IT’S THE TIME of the year once more, Holy Week or Semana Santa, when the Catholic world commemorates the passion of Jesus Christ.
The supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ is emulated through symbolism and token sacrifices by the faithful foremost of which is by not eating meat, particularly on Good Friday.
And that’s what we’re talking about – my Holy Week experiences growing up and schooled as a Catholic and my being a vegetarian.
Growing up in a Catolico Cerrado family I always dread Semana Santa. It was hell week for me mainly because of the prohibitions imposed upon us by my Abuela that we her nietos had to follow for fear of eternal damnation.
Loud music and singing were not allowed unless you happen to enjoy singing the “passion of Christ.” You could not play and laughter was also prohibited. When you speak it had to be in hushed tones. Fortunately or unfortunately there was no television then and when television finally came in “black and white” all you could see were “robe and sandals” movies and the “Rosary Hour”.
Of course we all had to go to mass the whole week, join the processions and go on the traditional Visita Iglesia. All these things were really not that bad as there were a lot of pretty colegialas also in churches and in the processions, plus I could always curl up somewhere in the house with a good book and read through Semana Santa.
But what I really hated most of all the restrictions was that we could not eat meat during Semana Santa, particularly on Good Friday, being used to Spanish cuisine which is basically carnivorous i.e. Jamon Serrano, Chorizo, Tapas, Callos. Take note I was just a schoolboy then and this was before I became a vegetarian.
The only redeeming factor of Semana Santa when I was a schoolboy was the traditional Buenaflor Family dish for Good Friday – Bacalao, a cod fish stew. This Spanish-style fish stew from the Basque region of Spain is a traditional peasant dish popular in all Spanish-speaking countries. It is a year-round favorite but most enjoyed during Lent. Today we still have this traditional family dish every Good Friday in honor of my ancestors.
My maternal Abuelo who was a staunch member of the Aglipay religion used to tease us then. He said: “Go ahead and eat meat. Don’t you know that Padre Damaso loved to eat Lechon every Good Friday?”
This harmless ribbing from my Abuelo somehow created an impression in my naturally inquisitive schoolboy mind and that thought stuck with me till I became a teenager and went to university.
So why are Catholics not allowed or asked to refrain from eating meat during Lent?
Let’s not use the word “forced” as it is too strong. If you eat carne frita during Good Friday I don’t think a bolt of lightning from the skies will hit you. At worst you’ll probably just get eternal damnation.
The official term of the Catholic Church for this no-meat eating thing is “abstinence” and it refers to the practice of abstaining from red meat, whether on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of the Lenten season, or all the Fridays year ‘round. It was meant to be an act of penitence in remembrance of the Friday on which Christ was crucified.
And since meat i.e. Lechon, steaks, etc. are always associated with festivities and abstinence is a sacrifice to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ which is the crucifixion, hence the no-meat thing. This makes sense though as who celebrates the Jaro Fiesta serving talbos ng camote or laswa na alugbate with a side dish of tuyo?
Simply put, since 99.9 percent of Catholics are carnivorous and eating meat is their favorite pastime aside from coveting their neighbour’s husband or wife or the “macho dancers” in Cubao and the ladies in Pegasus, not eating meat is indeed a sacrifice akin to crucifixion.
Which means every Good Friday, the 74,211,896 followers of the Roman Catholic Church, or 80.6 percent of the Philippine population are going thru the throes of the crucifixion. I wonder if Bishop Socrates Villegas is doing the same thing or he’s probably just enjoying his Big Mac maybe an all meat-lovers pizza. Nah, I think the good Bishop probably prefers a good old fashioned grilled liempo for lunch on Good Friday shared with fellow “yellow ribbon” devotees Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro.
In the alternative lifestyle of vegetarians and vegans, eating red meat or meat is akin to murder as in doing so you snuff the life out of a sentient being when you slaughter them for food.
So for a dyed in the wool vegetarian/vegan eating meat and not eating vegetables is the supreme sacrifice at par with the crucifixion. And Catolico Cerrado vegetarians/vegans must make the supreme sacrifice on Good Friday by eating red meat.
As a product of one of the best Catholic universities in the country and raised a Catolico Cerrado and a practicing vegetarian for more than two decades, I am prepared to make the supreme sacrifice on Good Friday. I will go to Burger King and eat a bacon cheese burger with large fries and large iced tea. (firstname.lastname@example.org/PN)