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Why do Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays, but give the “thumbs-up” to eat fish?

And why Friday? Catholics from time immemorial seem to have set Friday apart for special penitential observance to suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. Hence the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday. For much of the Church’s history meat was singled out as a worthy sacrifice on account of its association with feasts and celebrations. In most ancient cultures meat was considered a delicacy and the “fatted calf” was not slaughtered unless there was something to celebrate and it didn't seem right to "celebrate" the death of Christ.

But why is fish not considered “meat”? According to the Church meat is considered to be from “land animals” and the Church abstinence only refers to "land animals" including birds. Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted. Fish in these cultures was not considered a “celebratory” meal and was more of a penance to eat. In our current culture meat is generally considered the cheaper option on the menu and no longer has the cultural connection to celebrations. This is why many people are confused about the regulations, especially those who love to eat fish and do not consider it a penance.

In the end, the Church’s intention is to encourage the faithful to offer up a sacrifice to God that comes from the heart and unites one’s suffering to that of Christ on the cross. Meat is given as the very basic penance, while the purpose of the regulation should always be kept in mind. For example, it does not necessarily give a person the license to eat a lobster dinner every Friday in Lent. The whole point is to make a sacrifice that draws a person closer to Christ, who out of love for us made the ultimate sacrifice a person can make.


I didn't think that was a thing any more?

Oddly enough, although my family isn't catholic is was always fish on Friday- I blame Elizabeth I!
It is. It was taken away in the US at some point and then brought back.
ah but such symbolism one can weave

Fish the christian symbol
Fish - Ichthys
I =Jesus
CH = Christ the anointed
TH = theos - God
Y = greek - son
S = savior

Fish = Jesus who at the Last Supper - gave his body for food

eat fish in memory of that

Catholics have always loved symbolism
This is true.
An oddity this year with the American church is that year Saint Patrick's Day falls on a Friday during Lent. The traditional way to celebrate it in the US is with corned beef and cabbage. Since that would be a problem with the holiday falling on a Lenten Friday we actually get dispensation for that Friday to eat the traditional Irish foods to celebrate.
Why not order in plenty of lobster!
In fact, many super-market chains and restaurants in recent years have conjured up plenty of new menus to suit Catholics and others who choose to fast during Lent.
Anyway, I give you all a special dispensation for St. Patrick's Day this year!
That isn't a terrible idea! :) In colonial times lobster was actually seen as a poor-man's food; people in New England would bury the remains so their neighbors wouldn't realize that they were eating such a terrible food! My how things have changed!

Most of the fast food places have a fish sandwich on the menu, so that's normally what I have for lunch on Friday's.

On the few times that the local bishop hasn't issued a dispensation when St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday, the local priests around here usually mention that along with their own statement saying that it's totally ok to celebrate with corned beef on that Friday.