I get a little edgier this time of year every year now. It’s because of the stupid, vapid advice I see repeated about lent.
The Forum has posted a lot of good posts about lent on social channels recently. One was this piece of gold by Cindy Paslawski. In it, she asks whether traditional lent is optional. And she discussed the need for spiritual reminders. We need those.
Lent necessarily includes doing penance. Lent is a season of penance and prayer. Penance is a punishment for our sins and those committed by others. It’s also something Our Lady asked us to do at Fatima. Seems like a fairly small thing of the Church to ask of us. She says, “Do penance 40 days.”
In America, we don’t even have to fast but three days. Is it even three days? I think it’s only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Two Days. Give up meat those two days and the Fridays, and you’re set. But she tells us to do penance on the other days. What penance? She gives us plenty of room to do our own.
This is where it gets weird… Instead of doing penance, many Catholics think it’s now about being different for forty days.
Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines penance to include:
- Penance is the “virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one’s own sins and is converted to God.”
- Penance is also “the punishment by which one atones for sins committed, either by oneself or by others.”
Penance includes punishment. It’s not some frilly feel good thing. (if you need ideas of what to do for penance, check out Fr. Hardon’s 7 rules of penace — it’s an awesomely rich article that will inspire you with a lot of fruitful ideas quickly).Lent is a time to do penance. Penance includes punishment. It's not some frilly feel good thing. It's Mother Church advising you to put yourself in time out for those sins you committed and pay back some damages.Click To Tweet
But we live in the feel good age. Today’s Catholics seem to think Dr. Spock runs the universe now and there won’t be any punishment.
Some things I saw said this year include (these people give up mortification and self-denial for lent):
- “I’m not giving up anything… I’m adding [x]” x is some flowery thing.
- Instead of giving up anything for lent, pick up something for lent
- don’t give up and do less, instead do something more, like serve once a week
I saw the same sentiments over and over, so these were representative.
It’s bothersome that comments advocating mortification or ascetic practices are slighted.
Since when is giving something up (mortification) a bad thing?
Fasting and Friday abstinence is nothing to be ashamed of.
Once Upon a time there was a Catholic guy had to go into town one Friday on business. He went to one of the large hotels for dinner and asked to be served with Friday fare.
The hotel keeper said that Friday fare was not to be had as his guests never required it.
“Very well, then, bring me coffee and a roll,” the Catholic guy answered.
While he sat sipping his coffee, the other guests began to make remarks about the folly of abstaining on Friday.
They took care to issue their orders for meat in a particularly loud voice and marked manner.
The Catholic guy thought about it for a bit, and then cried out:
“Waiter, a plate of roast beef!”
The other guests and the manager exchanged smiles, because they reckoned that they had shamed him into eating meat like they were.
But when the waiter brought the plate of meat, the guy said to him: “Put it down on the ground; the meat is for my dog who is lying under the table. The lower animals eat meat all the days of the week.”
As you can imagine, no further contemptuous remarks were made about the Friday abstinence.
What the guy really said was: The person who puts no restraint upon his appetite is like the irrational creatures.
And so it is with giving things up for lent. Not only does it accomplish penance, but it makes you more human to deny yourself and regulate your activity.
But many Catholics today seem like the people in that hotel. They jeer at fasting and penance. Lord, have mercy on us! If they only realized that they are making more penance for us! Can we give them up for Lent?!!!
This article, Ever Get Tempted to Give up Catholics for Lent? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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About John B. Manos
John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.