Lent began last Wednesday, which of course was Ash Wednesday. It is traditional to do penance during Lent, or "give up something" for Lent. While this practice is not a requirement, it is very pious and can be very healthy, both spiritually and physically - depending on what you "gave up." So, how are you doing so far? I know, it has been less than a week, but sometimes those first few days are the hardest. Be of good cheer! Even if you "messed up" already, don't give up! Remember, it is not a requirement - and remember WHY you are doing it!
Why Do We Do Penance for Lent?Simply stated, Jesus did a forty (40) day penance (fasting) prior to Palm Sunday. He knew what the next week (Holy Week, as we now call it) would hold in store for Him. We all know what He went through - FOR US - so remembering not only the forty days Jesus "offered up" - but also His Passion and death on the Cross, THIS is why we have "offered up" a small sacrifice, or penance, for the forty days of Lent. Each time we would have had that cup of coffee or drank that soda or ate that chocolate or ate that red meat, etc. we should bring our thoughts, even if just for a moment, upon the penance and suffering Christ went through on our behalf. When you would have had that donut at breakfast time just say "Thank you, Jesus!" and do or have something else.
No Meat on Fridays!Yes, no meat at all on Fridays during Lent (Ash Wednesday too but that has passed now). This penance (something offered up) is a practice that ALL Catholics MUST do during Lent. Keeping in mind, ALL Fridays throughout the year we are still required to do penance (or an act of charity), and prior to 1966 that Friday penance HAD to be abstinence from meat. Now it doesn't HAVE to be meat, but it has to be SOMETHING and while it doesn't HAVE to be meat, it CAN be! So, if you HAVE to do something on EVERY FRIDAY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, why not hold to the traditional penance of abstaining from meat? As mentioned earlier, it CAN be an act of charity, but one should exercise caution in selecting this because it is not something you do every-so-often, but EVERY Friday. Say your act of charity is to visit a nursing home and talk with the residents, fine, but be sure you do it EVERY FRIDAY! "For every Friday is like a "little Good Friday." If you're not being consistent with what you choose - then are you really picking something which you will offer up ALL Fridays throughout the year?
Is There an Exception to the Every Friday Rule?Yes! IF a solemnity falls on a Friday then there is no fasting or abstinence requirement for a solemnity is like a Sunday, which is a celebratory day in remembrance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday is like a "little Easter," Likewise, whatever it is you have offered up for Lent you do not need to offer it up on Sundays (and shouldn't) because in celebrating your "little Easter" every week you should not be suffering.
Have a Great Lent!Our Eastern brethren begin Lent this Sunday (they don't celebrate Ash Wednesday) and their Lenten penance is far more strict than typically observed in the Latin Church, more on that in a later posting. For all Christians, please have a great Lent and remember WHY we "offer up" what we do during this season.