From the Pastor: Parish Mission Update and Lent Fasting!
Good News, Everyone! Fr. Vincent managed to get back into the country and the Parish Lenten Mission is back on track. It has been delayed a bit but put it on your calendar! It will run from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm beginning Sunday, February 28, and continuing through Thursday, March 4 in that time slot. Hopefully, we will also be able to livestream it for the sake of those who would rather not drive home that late. The 7:00 start time gives as many people as possible a chance to eat dinner and drive to church after rush hour has mostly passed. I will let Father explain the topics to you. He is scheduled to arrive in Tampa the evening of the 20th (Saturday, possibly before you read this) and will celebrate the 1:00 pm Mass Sunday the 21st. Many, if not most, of you know and love Father Cap (as the Jesuit boys know him) so besiege him with breakfast, lunch, and dinner invitations. I don’t know how many he will be able to accept, especially the week of the Mission. But feel free to ask him, for he knows how to say both “yes” and “no” as is needed. Perhaps you could even offer to bring food and beverages that you know he likes over to the rectory for him since there is no rectory cook. And offer a prayer that he can be transferred back here, maybe to be the pastor and I can be his associate. You never know what may occur!
Now for a little something about Lent and fasting and abstinence and giving things up for forty days straight or for six days a pop. I have tried to find old books allowing for a practice which we were never allowed when I was young, and which I never heard of even in my first years of priesthood, yet which has taken the Catholic world by storm in recent years. Namely, that whatever we give up for the 40 days of Lent, we can consume (or use, or partake in, as the case may be) on Lenten Sundays! This is the idea that, for instance, if you gave up sweets for Lent, on Sunday you can still eat donuts after Mass. If you gave up social media, you could still check Flakebook during my sermon. Or, if you gave up TV you could watch it all Sunday afternoon. You get the idea. What do you suppose I found? Dom Gueranger, in his voluminous, “The Liturgical Year,” gives a brief history of Lent and Lenten practices. He shows that we never before (and not even in the 19th century when he was writing) chose our own penance, or what we would give up for Lent. The Church chose for us. We were to abstain from all food all day until after sunset when we were allowed one meal that did not include any meat or animal products, such as the flesh of animals (shellfish and fish only later became exceptions), milk, cheese, and eggs. We gave up all shopping, “all amusements and theatrical entertainments,” hunting, and even “war proceedings”! “Lent, then,” this good Abbot states, “is a time consecrated in a special manner to penance; and this penance is mainly practised by fasting. Fasting is an abstinence, which man voluntarily imposes upon himself as an expiation for sin, and which, during Lent, is practised in obedience to the general law of the Church. According to the actual discipline of the western Church, the fast of Lent is not more rigorous than that prescribed for the vigils of certain feasts, and for the Ember Days; but it is kept up for forty consecutive days, with the single interruption of the intervening Sundays.” Wait! Did he just mention our sought-after Sunday exemption? We shall see! But first, note that he looks askance at the continually expanding relaxation of those penitential practices. In his words, “And must there not result from this ever-growing spirit of immortification, a general effeminacy of character, which will lead, at last, to frightful social disorders?... Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges--civil discord, or conquest. In our own country [France] there is an inconsistency, which must strike every thinking mind: the observance of the Lord’s day, on the one side; the national inobservance of days of penance and fasting, on the other. The first is admirable, and, if we except puritanical extravagance, bespeaks a deep-rooted sense of religion; but the second is one of the worst presages for the future. The word of God is unmistakable: unless we do penance, we shall perish.” So did he just say that on Sundays we can “admirably” eat and do that which we abstain from during the rest of Lent? No, for even in his “relaxed” days, “During the whole of the Lent preceding Easter, milk-meats [this seems to have included all meat and food made from milk, butter, and cheese], eggs, and even fish, are forbidden. The only food permitted to be eaten with bread, is vegetables, honey, and, for those who live near the sea, shellfish... [W]ine... is now permitted, and on the Annunciation and Palm Sunday a dispensation is granted for eating fish.” Note that the fish dispensation applied to one Sunday of Lent only! Basically, you could eat more than one meal on Sundays of Lent, hence, no fasting, but you could still not eat the “forbidden” foods or do the “forbidden” activities. More next week.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka