"Lord, who throughout these forty days
For us did fast and pray.
Teach us to overcome our sins
And close by you to stay."
* © 2000, Redemptorist Publications: www.redempt.org
(7) An article which provided culinary advice was headed "Palatable Alternatives to Meat" and began:
"A vast majority of women are abstaining altogether from meat this Lent. Whilst others have for some time done so from economical motives and with the most beneficial results as regards their bodily health." Cited in The Herald of the Golden Age, April 1912.
(8) "Lent is with us and Easter soon will be. Whether the Church's injunction to say, Good-bye to the flesh for a short season, is based on the temporary wish for justice to the animal world, or on the conviction that abstinence from flesh food tends to purify the body and makes it more fit to serve God, in preparation for the great day which celebrates the sacrifice of Jesus, we will not venture to decide. Vegetarians recognise both motives and would beg our friends of the great Church to consider this matter further."
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review - March 1921.
(9) For details of current campaigns and contact details of The Vegetarian Society please visit: www.vegsoc.org
Among the early Christians there were those who looked upon the giving up of all flesh-food as the first step in spiritual development, and from the earliest times the Church has enjoined fasting during Lent. Since the Reformation, members of the Church of England have been encouraged, if not prescribed, to observe a strict Lenten fast.
Indulgences have been granted from time to time, where it was assumed that even moderation in the use of animal food would interfere with power to work or man's general usefulness. Cardinal Bourne, in 1929, in granting a general dispensation, gave as a reason that "Meatless meals do not give warmth for these cold days."
As against this we may quote from Cardinal Manning's “Lenten Pastoral” of 1876:-
"They (our forefathers) did not believe that meat is the chief food of man, or that health requires it every day. They knew that some of the most robust and powerful races hardly ever taste meat, and that life and health, and the highest development of physical and mental force may be sustained without it....Why then listen so credulously to the anxieties of friends, the counsels of physicians, the cravings of taste, or the fancies of our own minds."
“To the foregoing we may add that thousands of vegetarians in this country, including many life vegetarians, live all the year round more in conformity with Lenten ideals than does the average churchman during the time of enforced abstinence. Vegetarians not only abstain from fish, flesh and fowl, but in the main they take fewer and simpler dishes than does the meat-eater. The Church's recognition of the necessity for seasonal abstinence is in itself a condemnation of the regular habits of those on whom it is enjoined. Surely the better way is that of the Christian who abstains from flesh-food at all times”.
“Lent is a time for self-examination and is not without its teaching for those vegetarians who overfeed on expensive and complex cooked dishes. It is for them to forego over-indulgence, to take a larger proportion of fresh, natural foods and generally to aim at simplicity in living”.
“With not a few, Lent has been the beginning of a better life in which the eating of flesh-foods has had no place. Canon Peter Green, who has been a vegetarian for 21 years, was confirmed in the practice by his Lenten experience. A Lenten fast should be a joy. It is not a penance, but a means to an end, to getting in tune with the Infinite”.
The “Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review” March 1931.
(11) The “Code of Canon Law” for the Catholic Church places an emphasis on the penitential character of Lenten abstinence:
"All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his own or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days Christ's faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe”. (Canon 1249)
"The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent." (Canon 1250)
"Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Bishop's Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday." (Canon 1251)
©1983 The Canon Law Society Trust
© 2005 Article text Copyright John M. Gilheany #