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Courage offers virtual Lenten reflection

February 27, 2021 CNA Daily News 3

Denver Newsroom, Feb 27, 2021 / 03:48 am (CNA).- As pandemic restrictions continue to affect in-person events, a pair of ministries for people with same-sex attraction and their loved ones is hosting a free, virtual Lenten reflection to foster spiritua… […]

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What’s the point of fasting, anyway?

February 19, 2021 CNA Daily News 2

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2021 / 03:02 pm ().- God commanded it, Jesus practiced it, Church Fathers have preached the importance of it – fasting is a powerful and fundamental part of the Christian life.

But for many Catholics today, it’s more of an afterthought: something we grudgingly do on Good Friday, perhaps on Ash Wednesday if we remember it. Would we fast more, especially during Lent, if we understood how helpful it is for our lives?

The answer to this, say both saints of the past and experts today, is a resounding “yes.”

“Let us take for our standard and for our example those that have run the race, and have won,” said Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, founding executive director of the Institute of Catholic Culture and a deacon at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Mclean, Va., of the saints.

“And…those that have run the race and won have been men and women of prayer and fasting.”

So what, in essence, is fasting?

It’s “the deprivation of the good, in order to make a decision for a greater good,” explained Deacon Carnazzo. It is most commonly associated with abstention from food, although it can also take the form of giving up other goods like comforts and entertainment.

The current fasting obligation for Latin Catholics in the United States is this: all over the age of 14 must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, adults age 18 to 59 must fast – eating no more than one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up in quantity to the full meal.

Catholics, “if possible,” can continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference adds.

Other Fridays throughout the year (aside from Friday within the Octave of Easter) “are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church,” according to Canon Law 1250. Catholics once abstained from meat on all Fridays, but the U.S. bishops received permission from the Holy See for Catholics to substitute another sacrifice or perform an act of charity instead.

Eastern Rite Catholics, meanwhile, follow the fasting laws of their own particular church.  

In their 1966 “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence,” the National Conference of Catholic Bishops exhorted the faithful, on other days of Lent where fasting is not required, to “participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.”

Aside from the stipulations, though, what’s the point of fasting?

“The whole purpose of fasting is to put the created order and our spiritual life in a proper balance,” Deacon Carnazzo said.

As “bodily creatures in a post-fallen state,” it’s easy to let our “lower passions” for physical goods supersede our higher intellect, he explained. We take good things for granted and reach for them whenever we feel like it, “without thinking, without reference to the One Who gives us the food, and without reference to the question of whether it’s good for us or not,” he added.

Thus, fasting helps “make more room for God in our life,” Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. said.

“And the Lord said at the well, with the (Samaritan) woman, He said that ‘everyone that drinks from this well is going to be thirsty again. Why don’t you let me go to work in your life and I’ll give you a fountain welling up to Eternal Life.’”

While fasting can take many forms, is abstaining from food especially important?  

“The reason why 2000 years of Christianity has said food (for fasting), because food’s like air. It’s like water, it’s the most fundamental,” Deacon Carnazzo said. “And that’s where the Church says ‘stop right here, this fundamental level, and gain control there.’ It’s like the first step in the spiritual life.”

What the Bible says about it

Yet why is fasting so important in the life of the Church? And what are the roots of the practice in Scripture?

The very first fast was ordered by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, Deacon Carnazzo noted, when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).

This divine prohibition was not because the tree was bad, the deacon clarified. It was “made good” like all creation, but its fruit was meant to be eaten “in the right time and the right way.” In the same way, we abstain from created goods so we may enjoy them “in the right time and the right way.”

The fast is the weapon of protection against demons – St. Basil the Great.

Fasting is also good because it is submission to God, he said. By fasting from the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve would have become partakers in the Divine Nature through their obedience to God. Instead, they tried to take this knowledge of good and evil for themselves and ate the fruit, disobeying God and bringing Original Sin, death, and illness upon mankind.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus abstained from food and water for 40 days and nights in the desert and thus “reversed what happened in the Garden of Eden,” Deacon Carnazzo explained. Like Adam and Eve, Christ was tempted by the devil but instead remained obedient to God the Father, reversing the disobedience of Adam and Eve and restoring our humanity.

Following the example of Jesus, Catholics are called to fast, said Fr. Lew. And the Church Fathers preached the importance of fasting.

Why fasting is so powerful

“The fast is the weapon of protection against demons,” taught St. Basil the Great. “Our Guardian Angels more really stay with those who have cleansed our souls through fasting.”

Why is fasting so powerful? “By setting aside this (created) realm where the devil works, we put ourselves into communion with another realm where the devil does not work, he cannot touch us,” Deacon Carnazzo explained.

It better disposes us for prayer, noted Monsignor Pope. Because we feel greater hunger or thirst when we fast from food and water, “it reminds us of our frailty and helps us be more humble,” he said. “Without humility, prayer and then our experience of God really can’t be unlocked.”

Thus, the practice is “clearly linked by St. Thomas Aquinas, writing within the Tradition, to chastity, to purity, and to clarity of mind,” noted Fr. Lew.

“You can kind of postulate from that that our modern-day struggles with the virtue of chastity, and perhaps a lack of clarity in theological knowledge, might be linked to an abandonment of fasting as well.”

A brief history of fasting

The current fasting obligations were set in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, but in previous centuries, the common fasts among Catholics were stricter and more regularly observed.  

Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year, Easter Friday excluded. During Lent, they had to fast – one main meal and two smaller meatless meals – on all days excluding Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. They abstained from meat on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent – the days of Christ’s death and lying in the tomb – but were allowed meat during the main meal on the other Lenten weekdays.

The obligations extended to other days of the liturgical year. Catholics fasted and abstained on the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost Sunday, and on Ember Days – the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy on Dec. 13, after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September – corresponding with the four seasons.

In centuries past, the Lenten abstention was more austere. Catholics gave up not only meat but also animal products like milk and butter, as well as oil and even fish at times.

Why are today’s obligations in the Latin Rite so minimal? The Church is setting clear boundaries outside of which one cannot be considered to be practicing the Christian life, Deacon Carnazzo explained. That is why intentionally violating the Lenten obligations is a mortal sin.

But should Catholics perform more than the minimum penance that is demanded? Yes, said Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., who is currently studying for a Pontifical License in Sacred Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

The minimum may be “what is due to God out of justice,” he explained, but we are “called not only to be just to God,” but also “to love God and to love our neighbor.” Charity, he added, “would call us to do more than just the minimum that is applied to us by the Code of Canon Law today, I think.”

In Jeremiah 31: 31-33, God promises to write His law upon our hearts, Deacon Carnazzo noted. We must go beyond following a set of rules and love God with our hearts, and this involves doing more than what we are obliged to do, he added.

Be wary of your motivation

However, Fr. Lew noted, fasting “must be stirred up by charity.” A Catholic should not fast out of dieting or pride, but out of love of God.  

“It’s always dangerous in the spiritual life to compare yourself to other people,” he said, citing the Gospel of John where Jesus instructed St. Peter not to be concerned about the mission of St. John the Apostle but rather to “follow Me.” (John 21: 20-23).

In like manner, we should be focused on God during Lent and not on the sacrifices of others, he said.  

Lent (is referred to) as a joyful season…It’s the joy of loving Him more.

“We will often fail, I think. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if we do fail, this is the opportunity to realize our utter dependence on God and His grace, to seek His mercy and forgiveness, and to seek His strength so that we can grow in virtue and do better,” he added.

And by realizing our weakness and dependence on God, we can “discover anew the depths of God’s mercy for us” and can be more merciful to others, he added.

Giving up good things may seem onerous and burdensome, but can – and should – a Catholic fast with joy?

“It’s referred to in the preface of Lent as a joyful season,” Fr. Lew said. “And it’s the joy of deepening our relationship with Christ, and therefore coming closer to Him. It’s the joy of loving Him more, and the more we love God the closer we draw to Him.”

“Lent is all about the Cross, and eventually the resurrection,” said Deacon Carnazzo. If we “make an authentic, real sacrifice for Christ” during Lent, “we can come to that day of the crucifixion and say ‘Yes Lord, I willingly with you accept the cross. And when we do that, then we will behold the third day of resurrection.’”

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 20, 2016.


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Review: 2021 Lenten fish sandwiches

February 19, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2021 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A lot has changed in the three years since CNA’s last ranking of fish sandwiches. 


The Chick-Fil-A fish sandwich, which we at CNA crowned the winner of the 2018 fish sandwich rankings, is not on the menu anymore. 


Bojangles once had a location near CNA’s Washington, D.C. offices but has closed that restaurant. The chain’s “Bojangler” fish sandwich placed fourth out of the six fast food sandwiches sampled by CNA in 2018.


This year, as Lent is upon us once again, CNA put five fast-food restaurants head-to-head (or fin-to-fin?) to compare their fish sandwich offerings. 


New to CNA’s 2021 review is Arby’s fish sandwich offering. Additionally, several other restaurants featured on the 2018 review have updated their fish sandwiches since then. 


Note: This review features only fish sandwiches, defined as a piece of fried fish and other toppings and condiments in between bread. All items were ordered as specified on the menu with no modifications, and were obtained at the drive-thru and consumed at home. The ratings cover a five “?” scale, with one being the lowest ranking and five the highest ranking. A “pandering” bonus is awarded to limited-time fish sandwich offerings for the Lenten season. All prices are for Washington, D.C. area locations and may differ throughout the country.



Crispy Fish

Price: $4.29

Calories: 570

Website description: “Put away your fishing boat and rubber fishing pants. Arby’s wild-caught Alaskan Pollock is crispy-fried to golden-brown perfection. We top it with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce.​” The sandwich is also available as a “King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe” on a King’s Hawaiian roll with the addition of cheese and tomato. 

First impressions: The sandwich came wrapped in a dedicated fish sandwich wrapper, and also came with a packet each of Arby’s Sauce and Horsey Sauce. The fish was decidedly more on the yellow end of golden. Arby’s has “the meats,” but could it have the fish, too? I was intrigued.

Review: I liked the sesame seed bun, which kind of elevated the experience. The iceberg lettuce would have tasted better as romaine–it was forgettable and flavorless. The fillet itself was sizable but, again, tasted rather flavorless and was neither crunchy nor crispy. There was an appropriate amount of tartar sauce. I tried the Horsey Sauce and the Arby’s Sauce on the sandwich, which simply made it taste like horseradish and…Arby’s, I guess, respectively. It didn’t enhance it, it overpowered it. There was nothing special about this sandwich, aside from the bun. It would have benefitted from pickles. 

Pandering: Yes, this is a limited-time offering. 

Rating: ??? and a half 


Burger King

Big Fish

Price: $4.49

Calories: 513 

Website description: “Our premium Big Fish Sandwich is 100% White Alaskan Pollock, breaded with crispy panko breading and topped with sweet tartar sauce, tangy pickles, all on top of a toasted brioche-style bun.”

First impressions: The website claims that tartar sauce goes on the sandwich, but I’m pretty sure that my sandwich came with mayonnaise instead. The sandwich was wrapped in a dedicated wrapper specifically for fish. It smelled decent. There was a lot of lettuce on the sandwich. I liked that the pickles were crinkle-cut. 

Review: The Big Fish has the same problem as the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish–there’s nothing overtly wrong with it, but there’s nothing overtly good about it either. The addition of iceberg lettuce and pickles added an interesting texture to the sandwich, but I would have preferred romaine lettuce instead. While some of the other sandwiches suffered due to a relative lack of sauces, the Big Fish had a layer of “tartar sauce” (Burger King claims) spread on both the bottom bun and on top of the fillet. The overload of “tartar sauce” gave the distinct feeling of “wow, this is extremely unhealthy,” as I was eating the sandwich, which I guess is an appropriate feeling for Lent. The fish was not crunchy, and had a similar texture to a french fry. The lettuce was flavorless. It wasn’t bad, but I’m not going to go running for a Big Fish again unless I’m on the New Jersey Turnpike on a Friday. Also the Big Fish gave me a stomach ache after I ate it. 

Pandering: No, this is on the permanent menu.

Rating: ??? 



Price: $4.79 

Calories: 380 

Website description: “This McDonald’s fish sandwich has fish sourced from sustainably managed fisheries, topped with melty American cheese and creamy McDonald’s tartar sauce, and served on a soft, steamed bun.” A link on the website for users to “learn what kind of fish is in Filet-o-Fish” leads to a 404 error. 

First impressions: It looked like a standard Filet-O-Fish, and was packaged in a cardboard box. I had to wait a short time before I received the sandwich, so I assume it was freshly made.  

Review: There was nothing bad about this sandwich, but there was not a whole lot exemplary about it either. The fish wasn’t soggy, but wasn’t super crispy either. The tartar sauce tasted like…tartar sauce. I’m unclear as to why there was half a slice of American cheese on the sandwich, as it was impossible to discern the taste under the tartar sauce. It would have been nice to have pickles or some other vegetable topping as well to add texture and nutritional value to the sandwich. I’m not mad I ate a Filet-O-Fish, but I’m not going to rush back for another one anytime soon. 

Pandering: No, this is on the permanent menu, but there must be consideration given to the fact that this was the original “hey, I want Catholics to eat at my restaurant on Fridays” menu item. (We will ignore the Hula Burger.)  

Rating: ???



Cajun Flounder Sandwich

Price: $4.49 

Calories: 670 

Website description: “Our all new Flounder Fish Fillet, served on a warm and toasted buttery brioche bun, with crisp barrel cured pickles and tartar sauce.”

First impressions: The sandwich I received was wrapped in a foil bag, and had a paper wrapper on the sandwich itself–which I assume was to preserve the structural integrity of the sandwich. The fillet itself spilled out from the bun and was not, contra the sandwiches at Wendy’s, Arby’s, and McDonald’s, a square, making it feel less-processed. 

Review: This thing is good. There was a level of spice that was not overpowering, but was an interesting contrast to the brioche and condiments. The bread was able to hold up to the sizable flounder fillet, and the flounder had more of a “meatier” taste to it than the pollock sandwiches of other fast food chains. The pickles were delicious, but my sandwich could have benefited from a bit more tartar sauce. If you live near a Popeyes, this is definitely worth getting–although it is significantly more calorie-dense than other options. 

Pandering: Yes, this is limited time only and was introduced the week before Lent. 

Rating: ?????



Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich 

Price: $4.39 

Calories: 530

Website description: “Wild caught Alaskan pollock fillet, crunchy panko breading, topped with creamy dill tartar sauce, pickles, lettuce, and American cheese. Proof that ice fishing is actually totally worth it.”

First impressions: The sandwich was exactly as the website described it, and it came wrapped in foil. A helpful sticker reading “fish” was placed over the “chicken” print on the foil. I noted that unlike McDonald’s, Wendy’s puts a whole slice of cheese on their sandwich. 

Review: After my first bite I said, out loud, “Well done, Wendy.” I did not have super high hopes for Wendy’s after my 2017 review (which was, not coincidentally, the last time I had a fish sandwich at Wendy’s), but this was actually a pretty solid sandwich. The fish was crispy–there was an audible “crunch” sound when I bit into it. The cheese was not doing much for me, but the pickles and romaine lettuce were a nice touch. The pickles were thick cut and flavorful. I thought the sandwich could have used a smidge more tartar sauce, but this was a solid fish sandwich. 

Pandering: Yes, this is a limited time offering and replaced the previous Wild Caught North Pacific Cod Sandwich of years past. 

Rating: ???? and a half


Final Thoughts: 

While I was disappointed to see the Chick-Fil-A fish sandwich go, I must say that I was overall fairly impressed with this year’s slate of fried fish in between buns. Wendy’s and Popeyes, who had fairly strong showings in 2018, both improved their offerings–which was no easy task. It was interesting to see the embrace of food trends–both Burger King and Wendy’s boast about panko breading their sandwiches. (But only Wendy’s fillet actually tasted crunchy.) It was also interesting to see how the fish products have shifted over the years–Alaskan pollock seems to be the go-to fish now, as opposed to cod. And I still have no idea what was actually in the Filet-O-Fish. 


The improvements in the limited-time offerings showed the glaring deficiencies of the tried-and-true standby at McDonald’s. It wouldn’t hurt McDonald’s to toss on some lettuce or pickles to their Filet-O-Fish, or perhaps add a flavor to the tartar sauce. It would greatly enhance the experience. McDonald’s could previously rest on its laurels as the original Catholic-pandering restaurant for Lenten Fridays, but those days may be numbered now. 



Best fillet: Wendy’s Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich 


Worst fillet: McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish


Best bread: Wendy’s Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich


Cheapest option: Arby’s Crispy Fish


Priciest option: McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish


Fewest calories: McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish


Most calories: Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich 


Best overall: Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich