Reintroiducing meat-free Fridays would help Christian spirituality and the environment according to a monk and a professor.
The Friday Fast was changed in 1983 after a decree from the Irish bishops which stated Catholics could fulfil Friday Penance by abstaining from alcohol, smoking, meat or some food, by making a special effort at family prayer or participating in Mass and more. However Prof. Stephen Bullivant from St Mary’s University in London told The Irish Catholic that this has led to Friday becoming “just another day”.
The bishops of Wales and England reintroduced the Friday Fast – the abstinence of just meat – eight years ago next month. “The rationale for getting rid of Friday fasting was that it’s not the only thing you can do, and people were doing it mindlessly and not really fully embracing the meaning of it,” said Prof. Bullivant.
“You either do something because that’s what you do, or you don’t do it, as it’s turned out Friday has just become another day especially in the denuded Catholic culture that we live in now, less so in Ireland – but it’s going in a certain direction.”
The effectiveness in its reintroduction is still in question, in terms of the amount of people who have taken it back up which Prof. Bullivant described as “patchy”.
“I suspect that for those who were already committed and quite closely embedded into the Church it has had quite a good effect, it precisely doing what it sets out to do in embedding Catholicism into everyday practice,” he said.
Prof Bullivant said that it’s positive especially for children, who can be informed about the practice and its significance for Christians. Catholic schools can also become involved by providing meat free meals on Friday, becoming more “intentionally Catholic” he said.
Bro. Anthony Keane OSB of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick said that fasting can have benefits both for spirituality and the environment, and welcomed the idea of bringing back the Friday Fast.
He said: “There’s a joy in eating lightly sometimes. Imposing a fast by rule or by pre-planning can be a little difficult, if it is to be fulfilled wearisomely it’s not good.
Quoting English poet John Milton he said: “‘Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet’ suggests a fast has elements of a feast, that you’re living within the joys of the spirit and joys of all creation without necessarily having to recharge your batteries every minute, you’re running on the spirit alone.”
“You are finding a harmony and a balance within oneself and within the world, and really we are part of the environment so it’s nice to enjoy the balance and the sustainability of the environment within oneself.”
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