my previous comments on that forum.
Because you are a religious brother and a member of a religious order I acknowledge that your knowledge and understanding of the Faith far exceeds mine.
However, I think we must agree to disagree about the practise of abstinence. I always thought it a form of penance and I do not understand why the Church should ask us to refrain from meat but allow us to replace it with something else. That does not appear to me to be much of a penance. For example, I could quite happily eat a bar of chocolate instead of roast beef and to me it would not be a sacrifice.
I know that there must be a limit to the length of your answers in these forums so perhaps you could recommend some reading to aid my understanding. I am in the UK so perhaps you could recommend something that is not just available in the States.
Thank you!
Kind regards,
Mark Bleasdale.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on August 31, 2002 Dear Mark:
Actually this is the right forum. Your question is not about history but about Christian practice.
Before answering your question I do need to clear something up so that there are no misunderstandings. My enemies like to accuse me of things and thus to avoid the accusation of misrepresentation I need to make sure I clarify the issue of my status in the church.
You identify me as a Religious brother in a Religious Order. I need to make this more clear -- I am a lay consecrated brother in private vows in a defacto association of the faithful. That means that we are not officially recognized by the Church as yet.
Generally, it takes from 15-50 years or more, depending on the situation, to get officially recognized by the Church. We are in year nine -- so we have a ways to go before we can even begin to expect recognition.
All new communities start out as a defacto associations of the faithful and then work there way up the recognition ladder.
Secondly, our community will never be a Religious Institute. We are an experimental community trying to forge a brand new kind of Institute of Consecrated Life that is different that the traditional Religious Institute. Canon Law 605 allows for this kind of experiment.
Thirdly, in the meantime until we are in position and ready to pursue the process of recognition leading up to recognition as a brand new form of consecrated life under Canon 605, we operate as a defacto association of the faithful, under Canon 215, which does not require recognition. It is optional.
The difference between us and the traditionally recognized orders is like the difference between a carpenter and a union carpenter. We look the same, we do mostly the same job, we have just as much expertise to do the job but one is union and the other is not. That only means that as non-union carpenter there are some jobs we can't do because they require union membership.
Various other statues in canon law, and other information from the Vatican, affirm that we, as a non-union community are able to do the things we do such as wear habits, live a monastic life, recruit other people to live our charism, perform apostolates, etc. ANd we have asked certified Canon Lawyers to check to make sure we are doing things correctly. They say we are since the few things reserved to union communities we do not do and what we are doing is covered by permission from canon law provisions.
Other orders that did this sort of thing was St. Francis of Assisi. His community was not welcomed by the bishops at first because it was a brand new form of monastic life. Thing brand new tend to be looked upon with suspicion. God moved fast on this one though. St. Francis received recognition in only six years, I believe it was.
Another example is what today we call Secular Institutes. The organization of secular institutes began in the 16th century. It took 300 years (in the 1940's) for secular institutes to be officially recognized.
There is a community almost identical to ours that has finally received recognition after some 15 years -- John Michael Talbot's Brothers and Sisters of Charity. Another group similar to ours that recently received official recognition is Intercessors of the Lamb also after many years of waiting. We belong essentially to the same experiment as these two. Thus there is hope that experimental groups like ours can receive some level of recognition someday.
In the meantime, to avoid any more confusion than is necessary I just say I am a consecrated brother (instead of a Religious Brother) and that our order is a community or monastic community (instead of a Religious Order).
Forgive my indulgence to explain all this on your dime, but since you used those terms I thought this would be a good time to get it on the record a clarification. That way my enemies cannot accuse me of not explaining this.
ANYWAY, to your question.........
It appears that you are confusing abstinence and fasting. These are two completely different concepts.
In abstinence we are only avoiding a certain food as a sacrifice because we like that particular food item.
Abstinance is about WHAT we eat, not HOW MUCH we eat. It is a sacrifice of WHAT we eat, not HOW MUCH we eat.
This is no different that saying you will only eat red meat twice a week for health reasons. One abstains from red meat twice a week in this illustration, but does not avoid eating. Instead one eats a differnt entre'.
The Friday abstinance is to avoid meat, not avoid eating. The sacrifice is the not eating of meat not reducing the amount that you eat.
The reduction of the amount of food eaten is called fasting. If one normally eats 3 meals a day and decides to eat only 1 1/2 meals a day, he is FASTING.
Fasting is about HOW MUCH we eat, not WHAT we eat. It is a sacrifice of HOW MUCH we eat, not WHAT we eat.
A good way to remember this perhaps is to remember:
Abstinance = sacrificing by avoid a certain food item Fastin = sacrificing by reducing how much one eats
This is why you can eat something else on Days of Abstinance.
Now, if avoiding meat is not much of a sacrifice to you, then obey the Church law anyway and then on you own sacrifice another food item that would be a sacrifice to you.
For example, if you love fish and do not like meat... no problem. Avoid eating meat according to law, and then on your own avoid eating fish too. Eat Veggie that day. But still eat your normal amounts for a meal since this is NOT a fast.
Does this help?
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