Cockfighting, hog's lard were once Lenten concerns

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Planning to attend a cockfight on a Sunday during Lent this year?

What seems like an odd question was actually a point of contention in 1855, according to News of the Day, a newspaper in Vincennes, Ind.

In its April 10, 1855, issue, the newspaper opined that "to all believers in the religion of Christ, the season of Lent, which terminates with 'Passion Week,' should be observed as a period of deep interest and solemn import. It marks the most important epochs in the life of our Savior, except, perhaps, his birth; events, which all admit, have exerted the most extraordinary influence upon mankind."

However, the paper continued, "strange as it may seem, the Catholics profess to observe this period with more devotion than any other sect, and yet they permit, or at least wink at this barbarous custom of cockfighting on the Sabbath, which is set apart for the commemoration of our Savior's resurrection from the dead, to be carried on with impunity by members of their church."

Today, of course, cockfighting is illegal in the United States.

The writer conceded that "some of the members of that church would shudder at the very idea of participating in such degrading conduct; yet, it must be admitted that it is tacitly allowed by the head of the church, or why does it exist?"

Instead of claiming they were being persecuted or discriminated against, the paper advised Catholics to look at their own behavior and let their outrage be expressed inwardly.

Said the paper: "If the priests, who so lustily cry persecution, would use their endeavors to reform the morals of their members, and themselves set a better example and cease to dabble in politics,... there will not be so much cause to cry persecution."

Another Vincennes newspaper, The Weekly Gazette, outlined in its March 14, 1867, issue some rules that the bishop of what was then the Vincennes Diocese outlined for Catholics during Lent. If you're a fan of hog's lard, you'll be pleased.

Along with the usual abstinence and fasting rules, Bishop Maurice de St. Palais, who was born in France, set forth these Lenten guidelines:

-- (Catholics) are to make only one full meal a day, Sunday excepted, which meal should be taken about noon.

-- Both fish and flesh are not to be used at the same time, either by way of sauce or condiments.

-- A collation is allowed in the evening, No general rule as to the quantity of food permitted at his time if or can be made, but the practice of the most regular Christians is never to let in exceed the fourth part of an ordinary meal.

-- General usage has made it lawful to take in the morning, a cup of tea, coffee, or thin chocolate made with water, with a small slice of bread or cracker.

-- The use of hog's lard instead of butter is permitted in preparing fish, vegetables, etc.

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