Lenten Reader Roundup

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgical Year

As I ‘spected, yesterday’s post on Lent Resources put the cat among the pigeons.

I can’t respond to everyone without writing a monster post, but here are a few thoughts:

First, I appreciate the sentiment folks have of wanting to go beyond the law in terms of what is required for Lent. That’s good and meritorious. My job here, though, is to explain what the law currently requires, not what it used to say or what it ought to say.

Second, I also appreciate folks’ attachment to the 40 day idea. As I acknowledged, Lent at one time may have been forty days long. It also may have once excluded Sundays. That’s just not what the current regs say.

READER A writes:

Without getting too technical, what part of the mammal counts as
"meat" – flesh/muscle only? Would liver count (talk about penance)?

I haven’t gone to look this up, but I’m sure that the standard moralists would say that organs (liver, heart, tongue) do count as meat.

READER B writes:

Does the details regarding the Ash Weds/Good Friday fast differ
around the world? In other words do Nationial Conferences of Bishops
change anything regarding this? In particular: what is the law in

Yes, the national conference does have a role in setting local requrements. Unfortunately, I don’t have any info on the regs in Poland.

READER C writes:

I think you are mistaken about gravies and sauces (and broths, etc.)
made with meat, at least according to traditional moral theology. These
do fall under the rules of abstinence.

It depends on what you mean by "traditional." (It’s also not moral theology but canon law.) If you mean matters as they were under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, you’d be right, as Canon 1250 prohibited the eating of "soups made from meat." However, in 1966 when this norm was revised in the apostolic constitution Paenitemini, the reference to soups was dropped. The way the law reads now, not only broths but regular soup with meat is allowed. (NOTE: I am not saying that I approve of this. As always, my explaining the law means that I’m explaining the law, not that I’m giving my opinion about what the law should be.)

As far as gravies and sauces, these are condiments and are expressly permitted by Paenitemini. They are made principally from animal fat but may have some blood or meat elements mixed in in small quantities. Thus Henry Davis, SJ, notes in his Moral & Pastoral Theology (1938):

By condiment is meant that which is taken–whether liquid or solid–in a small quantity with food to make it more palatable. Butter made from animal fats, and margarine from palm kernel are allowed. Jellies also which are made from fish or animal bones are not meat. Lard, the rendered fat of hog, and dripping, the grease that has dripped from roasted meat [i.e., the principal ingredient of gravy, together with flour], may be taken, as condiments [II:435-436].

The change allowing soups made with meat also has collateral impact on how many meat tracings can be present in gravies and other sauces.

READER C continues:

Also, it’s worthwhile to point out that while fasting, meat can only be taken at the main meal and not at the collations.

This is not a requirement of the law. It may be a practice that some follow, but it is not in the law. (Also, as the two mandatory days of fasting are also days of abstinence, it wouldn’t apply then anyway.)

I’d like to see a citation for the claim about dolphin, too. My
understanding is that the "dividing line" (so to speak) is between
warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals, so that mammals and birds are
off-limits but alligators, turtles, and frogs (etc.) are fine.

Some people do use the warm-blooded/cold-blooded distinction, but this is seen as applicable to land animals. Aquatic mammals are commonly lumped under "fish"–even if they aren’t very fish-like.

The dolphin remark was thrown in as a semi-jest since dolphin meat is unavailable in the U.S. (to most folks). But it is permitted under the understanding of older moralists, who mention other water-dwelling mammals (even ones much less fish-like!) as permitted.  More from Davis:

What precisely is an animal, within the meaning of the law, cannot be completely determined. We need not take scientific definitions, but may have recourse to the common usage of the term. In case of doubt, the rule laid down by S. Thomas may well be taken, namely, that by the term are meant animals that are born on land and breathe [ST II-II:147:8]. S. Thomas meant, we believe, animals that are born, live, and mature on land. In the case of amphibians, their similarity to land animals must decide. In case of doubt the law does not bind.

Under fish are included frogs, snails, tortises, oysters, lobsters, otters, beavers, crabs [II:436].

READER D writes:

When did we stop including the Triduum, thus reducing Lent to 37?!?
Who’s brilliant idea was that? If the answer is Vatican II, I might

Don’t scream. It wasn’t Vatican II. Folks have a tendency to blame the Council for things that actually happened afterward. I don’t have the prior norms for the liturgical year, so I can’t verify that Triduum was part of Lent, but assuming it was, the change would have been made with the release for the new general norms for the calendar in 1969.

READER E writes:

I find it very hard to believe that it’s okay to eat a veggie-burger
during a Lenten Friday. Sure, it may not be technically meat, but it’s
a good enough approximation to it, and the whole point of this Lenten
abstinence is to deny ourselves the very taste of meat, not necessarily
to keep meat-substances out of our body.

As a matter of praxis, I agree with you: It violates the spirit of the day to eat faux meats (though the law permits it). On the other hand . . . you haven’t eaten many veggie-burgers, have you? (The ones I’ve had are only patty-shaped blobs of non-meat-approximating stuff.)

READER F writes:

Ya see, I am planning a very self-denying lent. I am going on a
juice/liquid fast. So I was kinda glad to hear about the boullion/broth
just in case the carrot and spinach juice doesn’t sit right with me.

Boullion/broth is indeed okay (as noted above), but be careful if you’re going to do a liquid fast for more than a day or so. Talk to your spiritual director and doctor about what is needed to do such things safely if you intend to do it for any appreciable time!

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Ken Crawford February 9, 2005 at 12:45 pm

Amen on the Veggi Burger Jimmy! Personally, I would consider eating a Veggi Burger a double douse of Penance. Those things are disgusting (in my taste) and a pour excuse for a burger.
I’ll just stick with my carrot sticks.

Gene Branaman February 9, 2005 at 1:08 pm

Otters & beavers? Ew. Hmm . . . maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty adverse to eating anything with an opposable thumb.

John Lilburne February 10, 2005 at 2:54 pm

Vatican documents teach that Lent has 40 days of penance.
For example the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 540 “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.”
Forty days is also prominent in the 17 December 2001 document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments entitled Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:
“124. Lent precedes and prepares for Easter. It is a time to hear the Word of God, to convert, to prepare for and remember Baptism, to be reconciled with God and one’s neighbour, and of more frequent recourse to the “arms of Christian penance”(134): prayer, fasting and good works (cf. Mt 6, 1-6. 16-18).
“Popular piety does not easily perceive the mystical aspect of Lent and does not emphasize any of its great themes or values, such a relationship between “the sacrament of forty days” and “the sacraments of Christian initiation”, nor the mystery of the “exodus” which is always present in the lenten journey. Popular piety concentrates on the mysteries of Christ’s humanity, and during Lent the faithful pay close attention to the Passion and Death of Our Lord.
“125. In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes which are used in the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday. …”
The full document is at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html

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