In last week’s Catholic Sun, we shared some ideas for getting involved in various parish ministries in preparation for the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

This week we are focusing on a Lenten tradition of a different “scale” (as in fish scale)!

The 6th Annual Holy Mackerel Fish Fry Competition, sponsored by the Catholic Sun and the Diocese of Syracuse, officially gets underway on March 2, Ash Wednesday, much to the delight of fish fry lovers throughout the diocese. It’s the ultimate reader “pole” where your votes determine who will reel in the Holy Mackerel trophy and net the benefits of being the Big Fish (rather Best Fish) in the diocesan pond.

But first, a little non-fish tale history lesson. How did fish become king as a Lenten Friday meal? Some of you probably remember when every Friday was meant to be meatless among the faithful. Meats traditionally were special and expensive – and a treat for many – so the sacrifice of not eating meat on the day of the week that marked the death of Our Lord was a sign of penance, of self-discipline. This abstinence honors Christ who sacrificed His flesh for us. That was a Catholic rule through 1966.

In the revised Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, it was put forth that “Abstinence [is] to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Canon 1251). “All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence” (Canon 1252). The

U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) next extended this law to include all Fridays in Lent. And that is the basis for why fish…and the fish fry…have become such a popular Lenten alternative on Ash Wednesday and following Fridays until Easter.

Registered participants in this year’s Holy Mackerel trophy and fishy bragging rights…so far:

• Defending champion St Rose of Lima, North Syracuse

• Divine Mercy Parish, Central Square

• St. Matthew’s /St. Mary’s of the Assumption (the fish fry is held at their parish center in Minoa)/St. Francis of Assisi Tri-Parish Fish Fry

• St. Anthony of Padua, Endicott.

Readers: Voting will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 2—visit for voting rules.

Fryers: There is still time to register your parish or diocesan school sponsored fish fry in this year’s competition (and rest assured that the only things battered in this friendly fight are the fillets!) Email your parish or school name and contact person’s name to our editor, Dc. Tom Cuskey, at by 4 p.m. Ash Wednesday. Best wishes!

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