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Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything Paperback – November 24, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part apologetics and part history, this book digs into the Catholic roots of contemporary culture. Foley, who holds a doctorate in Catholic theology and is a professor at Baylor University, researched extensively for this project. It is not a collection of trivia, but rather a compendium of etymologies and concise historical facts about the Catholic foundations of architecture, music, literature, science and recreation. The breadth of material is impressive and includes topics as varied as the creation of the pretzel, the origin of modern opera, the foundation of modern genetics and the development of sign language. As Foley argues in his introduction, this diversity should not be a surprise, for "there is something intrinsic to Catholicism that lends to it a vibrant dynamism." Foley's work highlights that, at its best, Catholicism affirms the beauty of the world and encourages searching for the holy in daily life. Foley's language can be preachy and catechetical; these passages are the weakest in the text. But when he focuses on the history, Foley's collection of theological facts makes for a fascinating and informative read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description

Did you know that the origins of Groundhog Day stem from a Catholic tradition? Or that the common pretzel was once a Lenten reward for the pious? Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday is a fascinating guide to the roots of all-things-Catholic. This smart and concise guide will introduce readers to the hidden heritage in many commonplace things that make up contemporary life. The reader-friendly format and the illuminating entries will make this guide a perfect gift for Catholics and anyone who loves a bit of historic trivia.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; annotated edition edition (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403969671
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403969675
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael P. Foley is assistant professor of patristics in the Great Texts Program at Baylor University. He is also the author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It may be putting it a tad strongly to say that Michael Foley has written a 200-page history of Western civilization. But it is also true that this is more than just a book of trivia. People who enjoy fascinating facts and want to wow their co-workers by explaining why Punxtawney Phil should really be named "Simeon" will delight in Foley's retelling of the not-so-familiar back story to many of our most familiar holidays, foods and pastimes.

"Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday" is not just a handy aid to winning bar bets, though it is. It should also be of interest to those looking for something deeper, at the myriad ways in which Christianity and Catholic Christianity have infused the ordinary objects of daily life with extraordinary, indeed supernatural, meaning. The Catholic Church and its adherents have had 2000 years to find God at work in the world. Catholics have developed an extraodinary number of ways to commemerate Christ and His saints, and to remind them of their obligations and redemption by His resurrection. Foley recounts the festivals, foods and pious acts that marked time and the seasons for Christians for 1500 years, whose meaning may have been largely forgotten, but has not been lost.

This book is also an introduction to Christian devotion. For the Catholic believer seeking to recapture a sense of the spiritual and supernatural in their daily lives, Foley describes many meaningful daily acts and annual events designed to keep Christ at the center of daily life for generations of Catholics. This book provides an entree to deeper reflection. For the curious Christian of other denominations, it will provide a needed corrective to much misinformation about Catholic practice.
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Format: Paperback
In two hundred pages, Foley (who teaches at Baylor University) covers the Catholic origins of everyday objects, words, practices, and institutions in our life, in entertainment, manners, food, music, sports, flowers, science, technology, law, and language. The title of the book is slightly misleading, since the purpose is not to explain Catholic practices but rather to show how we all practice Catholicism without really knowing it.

Remember the invisible ink you used when you were a kid? You would write and not see it until you held it up to the light or covered it with a special liquid. This book is that light, that liquid, that brings into sharp relief what was there and yet could not see. These are the ghosts that surround us on all sides, and they are here to stay and dwell among us so long as we are civilized.
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Foley's book is a smart, short explanation of the cultural debt we owe the Church. You might think of it as a "catechism on creation," since everything from our linear sense of time to our ordered appreciation of beauty has its root in the Church's recognition of man's divinely-ordained vocation as co-creator. And if you're not careful, the book's topical format and encyclopedia-style entries will turn you into a Catholic Cliff Claven at your next cocktail party. It would make for a great going-away present to a college-bound student or to anyone unsure of why Catholicism matters.
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Format: Paperback
Even if Christianity does not enjoy the explicit public presence that it may have even a generation ago, Michael Foley reminds us that our culture is rooted in its appropriation of the biblical tale of God's love for man. From the way we measure time and mark our calendars to the public holidays we celebrate, from the way we eat to the music we enjoy, this book points out that there is a Catholic meaning behind so many of our daily routines. Who would have thought that the pretzel is a lenten food? That saying "goodbye" invokes God's name? That so many of our flowers and plants have Christian names? Written in a style that should appeal to the scholar and casual reader alike, "Why do Catholics Eat Fish on Fridays?" is much more than a book of Catholic trivia, for it reveals the Catholic imagination at work through the ages.
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Format: Paperback
A very interesting book crammed with Catholic trivia. It's amazing that a lot of things or practices that are commonplace actually have Catholic roots. I'm amazed at the research that was involved.

The author admits that some of them are a bit of a stretch. Some associations are somewhat convoluted. But in general, I would recommend this book to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Although for non-Catholics I'd like to suggest "Why Do Catholics Do That?" by Johnson if some Catholic practices baffle them.

Note: The title can be misleading because it's so casual one would think it's light reading. This book sometimes reads like something written in a manner that might fly over a layperson's head. The author is a professor after all.

Another thing is the author might want to question the publishing house's choice of proof reader or typesetter because there was a lot of typos, even grammatical errors. Take for example the section that says the prayer after saying the Rosary is "Haily, Holy Queen." Haily? That's just plain sloppy.
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I admit, I was hooked by the title. As a lifelong Catholic, I was definitely curious about my religion. The content is certainly compelling; while perhaps not the most inspired writing style, I found myself continually fascinated by word etymologies ("carnival" came from Lent because its roots mean "no meat"? No way!) and little known Catholic connections in unexpected places (McDonald's invented the Filet-o-Fish because of abstinence on Fridays? Whoa!), as well as some of the "lost" meanings to what are "secular" practices today (the piñata utilizes Catholic imagery? Who knew?). That is, until I started to check the references--something I'm apt to do as an academic myself. The fact of the matter is that this book is flat-out under-cited; I couldn't begin to count how many times Foley states something like, "Some believe" or "Many conjecture" without a reference or note to anyone besides him who actually does. Moreover, a quick browse of the references demonstrates how under-researched it is as well. I was not expecting Foley to rely so much on either secondary research or ONLINE sources. I nearly stopped reading when I found a citation from a Wikipedia page--I mark my students down an entire letter grade for citing Wikipedia in a research paper, and he cited it in a published book?? However, I will admit that I kept on with the book because of curiosity, and most of what he says *seems* plausible enough. Because of the questionable veracity of some of his resources, I would hesitate before taking this work as law. Overall, a nice read, but I wish I could trust it a little more.
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