Why Do Catholics have Fish Fries?

This isn’t a post which explains why Catholics have Fish Fries. This is a post about my questioning why we have Fish Fries.

It has taken me 20 years of Lents to finally realize the oxymoronic nature of Fish Fries during Lent. But today I was just spending time reflecting and this popped into my head…. actually no wait, I pondered this after a 4 year old asked me why I was eating meat today because she couldn’t piece together why I couldn’t have meat on Friday but was perfectly good with eating a chicken salad wrap on a Monday.

If Fridays in Lent are to be days of abstinence why do we then have these indulgent Fish Fry meals available in 100s of churches in the diocese? I can see why local restaurants want to capitalize on this — it’s good for business. But why do churches get involved? It left me feeling very confused.

Have I misunderstood Lenten Fridays this whole time?? I was very concerned that I was way off in my understanding of why I pratice what I practice. (Leave it to a 4 year old to challenge me so pointedly on my faith! By the time Nora is done asking all of her questions I will know my faith better than ever!)

So I spent the day questioning myself, my understandings, and found myself being very curious about this whole Fish Fry Fridays situation.

The USCCB has the following: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

Q.  I’ve noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent.  Some of my Catholic friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow I don’t feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent.

A.  While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point.  Abstaining from meat and other indulgences during Lent is a penitential practice.  On the Fridays of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and unite ourselves with that sacrifice through abstinence and prayer.

So they outline this so clearly as though all you are only worried about businesses trying to co-opt your faithfulness — while completely ignorning that churches are basically doing the exact same thing. I assume churches do this as a good fundraiser – so in that I cannot really fault a church for trying to offset operating costs. But now that I was forced into this realization it all just feels wrong.

It makes me somewhat happy that I have been too lazy to call and place a Fish Fry pick-up order this Lent (because long gone are the days I willingly torture myself by attending one in person… 5 years in a row of bad fish fry experiences really put a damper on my excitement for mac-n-cheese and pierogies and a salad and a side and a drink and a roll and a dessert …though the $1 desserts really come close to getting me to attend in person).

If I do attend a Fish Fry do I just say some extra prayers to offset the indulgent nature of the meal? (I ask facetiously) At the end of it all I have technically abstained from meat, but the point was sacrifice, right? I did not make a sacrifice –beyond substituting one yummy food for another …and I have now eaten way more than I typically would eat for dinner.

So this all just leaves me feeling ambigious about Fish Fries… Are they okay? Say I enjoyed them, should I avoid them? What is the most proper way to observe the Fridays of Lent?

Faith is grown through contemplation, exploration, and seeking knowledge of the Truth. At least I could maybe feel better that perhaps I am growing in my faith? But at this moment I am just frustrated by the unquestioned existence of Fish Fries.


…If you would like to help me grow in faith, please explain to me why Fish Fries are perfectly fine. I would sincerely appreciate it…


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