This Lenten season is filled with extra efforts. You choose to give something up or you choose to add some activity to enrich your spiritual life whether it be making an effort to go to Daily Mass, going to Stations of the Cross or celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. While I’ve tried to incorporate more forms of daily prayer in my life, there’s one more think that is a large part of the Lenten season – Friday Fish Frys.
On the surface it’s just a meal. It’s fried fish cooked by the Knights of Columbus, a bunch of french fries and desserts sold by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. If you look closely though, it’s more than just a combination of all that, it’s building the community of Christ.
When I was a kid, I can remember looking forward to Friday dinner and being so excited knowing that I’d have one good meat-free meal. I still don’t understand that as a child I could go any other day of the week without meat and be fine. But the instant that Friday rolled around I felt like I would die.
What I didn’t realize until later is that the Fish Fry dinners were a time for everyone to take a moment out of their busy schedule carting kids to soccer games, attending dance classes and watching band, choir or orchestra concerts. It’s a time to sit around, eat good food and chat with people who you haven’t seen in awhile.
Over the years, I’ve seen my friends grow up, some have gotten married and have children. I’ve seen friends of my younger brother and sister grow up to wear letterman jackets and talk about where they want to go to college.
Most important of all, I’ve found these grown-ups that I would sit by and talk with on a Friday night over fish when I was younger have become mentors, supervisors for internships, and even in one case a confirmation sponsor. Above all, they have become an example of how to live out the Catholic faith in a world where it can all just be really confusing.
We’re not in our Catholic journey alone. We have a built in community, one that is partly evident through those Friday fish fries that will celebrate when we’re happy, mourn with us when we are sad and help us through our struggles. We’re all bound together in Christ through his sacraments and we are nourished by his Holy Eucharist. Together we are the Mystical Body of Christ, the church militant here on earth seeking to be saints and eager to spend an eternity in His love.
I’m not saying that a fish fry is the only place to find Christ’s community, but it certainly is an example of how you can find what you’re looking for in even the smallest of places. It never seeks to surprise me that even at a fish dinner, you can find God and his community.
So, this Friday I’ll have my usual. Make that fried fish (spicy if you’ve got it), cole slaw, beans and a baked potato. Oh, I think there’s some room here so I’ll take some hush puppies too!
Do you have a favorite Lenten tradition?