Why do Catholic church teaches to practice abstinence from meat on certain occasions(Example :Good Friday) or periods like lent?

I have heard some say that it is in respect towards Christ. However, I have not understood the rationale behind it.

EDIT : I can understand when Catholic church say that I must observe penance for my sins by fasting and abstinence from what I love. What I do not understand is the insistence on abstinence from meat.

2 Answers 2


According to the edit, the essential question is why the Church prescribes a specific penitential action (abstaining from meat) on specific days, rather than just telling us to do penance (our own way). I think the reason for being so specific is that, although a general exhortation to do penance would be followed by some people, it would fail for a great many other people, even well-meaning people who intend to do penance. Penance is too easily procrastinated. If I eat meat (knowingly) on a day of abstinence, I know that I've committed a sin that I need to confess. If I procrastinate a general intention to do penance, it never quite feels like a real sin --- after all, I'm planning to do some penance next week or next month or whenever.

The preceding paragraph was about why the Church makes specific rules. Another aspect of the question is why the rule refers specifically to abstaining from meat. I don't know the historical reason for that, but here's a guess. For many centuries, meat was not part of the regular diet of "ordinary" folks; only the rich could afford to eat meat often. So the requirement of abstinence had little or no effect for most people, but it required the rich to occasionally live like the rest of the population, an exercise in humility.

Does this guess vitiate my first paragraph? After all, ordinary people also need to do penance, yet, if I'm right, they weren't seriously affected by the law of abstinence. The answer to that is that abstinence from meat was not the only penitential practice prescribed by the Church. There are also days (and a whole season --- Lent) of fasting, which imposes a limit on the amount of food that one is allowed to eat. That would affect everyone, not just the rich. (And the restrictions were more severe longer ago).


Matthew 15 Darby Translation (DARBY) 15 Then the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem come up to Jesus, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress what has been delivered by the ancients? for they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answering said to them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching? 4 For God commanded saying, Honour father and mother; and, He that speaks ill of father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, It is a gift, whatsoever [it be] by which [received] from me thou wouldest be profited: 6 and he shall in no wise honour his father or his mother; and ye have made void the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching. 7 Hypocrites! well has Esaias prophesied about you, saying, 8 This people honour me with the lips, but their heart is far away from me; 9 but in vain do they worship me, teaching [as] teachings commandments of men. 10 And having called to [him] the crowd, he said to them, Hear and understand: 11 Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man; but what goes forth out of the mouth, this defiles the man. 12 Then his disciples, coming up, said to him, Dost thou know that the Pharisees, having heard this word, have been offended?

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