Lent & Love of God…Join The Dots!

Comment: 

There can sometimes be a failure to understand the true nature of Lent.  It’s seen, rightly, as a time of prayer and penance, making atonement for sins, and reflecting on the Passion and Death of Our Lord. However, arguably,  the majority of Catholics pay insufficient attention to what should be the outcome of our Lenten prayers and penances – namely, an increase in our love for Our Lord.  It’s sometimes striking to reflect on the uncharitable way we behave towards others, sometimes even right after attending Mass or praying a rosary – indications that we are seriously lacking in charity, that charity which is the love of God, made manifest in our lives…  

I am ashamed to admit that I have never – ever – made a good Lent. My attempted penances over the years include the classics; giving up chocolate, crisps, soft drinks – and if I were fond of the less soft drinks, I would have, very likely, sacrificed those as well (pat on the back),  but I can’t , without fibbing, claim an increased love of God, manifesting itself in increased charity towards my neighbour, as a result.  The truth that no-one can stand still in the spiritual life – we either go forwards or back – terrifies me. I need help, therefore, and I’m hoping that this thread will do the trick…

As we mark the beginning of Lent today, Ash Wednesday, share your ideas for useful penances, and post any meditations, experiences, prayers, hymns and advice that you think will be helpful to us all this Lent, as we seek to grow in the love of God. 

30 responses

  1. Dear Madame Editor,

    In the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, we start the Great Fast (Lent) on Pure Monday I.e. 2 days before Ash Wednesday (Pure Wednesday is the Byzantine term).

    Meatfare Sunday aka Sunday of the Last Judgement (Sexagesima on the TL calendar) is traditionally the last day to eat meat products and anything containing them.

    Cheesefare Sunday aka Forgiveness Sunday (Quinquagesima on the TL calendar) is traditionally the last day for dairy products and anything containing them. (My RO cousins are in their 60s & 70s and still keep the traditional fast!)

    We had the Forgiveness Service after Father’s homily. It’s actually part of Lenten Vespers on the night of Cheesefare Sunday but since many parishes don’t have Vespers, the Forgiveness Service is now done during the Liturgy. It’s very meaningful.

    Wishing you and the entire CT family a blessed Great Fast. Please pray for Mum and I too.

    Much love,

    Margaret 🇺🇸

    • Margaret,

      All very interesting and very different from our rite.

      Of course, be assured of our prayers for yourself and your mother.

      A peaceful Lent to both of you.

  2. During this time, of sacrifice in order to grow closer to Our Father, maintain the thought of the sacrifice our Holy Motber gave in watching her Son take His last breath on the cross. With each bead with each decade, compare Her sacrifice with that of our own, is it as much of a sacrifice? With these deep thoughts each bead will carry a deeper meaning, carry the desire of wanting to gain a closer day to day relationship with the Trinity, with God Our Father.

    • DOCRICKETS,

      That’s a lovely idea for meditation, thinking of Our Lady’s sacrifice at the foot of the cross. Thanks for sharing that one.

  3. “I am ashamed to admit that I have never – ever – made a good Lent.”

    I have never made a good Lent myself. It’s too easy to break the fast from a penance, eat something you’re supposed to be giving up, or to find an excuse not to do other penances, like trying to do a good deed every day.

    Thinking it over, I think making a serious effort to be more charitable in interactions with others, is a penance that will lead to a growth in the spiritual life.

  4. I wonder what other bloggers feel about not counting the Sundays in Lent as penitential days? At Mass recently we were told that we should always celebrate the Lords Day and that they were not part of the 40 days of Lent. It just seems a bit of a cop out if one for example, eats sweets or has a glass of wine on the Sunday. I’m sure that at one time we were expected to give up things or do whatever penance for the whole period of Lent. Of course we can always choose to maintain the self deprivation but human nature being what it is, mine at least, I can see me weakly giving in to a glass of wine with Sunday lunch!

    • Elizabeth,

      I had never heard that before, but I agree with you that its a bit of a cop out.

      In previous years, people who were abstaining from alcohol would insist to me that it was OK to celebrate St Patrick’s day with alcohol, but that seemed like a cop out too!

    • Elizabeth,

      I have grown up believing that we had to fast every day, including Sundays. No exception was ever mentioned.

      Then, when I started attending the Glasgow SSPX chapel, I noticed that the chocolate biscuits on offer in the tearoom after Mass, were still on offer throughout Lent. There are never any plain biscuits, just chocolate biscuits and packets of crisps. That didn’t change during Lent.

      I put this down to the decision of the person who runs the tearoom and said nothing. Only last year, when I passed a remark about it, expressing surprise, was I told that Sundays don’t count. Like you, I was surprised, to say the least, but it seems that our assumption that penances applied on Sundays as well as weekdays is incorrect. So, I can’t see the harm in you weakly giving in weekly (!) to a glass of wine with your Sunday lunch!

      However, I’d say, at a wild guess, that the kind of penance suggested by Lily (being more charitable) applies even on Sundays!

      • Margaret Mary,

        That’s a very good article. I think these paragraphs sum it all up:

        “First, Sundays are definitely included in the count of days in the Lenten season and are an integral part of the Lenten liturgy.

        Secondly, as far as being required to continue Lenten penances there is no outright declaration from the Church either way. The different teachings and writings point to Sundays having a different character that encourages less penance. Sundays are also “the primordial feast day,” recalling the resurrection of Christ and require a different focus even through Lent. The Church has never required fasting on Sundays, and the only abstaining required on Sundays is to “abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God” (Code of Canon Law).

        Personal penances are just that, personal. Depending on the type can help the decision on whether to continue them on Sundays. If I am “giving up” speaking uncharitably and reining in my temper for Lent, then discontinuing my penance on Sundays would mean I wouldn’t be keeping the spirit of Sunday. If another part of my penance was to “give up” sweets for Lent, it might be more in the spirit of Sunday to indulge in dessert with family as part of celebrating the feast.

        So, there is no declaration from the Church about this and it’s really up to each individual whether to include Sundays in the Lenten penance or not. I don’t have a problem with that. I didn’t know anything about this before, so I’m grateful to have learned something new at the very start of Lent this year!

        • I have heard a sermon about this and the priest said that the Sundays are not included in the penance. It made sense because we are supposed to always celebrate the Resurrection on Sundays and Sundays are never fast days.

  5. Reminder…

    We close the blog for the duration of Holy Week to allow us more time for reflection on the Passion and Death of Our Lord, and to allow us to attend the Holy Week services.

    Notice…

    I’m not sure of the Mass times today in the SSPX chapel in Edinburgh, but in Glasgow, we have Mass and distribution of ashes at 7pm.

    • Dear Madame Editor,

      There’s one good thing going on in the world today:

      My boss (who is Catholic) got ashes this morning at his church and wore them all day. He went out to lunch and when he asked for his bill, ithe waiter told him it was already paid! Someone noticed the ashes on his forehead and anonymously paid for his lunch!

      Isn’t that fantastic?

      In Christ,

      Margaret 🇺🇸

      • Margaret,

        No doubt a generous Scotsman…from Glasgow!

        I, too, had an interesting experience on the way home from having received my ashes.

        I stopped for petrol at a garage which I often use, where the staff appear to be Muslims. I’ve got to know them by sight and they are – some more than others – generally friendly.

        Last night, there was a young man serving, whom I had not seen before. He looked at me only once when I approached the till to pay for my petrol. Thereafter, he studiously avoided looking at me. Now, I’m no princess, that’s for sure, but it was a tad over the top even for someone not destined to win a beauty competition. Very noticeable. I couldn’t think why he was being so evasive… For reasons I won’t go into, I had occasion to ask him a couple of questions – still, he did not look at me. Then it dawned on me. When I got back to my car, I checked my mirror, and, sure enough, my ashes were still plainly visible. Just as well I had been on my best behaviour! I mean, we don’t want me bringing the Church into disrepute, do we?

        Back to your story – it’s fantastic that someone paid for your boss’s lunch – and I’m not going to say a word about the fast and abstinence rule… I presume he kept both!

        All this talk about food reminds me of a joke about concrete floors… read on!

        Ouch!

  6. The best way to have a good Lent is to follow the traditional Law for fasting and abstinence and to work on developing virtue. Our pastor recommends that we focus on one predominant fault in particular. As we grow in overcoming this fault, we will experience great fruits in our entire spiritual life. If you lift up a tablecloth at one end, the entire cloth will slowly rise up as well.

    The point is to have a permanent spiritual growth in Lent. The practice of many Catholics to simply abstain from a particular goodie is often not a very fruitful approach. It might encourage a certain amount of temperance, but you’ll only probably be thinking about the good even more. Also, when Easter comes, there will most likely be enough goodies going around to satisfy for a whole year. There is thus not a whole lot of permanent growth.

    Sundays are different in that they are not days of fast and abstinence. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter after all. The Lord’s Day takes precedence over everything, even if we are still in the Lenten period. For Lenten practices. we should keep in the spirit of Lent, to keep perfecting our soul as much as possible for Easter. but it’s entirely appropriate to enjoy a good, hearty meal with family and friends. The approach of the traditional chapels is correct and allows for the continued bonding of our parish families, which is never something to be overlooked. If you’re uncomfortable with enjoying a smaller amount of chocolate and such, then simply pass on it.

    May we always remember the very positive and joyous purpose of Lent, to comfort Our Lord in His sufferings and death, to welcome Him in His triumphant Resurrection, and to prepare out souls to properly commemorate the greatest love story of all time.

    • Steven C,

      Before the Second Vatican Council there was never any mention of Sundays not being included in the Lenten abstinence. Penances were for every day of the six weeks. This is a novelty, allowing Sundays to be days off. The missal has the “first Sunday in Lent, second Sunday in Lent” and so on, so wherever this idea came from that Lent does not include Sundays, is a new one on me. It doesn’t make sense.

      We know that, e.g. the liturgy is different during Lent, e.g. the alleluia is not said and that applies on Sundays as well as other days, so I can’t see why the penances can be dropped on Sundays. Obviously, they are voluntary penances, so it’s different if individuals decide not to include Sundays but I don’t believe that is a “rule” of the Church. As I say, the missal includes Sundays as Lenten days, dating from before Vatican 2. Not counting the Sundays means Lent is not 40 days after all. It doesn’t make any sense, IMHO.

      • Fidelis,

        I wasn’t a practicing Catholic when VII came around, so I can’t say what everyone did before then. However, there seems to be lots of opinion on both sides of this issue (i.e. Sundays of Lent do not break the fast/abstinence vs. you can break them….and even….fasting is forbidden on Sundays!).

        Here is an article outlining both opinions: http://www.daniel-bearman.com/2015/02/12/let-us-keep-the-fast-what-to-do-about-sundays-during-lent/

        (I know nothing about the qualifications of this author.)

        I also notice that on the Angelus calender, published by the SSPX, there are no fish symbols on any Sunday of Lent, whereas every single other Lenten day has at least the half fish (“traditional day of fast and partial abstinence”).

        Since the SSPX goes by what the Church was doing in 1962, that would seem to indicate that Sundays are traditionally not days of Lenten fasting and abstinence.

        However, here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia, from 1910, says about “Relaxation of the Fast”:

        “From what has been said it will be clear that in the early Middle Ages Lent throughout the greater part of the Western Church consisted of forty weekdays, which were all fast days, and six Sundays. From the beginning to the end of that time all flesh meat, and also, for the most part, “lacticinia”, were forbidden even on Sundays, while on all the fasting days only one meal was taken, which single meal was not permitted before evening.”

        This seems to imply that one can relax the fast on Sundays, but not the abstinence!

        Argh.

        • Dear RCA Victor,

          You posted:

          “However, here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia, from 1910, says about “Relaxation of the Fast”:

          “From what has been said it will be clear that in the early Middle Ages Lent throughout the greater part of the Western Church consisted of forty weekdays, which were all fast days, and six Sundays. From the beginning to the end of that time all flesh meat, and also, for the most part, “lacticinia”, were forbidden even on Sundays, while on all the fasting days only one meal was taken, which single meal was not permitted before evening.”

          This seems to imply that one can relax the fast on Sundays, but not the abstinence!”

          Traditionally, in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church one gives up meat from Meatfare Sunday (Sexagesima on the TL calendar) and dairy products from Cheesefare Sunday (Quinquagesima on the TL calendar), even on Sundays. There’s no fasting but there IS abstinence from meat and dairy products, which for us is the “mitigation (i.e. relaxation) of the fast”. Fish, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays, Sundays and the Feast of the Annunciation.

          For us, Saturdays, Sundays and the Feast of the Annunciation are not days of fasting. When we fast, we have 1 “sustaining meal” and 2 mini-meals which shouldn’t equal the “sustaining meal”.

          Most of all, we have to fast from sin. To paraphrase St. Basil the Great, since our first parents did not fast in Paradise from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we have to fast so as to regain Paradise.

          “As a Lenten hymn says:

          In vain do you rejoice in no eating, O soul!
          For you abstain from food,
          But from passions you are not purified.
          If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.”

          Source: The Way, February 11, 2018, p. 11.

          After the Great Fast, we have baskets of food blessed on Great Saturday or Pascha. THEN we can eat meat and dairy products again. Plus, the whole of Bright Week (this year April 1 – 7) is free from fast and abstinence even on Friday.

          Last year I tried to keep the traditional fast like my RO cousins and it was TOUGH. I’m going to try it again this year but I want to be more faithful in prayer. That’s my predominant fault and with God’s help I will overcome it.

          Wishing you a blessed Great Fast. Good night!

          In Christ,

          Margaret

          P.S. Please pray for the repose of the souls who died in the FL school shooting.

      • In the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the only days we don’t have Alleluia are Great Monday thru Great Wednesday and Great Saturday (unless the Feast of the Annunciation falls on one of those days – we DON’T transfer it). And yes, we do have Alleluia on Great Friday as well as the Small Doxology (aka the Gloria – Glory to God in the highest…) since they are both part of Passion Matins with the 12 Gospels.

    • Steven C,

      I like your idea of working to develop virtue. That is really great advice, focusing on eradicating one particular fault. The tablecloth analogy is wonderful!

      • Fidelis, if you count the days from Ash Wednesday from Holy Saturday without including Sundays, you would have 40 total days. Sundays are in fact considered in the period of Lent and our Lenten fervor should not cease. However, they cannot be considered fast days, as they are always solemnities honoring the Resurrection.

        The Church’s Laws on Fasting and Abstinence have been modified to a certain extent throughout the centuries, often as an approach deemed most prudent to changing circumstances in the world. These Laws are laws of discipline, not doctrine, so even the post-Vatican II rules are in themselves ‘valid’. However, traditional priests will highly recommend and even urge adherence to the traditional rules, as the current Law was heavily influenced by the Modernist errors.

        I think Catholics would thus do well in following the words of Abp. Lefebvre and the 1917 Code of Canon Law (both of which specify no fasting or abstinence on Sundays).

        Abp. Lefebvre(http://sspx.org/en/archbishop-lefebvre-on-fasting-and-abstinence-1982):

        “At the Council the bishops requested such a diminution of fast and abstinence that the prescriptions have practically disappeared. We must recognize the fact that this disappearance is a consequence of the ecumenical and Protestant spirit which denies the necessity of our participation for the application of the merits of Our Lord to each one of us for the remission of our sins and the restoration of our divine affiliation [i.e., our character as adoptive sons of God].

        In the past the commandments of the Church provided for:

        an obligatory fast on all days of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for the three Ember Days and for many Vigils;

        abstinence was for all Fridays of the year, the Saturdays of Lent and, in numerous dioceses, all the Saturdays of the year.

        What remains of these prescriptions—the fast for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence for Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.

        One wonders at the motives for such a drastic diminution.”

        1917 Code of Canon Law:

        The law of abstinence forbids the eating of flesh meat and of broth made of meat, but does not exclude the use of eggs, milk and the products of milk (namely cheese and butter), and any seasonings of food, even those made from the fat of animals. (Canon 1250.)

        The law of fasting ordains that only one full meal a day be taken, but does not forbid a small amount of food in the morning and in the evening. As regards the kind of food, and the amount, that may be taken, the approved customs of one’s locality are to be observed. One may partake of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal. The full meal may be taken in the evening and the collation at noon. (Canon 1251.)

        Abstinence only is enjoined on the Fridays throughout the year. Fast and abstinence are prescribed on the following days: Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays in Lent, Ember days, the Vigils of Pentecost, of the Assumption, of All Saints Day, and of Christmas Day. Fast only is ordained for all the other days of Lent. On Sundays and holidays of obligation, except on a holiday in Lent, there is neither fast nor abstinence, and if a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday but is dropped altogether that year. The Lenten fast and abstinence cease at twelve o clock noon on Holy Saturday. (Canon 1252.)

        The foregoing Canons make no change in particular indults; they do not affect the obligations imposed by vow, either of individual persons or communities, nor alter the constitutions and rules of religious organizations and approved institutes of men or women living in community, even those without vows. (Canon 1253.)

        The law of abstinence binds all who have completed their seventh year of age.
        The law of fasting binds all who have completed their twenty-first year until the beginning of their sixtieth year. (Canon 1254.)

        • Rose,

          Thank you very much, although the credit goes to all of those good sermons and inspiration from the good traditional SSPX pastors I have been given. Deo Gratias!

        • Love the last sentence on Canon 1254, let’s us pensioners and bus pass users another bonus (on top of the Government begrudged winter fuel allowance )!

  7. It seems that the people of Rome have given up Francis for Lent (!).

    On Ash Wednesday, Francis achieved another record low attendance for Papal audiences St Peter’s Square. Thus far, they had been using carefully taken photographs to mask the lack of interest, but on this occasion there were so few people that this was not possible.

    http://callmejorgebergoglio.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/a-few-drops-of-rain-cannot-keep-crowd.html?m=1

    Presumably the official line will be that everyone was out for Valentine’s day dinner.

    My wife and I attended a Papal Audience in the square as newlyweds in 2012. Even though Benedict XVI won’t be on any short list for “Best Pope ever”, the place was full to bursting.

    The attendance was so large it seemed the crowd was backing up the Via Della Concilliazione towards Castel Sant’Angelo. Of course, it was difficult to see the end of the crowd from the prominent seating position we shared with the other dignitaries (haha!).

    If Benedict had drawn so few people, it would have been all over the media. That Francis escapes such scrutiny is very telling.

    It shows how arrogant Francis must be, that he doesn’t change course in response to the implicit criticism these embarrassing attendances represent. So much for humility. If I was him, I would be scarlet in the photographs.

    I hope the Cardinals who voted for him are taking this on board, even if Francis isn’t.

    • Elizabeeth,

      I suggest “The Four Last Things” (The Supplication of Souls, A Dialogue on Conscience – it’s really three works in one) by Thomas More, written by the saint in 1522. In the introduction (in my copy) it says it “reveals the wide-ranging depth, wit and practical wisdom that made Thomas More famous as the “man for all seasons”

      I dip into it from time to time and I think it’s an excellent choice for Lent.

      • Hi Laura,

        Mentioning St Thomas More reminded me of watching Charlton Heston in a “Man for All Seasons” free version to watch on you tube.

        St Thomas More fasted on bread and water during Lent and was up at 6am for prayer, quite an inspirational movie and I realise what a long way I have to go as I too have never had a “good” Lent.

        God bless all.

    • Elizabeth,

      My own favourite Lenten spiritual reading is [Archbishop] Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ. It’s scholarly and beautiful. A very easy (and fruitful) read.

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