Ash Wednesday is upon us. The day is not so important as its symbolism as the entryway into the great time of penance. We go forth gird with fasting and abstinence into the Lenten season, foreheads marked with a cross of the dust to which we shall return at journey’s end.
Solemn stuff. It is a call to 6 weeks of examining our personal sinfulness, our personal need for penitence of which fasting and abstinence can be a singular part. So why didn’t I find the rules of fasting and abstinence and a Lenten pep talk in our parish bulletin? How about yours? Why wasn’t the Lenten fast and abstinence requirement described and explained from the pulpit or even mentioned in the announcements? Has the requirement to give up a little of the meals/snack we consume gone by the by?
[ed. note See Of Lent Past, what we’ve lost for a comparison]
It makes me want to ask: Has traditional Lenten observance become optional?
I checked my Catholic calendars. They used to have an explanation of Lenten regulations regarding fast and abstinence on the back page. The parish calendar did not. The Church Teaches calendar did not. Surely the calendar from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would have it since it goes across the country to all donors, showing forth the glory of Catholicism in America. Nary a word of explanation of the little fishes on the Fridays of Lent and what they mean.
Reminders Help Us Stay on the Right Track
What’s wrong with this picture? People need reminders of the Faith, of how to practice it, like the crucifix in the bedroom, the angel plaque over a child’s bed beckon us to prayer. People today especially need reminders that there is more to this life than The Bachelor and HBO. The argument that we’re adults, we know what we’re supposed to do doesn’t wash because today’s Catholic adults maybe never learned the practices of the Faith. Their parents may have grown up in the black hole of zero religion in their religious education classes after Vatican II and were taught to think they can do what they want. These parents cannot teach what they never knew. The argument to look it up on the internet doesn’t work either, some of us are not glued to our phones, computers, ipads, etc.
What kind of mother would I had been had I not reminded my kids to “Wash hands,” “Brush teeth,” “Use deodorant”? Even now they are adults there are reminders, “No hats in the house,” and “Get your face out of your phone.”
We need to be reminded of our Faith and how to practice it by our spiritual parish Fathers. Not once, not twice, but always, by word and example. Fasting and abstaining are meant to remind us to put aside the things of the world, the things we like, to concentrate on a higher purpose. Abstaining symbolizes putting aside sin to achieve greater union with Christ. Self-denial of fast (not only of food but of other pleasures) empties us of ourselves so Christ can fill us.
So why are these Catholic practices not encouraged, proudly proclaimed? It’s who we are.
Salvation is serious business and Catholic amnesia won’t help achieve it.
This article, Ignoring the “Fast” Track: Has Traditional Lent observance become optional? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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