From the Pastor: How To “Do Lent”
It seems that there are quite a few newcomers to Epiphany who are trying to figure out if there are any differences in how a “Traditional” Catholic parish celebrates Lent (or other parts of the Faith) and what they are used to. Now that we are officially in Lent, let me tell you a few things that we do here to help you truly live a penitential life during this season. But before I begin, let me note that there is no difference in Lent itself between how Novus Ordo Mass and Traditional Latin Mass parishioners are called to holiness. Although the two Masses have different liturgical calendars and many feasts are celebrated on different days, both calendars begin and end Lent and the Triduum on the same days. In other words, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter are all on both calendars on the same day even though the feast days in between may vary. Catholics following either calendar are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent. (Outside of Lent, all Fridays of the year are supposed to be meatless unless a Solemnity falls on that day, on which day abstinence becomes optional. Also, current regulations allow, outside of Lent and Good Friday, the Friday consumption of meat, provided that another suitable penance is substituted for abstinence that day. Many people, including priests, are oblivious to that teaching.) In the old days, Catholics were expected to fast every day of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for Sundays, being the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection, are days of feasting rather than of fasting, just as Fridays, the day He died, are days of penance, which is normally abstinence. But those rules, even for those attending TLMs, are no longer binding. They can be followed voluntarily, just as the Eucharistic fast of three hours or from midnight may be followed, but they are no longer mandatory.
Such is also the case of what to “give up” for Lent. Whereas older rules may have required giving up all meat products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.) the new rules are silent in that regard. So now we are all in the unfortunate position of individually figuring out what food products to abstain from eating and/or whether to fast outside of Friday abstinence and the two mandated days of fasting. So now you may find people, even living in the same house, who vary in their penitential practices. Some only eat one meal a day. Some give up all snacks. Some give up some item(s) of food but only for six days and eat it/them on Sundays. I have never found any documentation showing this to be a tradition anywhere at any time, but it currently seems to be the law of the land. Others, following traditional ways, give up the food item for the entirety of Lent and keep Sundays as days of feasting on other foods, not on the food or drink they willingly abstained from the rest of the week. Since not everyone gives up sweets for Lent, it is not, I hope you will agree, scandalous to continue to offer donuts after Sunday Masses any more than it is scandalous to offer coffee and tea and milk even though some good number of parishioners may have given up those items. If there was a clear rule stating something like, “Thou shalt not eat donuts during Lent” it would make things a lot easier, though, for the most part. Of course, even then somebody would certainly ask, “Is an apple fritter considered a donut? It doesn’t have a hole. And how about donut holes? They are the same ingredients but...!” (It almost goes without saying that giving up non-edible things, like the internet, TV, or games is also meritorious.)
Where things are clear, we stick to it. For instance, we ask people to bring in meatless soups, bread, or pasta to share after the Friday 5:30 pm Stations of the Cross. The social hall is packed with Instant Pots and Crock Pots filled with anything but meat. The ingredients can include vegetables, potatoes, beans, pasta, fish, seafood of all sorts, reptiles, amphibians, muskrats, capybara, puffins, whales, and other delicious ingredients, but nothing that is considered “meat” although milk, eggs, cheese and other meat products are acceptable. If you are not sure about some of those above-mentioned ingredients, I will probably include more information about them in future bulletins so be patient. Or you can ask any of the old-timers and they can tell you all about it. Daily private Stations are also encouraged during Lent (and can be said all year) in addition to your daily rosary.
We also encourage daily Mass during Lent, even if it is difficult to schedule into your day. In fact, that is how we started the 6:30 am Mass, as people who must get to work at 8:00 asked for it so that they could attend and still get to work on time. It became popular enough that we continued it long after Lent ended and now it is just a normal part of many people’s year-round routine. And, before you even begin to think, “But I live too far away...” please know that some people travel from as far as Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Dade City, Ruskin and Riverview to be here for at least some daily Masses! My short walk from the rectory is nothing in comparison to the offering made by those parishioners!
Finally, if you need help discerning where to give alms, consider supporting those from our parish who are studying for the priesthood or are in formation for the Religious Life!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka