Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Big Easy Catechetics

As the Church enters into the penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, the faithful are encouraged to engage in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  

One of the Lenten disciplines which can confuse Catholics is culinary abstinence which is required of all on Ash Wednesday as well as all Fridays of Lent.  This is generally understood as no meat (red meat, pork or poultry).  But what about alligator? 

Those in the "Big Easy" Archdiocese fare better than downriver Detroiters in circumventing Lenten Fast rules.  Due to a historical dispensation, the Archdiocese of Detroit allows their flock to "enjoy" muskrat.  

Detroit originally was a French city founded by the Marquis du Cadillac in 1701.  After the French and Indian Wars, the French surrendered Fort Ponchatrain du Detroit to the British in 1760 and it later became American territory after  the Jay Treaty of 1796.

  At the start of the Nineteenth Century, Father Gabriel Richard noticed that his Northwest Territories flock was not faring well during the Lenten fast with no flesh.  Since many area Catholics were from French-Canadian trapper stock, Fr. Richard engaged in some catechetical casuistry as he reasoned that since muskrats were aquatic animals then they should be considered fish-like for Lenten purposes. 

Chef Johnny Kowslowski & muskrat meal
To this day, downriver suburbs of Detroit have a historical dispensation for consuming muskrat during Lenten dietary disciplines.  Muskrat, much like alligator, is said to have to consistency of chicken, except the rodent is said to have a "unique" taste.  The best sounding recipe requires a marinade in French liqueur which supposedly makes it edible. 

Fr. Gabriel Richard is well known for penning the phrase "Seramus meliora; resurgent cineribus" ("We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes").  The city of Detroit took that as it's motto after it burnt down in 1805.  Yet I also connect the phrase to the option of eating muskrat. 

Personally, the big easy for celebrating the Lenten season would involve  a Wisconsin Fish Fry.  But vive la difference and roulez les bonnes temps.

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