A long time ago, in the 1780s when French Catholics arrived in Detroit, they found an abundance of muskrats. Muskrat is similar looking to a beaver but without the dam-building properties. It was at this time that the pastor of Ste. Anne Parish in Detroit, Father Gabriel Richard, asked for a special dispensation for the area’s residents to consume muskrats throughout Lent.
This was not the only time the Catholic churches made a special ruling. In fact, they declared that the capybara in South America was actually a fish for the purposes of Lent.
Fr. Timothy sent me this photo from a #muskrat dinner in #Michigan. He talked with me on the latest episode of @CNAnewsroom about eating #muskrat during #Lent. You can find the full episode here: https://t.co/ajlOgKzbDc … #Catholic #podcast pic.twitter.com/qeoy4GOFq4
— Kate Olivera (@kateolivera5) March 11, 2019
This unique dispensation however centered on Southeast Michigan to encourage the residents to eat the rodent otherwise known as the muskrat.
During the Lenten season, devout Catholics are supposed to abstain from eating meat and have fish at Friday dinners and Lenten holy dinners. To eat something other than fish requires approval from the Catholic Church, which is what happened in this case. So yes, the Catholic Church allows muskrat, but specifically only if you live in this area of Michigan too.
Great to spend time with the Gibraltar Rotary at their annual muskrat dinner.
Eating muskrat here dates back to the French. The story goes that because muskrat is in the water, the Pope gave Downriver Catholics a special decree to eat it during Lent. The tradition continues! pic.twitter.com/tEL4MiIX71
— Darrin Camilleri (@darrincamilleri) March 23, 2019
This entire tradition eventually evolved to entire dinners being held celebrating the eating of muskrat. In the 1990s, residents of Flint, Michigan decided to revive the tradition and even make it a fundraiser. This tradition continues today, with people eating muskrat every Lent.
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