A Lenten Bit


IT is a hard philosophy which tells us that some must die for others to live. A much more cheerful kind is that which whets our appetite for our cup of Mocha and wheaten roll, as, with dim visions of plodding laborers in Arabia and Dakota, we half unconsciously say to ourselves that we must eat for others to live. But this condition of things is perhaps too commonplace to go under the name of philosophy. There is, however, a phase of the interdependence of men which sets us thinking. The spirit of modern pessimism proves too much for us, and we decide that some must be superstitious and credulous for others to live.

Almost every housekeeper, even in Puritan New England, considers Friday and Fishday synonymous terms. When Lent comes, and the maid-of-all-work goes breakfastless to early church, gives up the use of meat, and is unable to do her work from physical exhaustion, even the most liberal-minded feels inclined to deplore the lack of common sense in some of the tenets of the Romish Church. It is hard to realize that the great nations of southern Europe should have been obliged for centuries to substitute fish for meat during certain seasons, and we are wont to look upon the custom as an arbitrary and irrational use of human power.

But here comes in the interdependence, and then a glimmer of reason. It is a long step from the lazzarone sunning himself in the piazza to the Norwegian fisherman hauling his nets, — no longer geographically than it is in thrift, honesty, and industry ; but the custom which will not sanction the use of meat by the one is a source of the other’s scanty subsistence.

The legend says that as no flower could bloom, no bird sing, no grass-blade thrive, on those Arctic shores, the Lord created fish in countless numbers, and implanted in the hearts of men an affection for the sea and its barren, rocky coast. We know that far away to the south are the great Catholic countries of Italy and Spain, whither cargoes of salted cod and herring are sent by the hardy toilers of the polar sea, and that the keeping of fast days means that the gold of the orange and lemon goes in a harder coin to the courageous race who stand guard on the northern outpost of our civilization.