Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken Broth on Fridays: Yes or No?

I have recently received a couple emails asking what constitutes a meatless meal or recipe for the days of abstinence during Lent. One reader writes: "I've seen recipes for "Good Friday vegetable soup" and other meatless recipes that use chicken or other meat broth. I don't want to be overly legalistic or over-scrupulous, but I also don't want to offend God by being careless with the obligation to meatless meals on abstinence days. Can you tell me if the Church has a clear ruling on this?"

I wasn't sure myself, but have always substituted Vegetable Broth, when needed, to make our meals truly meatless. I decided to do a little research and found the following article on EWTN which is worth reading: Why No Chicken on Days of Abstinence.

I'll share a few quotes here, but please click through and read the whole article if you can:
In the United States, the bishops recommend abstinence on all Fridays of the year. Abstinence is obligatory on all Fridays of Lent.

The law of abstinence prohibits eating the flesh, marrow and blood products of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat.

In earlier times the law of abstinence also forbade such foods that originated from such animals, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs, lard and sauces made from animal fat. This restriction is no longer in force in the Roman rite.

Canon 1250 states: "The penitential days and times in the universal church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent."

Canon 1251: "Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. Abstinence and fasting however are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Present canon law allows the use of sauces made from animal fats, as well as their use in cooking, so the use of beef or chicken stock would enter into this category.

While the use of chicken consommé (that is just the liquid) might fall within the law, it would be more in accordance with the spirit of abstinence to prefer a fish or vegetable soup.

The main thing is to embrace the penitential spirit of Lent. It seems to me at least, if there is an opportunity to deny ourselves, then it would be a nice gift to God and a spiritual reward for us. Another excerpt from the article reads:
The motives for practicing abstinence are admirably expressed by St. Augustine in his Sermon on Prayer and Fasting: Abstinence purifies the soul, elevates the mind, subordinates the flesh to the spirit, begets a humble and contrite heart, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, extinguishes the fire of lust, and enkindles the true light of chastity.

This is summarized in the IV Preface of Lent: "Who by bodily fasting suppresses vice, ennobles the mind, grants virtue and rewards"
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  1. Thanks for a clear explanation citing canon law. I substitute vegetable broth in my own cooking, but now I won't have to be as concerned about others'.

  2. Thanks for linking back to this - it's something I've wondered about. I linked to it on my weekly roundup.

  3. Fr. Z wrote about this last year, but I thought I would link to it since: “The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat, but not eggs, milk products, and also whatsoever condiments from the fat of animals.”

    So, as strange as it may seem meat broth is not okay while rendered animal fat it okay to cook with, but not as a spread.

  4. This blog is great. Always reading it! Thank you, again!

  5. McKay's Chicken Style Seasoning.

  6. Better than Bouillon has a line of concentrated pastes for broths, sauces, and gravies that includes a very good vegetable base. I use it when making any meatless soups: Cream of broccoli, vegetable, and potato soup in particular. I highly recommend it.

  7. Back when I was a kid, just the thought of using any type of broth, sauces, gravies on Friday was enough to send you running to confession. I still have my old Baltimore Catechisms which deal with this.

    So when did this all change?