Dramatic Pause {In which a Large Number of Brackets (TM) (C) are used at once}

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this Lenten aside.

The (Western) (Latin Rite) (Roman) Catholic Church asks its members (14 years of age or older), during the season of Lent, to abstain from eating flesh meat (does it walk? does it fly? does it live on land? don’t eat it! {so cannibalism is definitely out} {hmm . . . so are zombies, I guess}) on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. Furthermore, on those same days, adults (18+)  are asked to fast. Fasting, in this case, is pretty specific – one regular meal, plus two smaller meals that together don’t make up a regular meal (see? and people complain when they have to learn algebra in school – it could literally save your soul!), as well as no snacks in between meals.

[As an aside to this aside, Canon Law {<I’m running out of brackets to use!> the body of laws that governs the Catholic Church} says that every Friday should be a day of penance of some sort – the traditional sacrifice is no meat {all year long!}, but here in the US our Bishops asked for and obtained permission for Catholics to substitute another penitential or charitable practice {meaning you can take me out to eat on Friday – it’s charitable because you feed the hungry AND penitential because you have to listen to me talk!}]

Catholics who are 59 or older are exempt from these regulations; those who have very physically demanding jobs or who have health/medical/medicinal requirements that make fasting and abstaining impractical or dangerous are asked to substitute other forms of penance. It’s also good to note that these are minimum requirements imposed on us for our spiritual health. Just like doing one push up a day is good for your body (but not the greatest), Catholics are encouraged to add their own Lenten disciplines (what many Catholics call “giving something up for Lent”).

Now on to two pet peeves of mine. (Please note that this is not Catholic teaching, just my 2 copper pieces.)

Peeve #1: In my head, Lent is not an excuse to go crazy with seafood on Friday. Many times I hear people talk about Lent and it’s “We went to Red Lobster and I ordered the Admiral’s Feast last Friday for dinner; for lunch I had two double filet-o-fish because I was so hungry.” (Please note that I am not affiliated with Beyonce, Justin Timberlake or either of the aforementioned restaurants). If anything, Lent is a great time to eat simply (so that others may simply eat, to complete the awesome bumper sticker). For us (my wife and I, as our son has abandoned us for this “college” thing that all the kids are into right now) that means some white rice, maybe an egg or two, or some warm corn tortillas with butter (actually, that last one sounds pretty indulgent) for our dinner. Breakfast is two small corn tortilla egg tacos (with none of that sinful bacon or chorizo thrown in there). I challenge my kids at school to eat simply on Fridays during Lent as a way of practicing for their eventual 14th and 18th birthdays. I challenge myself to do the same.

Peeve #2: Giving stuff up for Lent – I like that Pope Francis (the cool Pope!) is encouraging us to not only give something up (no more Coke for me this Lent!) (actually, that’s a lie – I hardly ever drink Coke) (remind me to tell you my caffeine story some day) but to do something this Lent. Work on erasing a vice from our life. Practice one (or more) of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy (so apropos during this Year of Mercy!). Pray more. Read Scripture more. Attend daily Mass. Talk to that relative you haven’t spoken to in years (over some slight that can be forgiven). Come over and mow my lawn. But do something that will help bring forth the light that burns within us and can shine so brightly that others can begin to see the endless depths of love and mercy that God has hidden within our bodies, minds, souls and spirits.

I’ll finish my story tomorrow 🙂

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo

Photo by wallyg

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