After morning Mass at our neighbor, the basilica of St. Teresa of Ávila, I returned to the house and entered the refectory. There I saw everything set up for the brothers' breakfast like any other day, except for one extraordinary thing: there was some salami. On a Friday.
In my seven years here, I have observed that Friday abstinence is one of the most invariable rules of Capuchin Italy. It is more unassailable than the Capuchin beard or the strict following of Franciscan poverty. It is even more durable than liturgical law that, when disregarded, results in what the Church warns is grave abuse. Capuchin Italy observes Friday abstinence on solemnities that fall on a Friday as well as on Easter Friday, which some might call incorrect or even impious. The only exception I have ever witnessed is when Christmas falls on a Friday, and that, of course, at the expressed wish of the founder.*
All that is to say that I was quite shocked to see the salami. I thought to myself that the Capuchin General Curia could not have descended to such a level of laxity over just one month of my absence for vacation. So I began to wonder: how long will it take, once the friars start to trickle in from their conventual Mass, for some friar, in his loving concern for the souls of the brothers, to remove the salami to a back refrigerator or some other hiding place?
So I timed it: six minutes and twenty-five seconds, which is a longer time than I would have guessed.
*When there was a discussion about not eating meat, because [Christmas] was on Friday, [St. Francis] replied to Brother Morico: "You sin, brother, when you call 'Friday' the day when unto us a child is born. I want even the walls to eat meat on that day, and if they cannot, at least on the outside they be rubbed with grease!"
He wanted the poor and hungry to be filled by the rich, and oxen and asses to be spoiled with extra feed and hay. "If I ever speak with the Emperor," he would say, "I will beg him to issue a general decree that all who can should throw wheat and grain along the roads, so that on the day of such a great solemnity, the birds may have an abundance, especially our sisters the larks."
(Thomas of Celano, 2nd Life of St. Francis, Chapter 151, FA:ED II, 374-375)