I was taught that the reason for not eating meat on Fridays during lent was that back in Jesus time that the fisherman were the most poverty stricken so it was told to me that they said Catholics shouldn’t eat meat on Fridays thus eat fish instead to help out the fisherman. Is this true?
I had heard that it began for that reason, but in the Middle Ages. It could not have been during the time of Jesus for a couple of reasons. First, the Roman Catholic Church did not exist for another 1,300 years. Second, Paul specifically condemned those who would forbid to eat meat. (1 Timothy 4:3)
According to a number of Catholic authorities I consulted, there appears to be no basis for this urban legend. Catholics are not required to eat fish on Fridays during Lent, just to abstain from other meats. The idea behind allowing fish and not other meats varies. Some tie it to the fish as an early symbol of Christianity. Others say it is because fish are not “red blooded” and so do not fall under the prohibition of eating blood.
The probable origin of the custom, which does date back before the Catholic Church, is probably that meat, especially of land animals, has long been considered a luxury. Abstaining from meat on one day is a sign of giving up luxury items to praise the God who creates them. Friday may have been chosen as the day that Jesus supposedly died.