#EatMoreFish - Fish, Fisherman, Lent and Bible Factoids

Peter leads the apostles in fishing (Jn 21:2-3,11). The "bark" (boat) of Peter has been regarded by Catholics as a figure of the Church, with Peter at the helm.

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The warm waters of the Sea of Galilee are home to between 18 and 24 different species of indigenous fish. In 2005, 270 tons of tilapia, locally called "St. Peter's Fish," were caught by fishermen in the sea.

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Three types of fish were primarily sought by fishermen in antiquity (and probably the Apostles) in the Sea of Galilee. Sardines likely were the "two small fish" that the boy brought to the feeding of the 5,000. Sardines and bread were the staple product of the locals. Barbels are so known because of the barbs at the corners of their mouths. The third type is called musht and this fish has a long dorsal fin which looks like a comb and can be up to 1.5 feet long and 3.3 pounds in weight.

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Tilapia are sometimes called St. Peter's Fish because it is believed that tilapia was the fish that Peter caught in Matthew 17:24-27. Some will recall that this particular tilapia had a shekel coin in its mouth. A 3.5 ounce serving of tilapia contains a mere 98 calories, but provides 18.5 grams of protein.

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The Jesus fish is a well recognized symbol consisting of two curved lines that resemble the image of a fish. The symbol is also known as an Ichthys (coming from the ancient Greek word for fish). IXÈYÓ is an acronym coming from the first letter of words that mean "Jesus Christ God's Son is Savior."

I – Iota or Iesous - Greek for Jesus

X – Chi or Christos - Greek for Christ

È – Theta or Theou - Greek for God

Y – Upsilon or Yios/Huios - Greek for Son

Ó – Sigma or Soter - Greek for Savior

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The Jesus fish is perhaps the earliest symbol for Christianity. Some reports of its use date back to the end of the first century AD, and it is believed to predate the symbol of the cross. The fish is reported to have given Christians a simple means by which to identify themselves as believers in a time of persecution.

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From Dan Gonzalez, Archdiocese of Miami:

In Church history, penitents usually guilty of public scandals like murder or adultery were temporarily expelled for the entire season in imitation of God's expulsion of Adam and Eve. They were sent away with the admonition "Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return." They lived isolated from families, friends and parishioners for the 40 days of Lent. This temporary separation gave us the word quarantine, whose root is Latin for the number 40 and can still be heard in the Spanish word cuarenta.

Another Lenten custom is the draping of statues and crucifixes in purple cloth as a sign of mourning. This symbolically hides the heavenly glory realized by the saints. Occurring on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the covering of the sacred images adds to the sense of introspection and contrition.

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The roots of the veiling of statues during Lent can most likely be found in Germany where, beginning before 900, it was customary to cover not only statues and images, but the entire sanctuary including the altar with a cloth.

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The cloth itself was called the Hungertuch (literally hunger cloth but often translated as Lenten veil). The draping concealed the altar entirely from the faithful during Lent and was not removed until the reading of the Passion at the words "the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom." 

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