Second Week of Lent

Abstinence from Meat and Spiritual Warfare

Why meat? Why Friday? And why can we eat fish?

Because Jesus sacrificed his Body on the Cross on Good Friday. When Jesus died on the Cross, he defeated sin, death, and the Devil once and for all. We commemorate this all-important sacrifice, the ultimate act of spiritual warfare, by abstaining from eating meat from the bodies of animals on Friday.

In addition, meat is typically more expensive and luxurious than other foods, making giving it up a fitting penance. There's also a symbolic reason: the flesh of warm-blooded animals bleeds in a way that is similar to Christ's human flesh, so we are reminded of his Precious Blood when we abstain from eating meat.

Fish, which does not bleed in this way, is not forbidden. Fish was historically the food of the poor, and the Church didn't want to penalize them. Also, the fish is a symbol of Christ. The Greek word for fish, "ICHTHYS," was used as an acronym for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." We recall Christ's salvific sacrifice when we eat fish on Fridays and abstain from warm-blooded meats.
All Catholics age 14 and older are required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. We are also required to abstain (and fast) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (continuing until the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, if possible).

Incidentally, all Catholics are also required to do some kind of penance on Fridays throughout the year. Abstaining from meat is the most traditional and obvious choice, but in the U.S. we are permitted to substitute some other penance if we choose.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.