March 28, 2003

Fish or Meat?

Among Catholics there’s a tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Many of them don’t know the meaning of this tradition

By: Pablo De Sainz

Like many Catholics in San Diego, Edith Barajas, 36, doesn’t eat red meats on Fridays during Lent.

“I abstain from eating meat those days because I believe it is a way to meet with God,” said Barajas, who’s a Mexican living in San Diego. “Since I was a child my family has thought me this, and I try to follow the practice”.

Lent is a special season for all Christians, including Catholics. This is considered to be a time of penitence between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, and the different forms of Christianity celebrate it in different ways.

One of the most popular and controversial among Catholics, is the act of abstaining from eating red meats, such as beef and pork, every Friday during Lent.

For the Catholic Church, this practice is a way in which Catholics can prove that they’re sorry for their sins, said Bernadeane Carr, speaker for the Diocese of San Diego.

“Fasting is found in the Old and New Testaments as a form of repentance,” she said. “The Church invites to penitence during Lent by not eating meat on Fridays.”

Rodrigio Valdivia, chancellor for the Diocese of San Diego, sad that this practice “is a traditional act that the Church uses so that Catholics remember the need to give God a place.”

But among young Catholics, fasting on Fridays during Lent, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Friday, is taking a less important role.

“That’s a tradition that our parents used to make us follow, but many times they don’t even know the meaning of it,” said Alonso Frías, 25, of San Diego.

Valdivia said that the reason why many Catholics don’t know the significance of fasting on Fridays during Lent is because “a lack of doctrina-tion. It’s not the people’s fault. The Church hasn’t informed people well enough about the real meaning of this.”

Frías doesn’t agree with this tradition.

“I don’t think that not eating meat on Fridays will make me a better Catholic. It all depends on you, on feeling good about yourself and with God,” he said.

But the new generations of Catholics are not the only ones who question the purpose of acts associated with Lent in the Catholic Church.

Other Christian denominations also criticize the Church and they argue that Catholics forget about what’s written on the Bible.

For example, Hector Espinosa, an evangelist from Chula Vista, said that he doesn’t agree with the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, but he also said he doesn’t criticize Catholics.

“Nowhere on the Bible does it say not to eat meat on Fridays,” Espinosa said. “Many catholics only do it as tradition. I don’t think they’re wrong. I respect their traditions.”

Also, Espinosa thinks this act of fasting has become very comercialized, and food companies now use it as a marketing tool to sell more fish during Lent.

María Pelayo, Jehova’s Witness who distributes magazines such as “The Watchtower” and “Awaken!” at trolley stations, said that Jehova’s Witnesses don’t follow the same traditions as Catholics. She said her church focuses more on Bible studies and prayer.

Frías, the young Catholic who’s against fasting on Fridays, said that Catholics pay too much attention to external matters than to internal ones.

“In my house they’re always telling me not to eat meat on Fridays, but they never tell me to pray or to talk to God,” he said. “During Holy Week we go to beach and have fun. In my house we rarely go to Mass during Lent.”

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