Instead of indulging on everything I plan to abstain from over the next 40 days, I’ll be spending the rest of today praying for the Holy Spirit to help guide me through what is always a challenging yet very rewarding time of year: Lent. I hope you’ll do the same.
As you already know, we Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, even though we used to not eat meat on Fridays year-round.
There was some discussion by Cardinal Dolan at a USCCB meeting in November about reinstituting that tradition, but there hasn’t been much movement on it since then.
I actually think approving such a measure would be a great idea, as it would inculcate a habit of fasting on a regular basis; however, I have a hunch I wouldn’t be the only person glad about that becoming a reality.
I imagine executives at McDonald’s would be fairly pleased as well.
Why? Because their Filet-O-Fish sandwich – which was created in the early 60s by a franchise owner seeking to cater to the eating habits of his Catholic customer base – is one of their best selling sandwiches during the Lenten season.
Now, I’m not here to bash McDonald’s, but I do think it’s important to understand what fast food actually is.
Fast food is food built for the modern lifestyle. It’s food for on the go. And it’s food made to be eaten right away. Yes, most of it can be stored and eaten at a later date, but fast food is meant for immediate gratification, typically for when you’re on the road. Alone.
Furthermore, almost all of it is bad for you. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that consuming 32 ounces of pop, eating a quarter pound burger with cheese and having an extra large order of fries for dinner every day will severely harm your body. On this basis alone we should eat it but once a month, if at all.
The caustic effects of fast food, however, should remind us that just because we may be physically fit, doesn’t necessarily mean we are living healthy lives. We have to stay in spiritual shape as well, especially if we are going to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Other than going to confession on a regular basis, one way to stay in spiritual shape is to slow down every once in a while and deny ourselves the conveniences of modern life – things like the internet, television, snow blowers and microwaves.
In that vein, I urge you to abstain from these conveniences this Lenten season. If you have the time, go shovel your driveway instead of using a snow blower. It’s great exercise. Trust me! If you received a book for Christmas and still haven’t read it, turn off the television set and open it up. Most of what appears on TV is terrible anyway. And if you get the urge for a deep fried, tartar sauce-smothered Filet-O-Fish sandwich from McDonald’s on your way back from work, resist your craving and when you get home seek out the help of your family to prepare a meal together. Unplug your microwave and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with cooking and sharing food with people you love. It might take longer, but it’s worth it.
If you don’t have time to do that, you can always bring your family to your parish’s Friday evening fish fry. Our relationship with God is strengthened when we take time to grow in communion with members of His church. We should strive to make that happen as much as possible, especially during Lent.