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. 


Penance generator

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.

Use the penance-service-prayer generator.

Fish stories
Lent isn't just about Eating More Fish. Archbishop Carlson's column focuses on how Lenten discipline counteracts the belife that our desires define us. Find more Lenten stories from this year and past years.
Read more stories
Fish fries
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
Fish jokes
Some fish related jokes for your fish fry table. Our favorite:
How do you make an octopus laugh? With ten-tickles!
If you can think of any better puns, let minnow.
Read more fish jokes
Fish Facts
(With apologies for the bad pun above!) During the penitential season of Lent, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is emphasized. Find opportunities for confession by contacting your parish. Many parishes have increased opportunities for the sacrament.
Stations of the cross
Help prepare for Holy Week by watching this video prayer of Stations of the Cross. The images 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
Fish recipes
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 jbrinker@archstl.org.
Pinterest page
Fish Facts
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

The video above was created for the Year of Mercy in 2015, however, the fact that God's mercy is greater than sin is timeless.