Fourth Friday

Fourth and final Friday for pharmaceuticals. The next chemo cycle is in January, which is none too soon.

Fridays were special in my childhood. As a Roman Catholic, I couldn’t eat meat on Fridays—this was pre-Vatican II. Here’s how one catechism (A Complete Catechism of the Catholic Religion, 6th American Ed) explained it:

What days does the law of abstinence, as apart from the law of fasting, oblige us to observe?

The law of abstinence, apart from the law of fasting, obliges us to abstain (from meat) on all Fridays of the year.

This wasn’t a suggestion but a stern command binding on everyone:

How do these Commandments of the Church bind us?

They bind us strictly – that is, under pain of grievous sin.

When do we commit mortal sin?

We commit mortal sin when we willfully violate the Law of God in a matter which we know or believe to be important.

Ignoring or disobeying what the Church “believed to be important” was a grievous sin, aka mortal sin. A mortal sin is:

  • A grievous offence against God, our Supreme Lord, and the most criminal disobedience to His holy will;
  • The most shameful ingratitude to God, our greatest Benefactor and best Father;
  • Detestable infidelity to our most amiable Redeemer, and contempt of His graces and merits.

From Diet to Damnation

And if you die with a mortal sin on your soul you go straight to hell (unless you’re wearing our scapular at the time of death). The Church has never been shy about using its authority to enforce its decrees, but this isn’t a strictly Catholic hubris. Other Christians are equally certain that their way of pleasing God is the only way to do so. The religious alchemy works something like this:

  • Codifying general principles into specific practices;
  • Transforming good things like abstinence, fasting, and self-discipline into binding laws and heavy burdens;
  • Taking what should be voluntary and make it mandatory for salvation.
  • Going from promoting discipline to pronouncing damnation on those who don’t agree with us.

The best intentions can devolve into the worst legalism. Healthy habits can morph into toxic rituals. We should be cautious of any “Thou Shalt” or “Thou Shalt Not” that doesn’t spring from the first two commandments: love God; love your fellow man.


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