The tales of why the Church embraced eating fish at Lent are as big as the one that got away. Especially this account: Centuries ago, the pope required Catholics to eat fish on Fridays to support a floundering fishing industry rife with financial troubles. — Oh, that's a good one! Urban legends aside, the reasons our Church has taken to these little — or big — swimmers as a source of penitential sacrifice are rooted in the idea of remembering the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ.
No law states that Catholics must eat fish on the Fridays of Lent, but it's a rule that we must abstain from eating the meat of warm-blooded animals. The practice of abstinence among Christians dates back centuries — and was mentioned in the Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, written around the first or second century.
Among the simplest ways of explaining our fascination with fish? It was a natural go-to back in the day, especially among those without means. Meat was a luxury, hence why fish came onto the Lenten scene.
Fish frys these days aren't fixed on the fin, though. Menus include vegetables, meatless pastas, ethnic specialties such as tamales and even the legs of our amphibian friends. But the overriding element is the sense of community built when more than one are gathered in His name.
As we pledge to eat more fish — or other meatless fare — let us make this Lent a good one.
Our interactive penance generator helps you in your journey through Lent. Click on either prayer, service or penance for a randomly generated act.
Click on a new option each day, or repeat that prayer, service or penance throughout the entirety of Lent.
Looking for something beyond the parish fish fry? Try some of our favorite recipes on our Pinterest page. If you'd like to share your recipe with us on Pinterest, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tilapia are sometimes called St. Peter's fish. The Sea of Galilee is home to 18-24 types of fish. The Jesus Fish is perhaps the earliest symbl for Christianity. Read more about these and other fish facts.
Read more fish facts
Some fish related jokes for your fish fry table.
How do you make an octopus laugh? With ten-tickles!
If you can think of any better puns, let minnow.
Read more fish jokes
Searching for a fish fry? The St. Louis Review's map and listing of fish fries in the archdiocese can help you plan your Fridays. Is your parish or organization's fish fry not listed? Submit the info here.
Fish fry map and listing
Lent isn't just about Eating More Fish. Archbishop Carlson's weekly column focuses on how Lent is the season of joy. For almsgiving, Mary Queen of Peace Parish is just one example of a local fundraiser, while the CRS Rice Bowl is an international one.
Read more stories
(With apologies for the bad pun above!) During the penitential season of Lent, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is emphasized. Archbishop Carlson's new pastoral letter, Jesus Christ the Divine Physician, is on sale now at www.archstl.org/store.
Also see the list of confession opportunities at www.archstl.org/confession.
Help prepare yourself for Holy Week by watching this video prayer of Stations of the Cross. The images in the video are from St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in south St. Louis, and prayer is led by Father Thomas Wyrsch.
Watch the video
May your batter be as light as your heart
May your fish be as tender as your soul
May your gathering at home or at your parish be blessed with community filled with joy and the peace of God.
— St. Pescado
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