Friday, March 06, 2009
Catholic math extends to other areas of Catholic life beyond calculating Ember days and the date of Easter. From a reader:
Just to complicate things further though, Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers said a few years back that the 2 small meals and one large is an old wives tale and there are really no specific guidelines for fasting. I'm one of those 'five small meals/day' types, so the 'rules' always made me crazy anyway. I've never seen a conversion chart for the meals, but I'm sure it would work up into a nice algebraic formula. Anybody out there want to take it on?
I'm not sure where Mr. Akins is getting his information, unless the Canon Law is now considered to be an old wives' tale.
At least you only have to be crazy on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, now that Ember Days are a thing of the past. I'm sorry the rules make you crazy. You'll just have to be crazy, though, because there are rules.
On a day of fast, you only eat one full meal. You may eat a little bit besides that meal, but what you eat cannot equal that one meal. You also cannot eat between meals. Or drink something that would seem like a meal. (You can't have a milk shake. That would be a meal. You can have milk. You just can't drink anything that would be considered a meal, like one of those diet meal substitutes that you drink, like SlimFast. If you're fasting you'll be slim fast enough anyhow.)
And just to prove that we are Catholic and not Baptists, you can have booze. You could have a Bloody Mary in between your breakfast nibble and your lunch nibble and you won't be breaking any fast.
We all agree, however, that having a Bloody Mary on a day of fasting really isn't in the penitential spirit of things. Neither is a Mimosa, just in case you thought a drink with "Mary" in it makes things better.
So the math on your 'five small meal' a day plan is actually not rocket science. I will tackle the math. Let's say this is what you eat for your five small meals:
A bowl of oatmeal
A half a sandwich and a little salad.
The other half of the sandwich and the rest of the salad.
A bowl of soup.
A little bowl of pasta and some vegetables.
I would say that any two of these things would equal a full meal. The end.
You can still split up the meals. You could have the half a sandwich and the salad and then later have the other half a sandwich and the rest of the salad, but after or before that you could only have a little oatmeal and the bowl of soup. Or the little bowl of pasta and later some vegetables.
You could have the bowl of soup and later the bowl of pasta and some vegetable. But before that you should only have a little salad and after that you should only have a half a sandwich.
You could have a Bloody Mary. But we would rather you didn't.
See? Not so hard. One meal a day and some nibbling. The nibbling cannot add up to the full meal. This needn't mean you have to sit around counting peas.
Unless you already sit around counting peas. Don't stop on my account.
But let's just talk for one second about why we do this.
One: to align ourselves with the suffering of Jesus during His Passion.
Two: to free ourselves of the earthly things we obsess about every second, like "what's for lunch?" and "what's for dinner?" Forget lunch. Forget breakfast. Have some water. Eat enough to make up a one meal, or sit there and eat one meal.
Maybe the best penance for you is to not eat anything at all and then sit there and eat one full meal. Would that be a kick in the head? Good. That's the whole idea.