February 23, 2007

Food for thought: Lenten recipes can set the table for lessons in faith

Jenni Egger gets help from her son, Charlie, as they make Veggie Filled Frittata, a meatless meal for a Lenten Friday. (Submitted photo)

Jenni Egger gets help from her son, Charlie, as they make Veggie Filled Frittata, a meatless meal for a Lenten Friday. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The education of 5-year-old Charlie Egger is something to behold for a Catholic who grew up in a generation when Fridays in Lent were usually marked by meals of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, fish sticks from a woman named Mrs. Paul and fillet-of-fish sandwiches from the drive-in window of a fast-food restaurant.

Jenni Egger wants her son to be comfortable in the kitchen, even involving him in cooking creative alternatives to traditional meatless Friday dinners—which explains why Charlie helps his mother prepare a meal called Veggie Filled Frittata.

Yet Jenni also sees those Lenten Friday cooking sessions as a meaty way to teach Charlie about his Catholic faith. (See our Lenten recipes below)

“Lent is an important time to have family conversations about why we don’t eat meat on Friday or why we carry on any of our special Lenten traditions,” says Jenni, 36, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “Prep time or meal time is the perfect opportunity for those conversations. We will talk about Jesus and the sacrifices he made for us, and the things we can do during Lent.”

For Jenni and others in the archdiocese, the start of Lent provides food for thought.

Food for thought for making different, less traditional Lenten recipes, including a recipe for a shrimp meal from Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein. (That recipe and

others can be found on page 9.)

And, more significantly, food for thought about the importance of Lent in the faith lives of people.

Barbara Brinkman knows that she will have to answer the questions about meatless Fridays in Lent from her two sons—Robbie, 13, and Steven, 11.

“They don’t like fish. They just don’t like fish,” says Brinkman, a member of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis. “It comes up every Lent. We look at the calendar and I point out Ash Wednesday and the number of Fridays in Lent. I tell them, ‘These are the number of days we are sacrificing meat.’ I tell them this is what the Church chose for us to do in order to remember what sacrifices Jesus Christ made for us by giving up his life on Good Friday.”

The message usually gets through as she serves her family meatless lasagna roll-ups.

“I point out that what we do is such a small thing for what Jesus Christ did for us,” says Brinkman, a senior advertising account executive for The Criterion. “They accept it.”

Meatless Fridays are “part of the

three-pronged approach of prayer, penance and almsgiving” that Catholics are called to

follow in Lent, according to William Bruns, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, who makes a variety of less-traditional Lenten Friday meals, including shrimp salad and a fisherman’s soup.

“As far as the meaning of Lent goes, I look at it as our annual opportunity to recharge our spiritual lives and redirect our thoughts and energies to living as disciples of Jesus,” Bruns says. “And discipleship, as the word implies, requires discipline.”

Bruns remembers when the Church required Catholics to adhere to meatless Fridays year-round.

“Interestingly enough, the Church has never said to stop observing meatless Fridays. They are just not obligatory anymore,” Bruns says. “In fact, the U.S. bishops have explicitly encouraged American Catholics to continue to observe Friday as a day of penance.”

He also encourages Catholics to consider other forms of sacrifice during Lent.

“Since we have only two days in the year—Ash Wednesday and Good Friday—that are obligatory days of fast and

abstinence, it seems to me that maybe we ought to be choosing to fast from things that are really important to us, things that

perhaps have become too important—television, movies, sports—or even the more

traditional—candy, desserts, tobacco, alcohol,” he says. “And while we’re fasting, let’s not forget the other two legs of the tripod—prayer and almsgiving/works of charity.”

Prayer is always part of the faith program for the Egger family, especially at meal time.

“Sitting down with my family always helps my faith,” says Jenni Egger, who has been married for 13 years to her husband, Howard. “It’s where we regroup as a family and where we pray.”

Even trying new recipes for meatless Fridays draws her deeper into the meaning of Lent.

“As I cook, I consciously think about the sacrifices Jesus made,” she says. “Do I say something as I cut the asparagus? Probably not. But it is always in my thought process as I shop for special items for a meal.

“Any time adults or kids give up something or adopt new behavior—that just keeps the whole preparation of Lent for Easter in our minds.”

Veggie Filled Frittata (recipe from Jenni Egger)Here are several, less-traditional recipes for meatless Fridays in Lent (click for an image of the recipe):


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