Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: abstinence

Books and the Lenten Journey

ash-wednesday-scripture-5Happy Ash Wednesday! Last evening my family celebrated Shrove Tuesday by having breakfast for dinner.  I must say that Hannah’s King’s Cake stole the show again this year.

As usual, there are always questions about fasting and abstinence once we enter Lent. Here is an abstinence explanation, “What’s Up with the Whole Friday Abstinence Thing?” for the studious out there. Fasting has also been part of our blessed Tradition. Here is a quick explanation on the why of fasting, “Vivifying our Spiritual Senses.”

I have also received a number of requests concerning some of my favorites books for Lent. So, I thought that I would list out a few books that have been helpful during my Lenten meditation and retreat:

  1. The Sadness of Christ – St. Thomas More
  2. Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise – Francis Fernandez Carvajal
  3. The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – Fr. Martin von Cochem
  4. Unseen Warfare – Lorenzo Scupoli, Theophan the Recluse and Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
  5. In Silence with God – Fr. Benedict Baur
  6. A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon – Pierre Barbet
  7. Life of Christ – Venerable Fulton Sheen
  8. The Ladder of Divine Ascent – St. John Climacus
  9. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence – Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure
  10. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule & The Little Way – Fr. Dwight Longenecker

«Continue Reading»

Lenten Special: Gator’s on the Menu

I love being Catholic. We have so many big “T” and little “t” traditions that sometimes it is hard to keep track of them. One of our time honored Traditions (big T) is the Lenten fast. Meaning, we abstain (no meat) from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays and of course, fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Related to this subject, sometimes there are questions that make me chuckle. In fact, the Church chooses to answer some of those fun questions which is also hilarious. Take for instance Mr. Piculas, owner of the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington, LA. His question asked if gator was acceptable to eat on Fridays during Lent. Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans his local ordinary replied back with a resounding “Yes” (Check out the official letter). Not only yes but also agreed that they are “magnificent creatures.” Who would have thought? Obviously, it is important to Mr. Piculas and so important to his Archbishop. But seriously, it makes you chuckle, right?

That being said, this time of year causes people to ask why we do what we do. Abstinence and fasting have a long history that pre-dates Christianity. If you want to know more, check out the following:

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on this gator-funny to you. Have a great Lent and know that we continue to pray for you and those intentions closest to your heart.

 

Take II: What’s Up With the Whole Friday Abstinence Thing?

I have received several questions this week concerning abstinence in relation to Lent. Everyone seems to get fasting so, I thought we would address all the questions concerning abstinence at the same time.

In the Latin Rite, Catholics are bound to abstain from meat on Fridays from their fourteenth year till death. The Law of Fasting on the other hand is binding from their sixteenth year through their sixtieth year.

Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

The Why of Abstinence

The first question is usually what is the difference between fasting and abstinence. The Law of Fasting principally relates to the quantity of food one eats while the Law of Abstinence is relates to the quality of the types of food consumed.

The first example of abstinence is found in Genesis 2:16-17 when God establishes a law of what Adam and Eve may and may not eat:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

The law in Genesis included a curse, which is also present in the laws of the Church. The deliberate and conscious disregard of the law brings about spiritual death, otherwise known as mortal sin. As we know, Adam’s transgression was passed on to all of humanity. To fulfill the Law of Penance, which all humanity are naturally bound to perform, due to the treason of Adam, positive legislation (laws) were created to determine the nature of these acts. Thus, abstinence has been part of the Judeo-Christian from antiquity.

Sad Carnivores

The second question related to abstinence that most people do not understand is “Why can’t we eat “meat” but may eat fish. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Throughout the Latin Church the law of abstinence prohibits all responsible subjects from indulging in meat diet on duly appointed days. Meat diet comprises the flesh, blood, or marrow of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat according to the appreciation of intelligent and law-abiding Christians. For this reason the use of fish, vegetables, mollusks, crabs, turtles, frogs, and such-like cold-blooded creatures is not at variance with the law of abstinence. Amphibians are relegated to the category whereunto they bear most striking resemblance. (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia – Abstinence)

Basically, we are talking about warm-blooded animals. Warm-blooded animals are considered to constitute what man “needs” to consume in order to survive. You may disagree, but it is likely you did not grow up wandering through a desert.

Abstinence is linked back to the 40 years of wandering through the desert. After the golden calf incident, God outlawed all animals that were not worshiped by the Egyptians and the surrounding pagan nations (basically all cold-blooded). He then commanded them to eat all animals that were worshiped. In fact, He gave directions on literally how to “assassinate” their gods for food. How does that relate to us? Really, the only food in the middle of the desert were the red meat animals they brought with them or were flying through the air. Thus, if you had to abstain, you went hungry for the day. This tradition is carried on in our faith though many have forgotten the reasoning behind it.

We also abstain to remind ourselves that we depend on God the Father for our “daily bread”. We also abstain out of respect for God the Son who was executed on Good Friday. To assist we could recall that each time Scripture mentions our Lord eating, he was partaking of bread and a couple of fish.

Something to remember. You do not have to stop at meat. Even a hundred years ago, the Lenten abstinence included all dairy products and marital relations throughout the entirety of Lent. Just remember that Sundays are never a day of fasting or abstinence (See Vivifying our Spiritual Senses)

When do we abstain?

All Fridays throughout the year are days of abstinence though all do not incur a penalty.

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). (CCC 1438)

Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church. (1983 Code of Canon Law)

Thus, Fridays outside or Lent are abstinence days but the penance can be substituted by an equivalent act of charity or penance.

Abstinence with a Twist

For those who do not eat meat, you are clearly not bound by the Law of abstinence. The spirit of the law would encourage you to abstain from something equivalent..as if you were a carnivore. Remember, as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would say, “Don’t give unless it hurts.”

Why Deny Ourselves: Mom and Dad Know Best…

My memories of Lent as an adolescent growing up are filled with “mandatory family-fun” penances imposed by the bourgeois proletariat otherwise known as “the parents”. Now, as an adult and husband/father of four, I understand my parents’ wisdom in training me for a life discipline.

I am sure your parents encouraged the same type of penances: giving-up snacks between meals, no television, no arguing, etc. We all tried (maybe it was just me) to find the loop holes and exceptions in the law but sadly, with an Irish Catholic mom, no dice. I even remember a wanting to “renegotiate” the penance by offering to do an act of charity instead of giving something up. My parents loved the idea and encouraged me to “do” be charitable in addition to giving something up. Ugh! Much too every child’s surprise, they again were right. Today, it seems that people only want to do an act of charity instead of denying oneself of a pleasure or a bad habit(s).

My parents without any advanced theological training instinctively knew that we needed to empty ourselves. As a deacon this time of year, I often hear the “don’t be negative – do something positive” mantra. Like my parents, I have to encourage a Lenten kenosis so I am sure they may reap the benefits.

Why? It simply doesn’t pass the 8 ounce glass test. What I mean to say is that if your cup is already full, you have neither the room for the graces the Lord has in store for you nor the foresight to see that we have stored up garbage that must be taken out. Let’s be honest, we live in a world that is over-committed, time-crunched, vain – we don’t need to change – and yet, we silently confess that we are starving for God. Lent is not about doing more but about making room for His grace in our lives. We do this by shedding those habits that impede our growth in holiness. In order to do that, we must whole-heartedly embrace a self-kenosis or emptying to “make room”.

We deny ourselves of certain pleasures to remind our body that is was made for more than entertainment and our whims. Scripture tells us,

And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

It was made to be in union with Jesus. When we are comfortable, our body and emotions tend to run our lives and fill our minds. During a penitential fast, it “shocks” it back into line and hopefully causes us to long for our Lord.

This longing, typically causes us to stop and reflect. At first we discover: “Wow, I was addicted to that coffee” or “I really could not go without that daily Twinkie (I love Twinkies but alas, my wife won’t let me eat them).” This typically then causes us to reflect and re-inventory our lives. This self-reflection within the context of the Christian tradition is the nexus of Christ’s transforming power.

Blessed John Paul II loved to quote, Gaudium et Spes 22:1,

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.

What does this mean? Because of Original Sin, when we reflect upon ourselves it is like looking at ourselves in a fun-house mirror. The image is distorted. In order to see what needs to be corrected, we need a template or a correct image to guide. Our Lord’s humanity has become our template for what it means to be truly human. By gazing upon Him and He upon us, He is able to assist us make those gentle corrections to form us into His very image.

Giving-up up something for Lent is definitely not fun but necessary to make room for our “extreme make-over”. The payoff though is that we will rise with Him and become an icon of Jesus to everyone we meet.

Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

I now understand that my parents were trying to teach me how to get out of the way thus preparing me for an encounter with the Living God. Thanks mom and dad!

Blessings to you on this Ash Wednesday.

I Love Being Catholic: Meat’s back on the Menu Boys!

It is true – you have found me out. There are a number of reasons that come to mind about why I love being part of the family of God in the Catholic tradition. Among the more base reasons are its celebrations. Even in the middle of Lent, a time of penance and austerity, Mother Church, encourages us to celebrate. The best part – she planned it this way.

Every year during Lent, we celebrate two Solemnities: Joseph, Husband of Mary (March 19) and the Annunciation (March 25). After pondering the depth of these profound mysteries the Church instructs us to celebrate. This year though, the Solemnity of the Annunciation is on a Friday. Now I ask you, “How can we celebrate, truly, without meat?!?” A fair question since the Law of Abstinence applies to all Friday’s during Lent. But wait! She has thought about that:

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

It is not that I want to be legalistic or anything but it seems that our Lord has designed us to enjoy life and to enjoy it to the fullest (John 10:10b). Therefore, I feel comfortable saying, “Grab a burger tomorrow, cause meat’s back on the menu boyz!!!”

Just another another reason why I love being Catholic…

What’s up With the Friday Abstinence Thing?

I have received several questions this week concerning abstinence in relation to Lent. Everyone seems to get fasting so, I thought we would address all the questions concerning abstinence at the same time.

In the Latin Rite, Catholics are bound to abstain from meat on Fridays from their fourteenth year till death. The Law of Fasting on the other hand is binding from their sixteenth year through their sixtieth year.

Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

The Why of Abstinence

The first question is usually what is the difference between fasting and abstinence. The Law of Fasting principally relates to the quantity of food one eats while the Law of Abstinence is relates to the quality of the types of food consumed.

The first example of abstinence is found in Genesis 2:16-17 when God establishes a law of what Adam and Eve may and may not eat:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

The law in Genesis included a curse, which is also present in the laws of the Church. The deliberate and conscious disregard of the law brings about spiritual death, otherwise known as mortal sin. As we know, Adam’s transgression was passed on to all of humanity. To fulfill the Law of Penance, which all humanity are naturally bound to perform, due to the treason of Adam, positive legislation (laws) were created to determine the nature of these acts. Thus, abstinence has been part of the Judeo-Christian from antiquity.

Sad Carnivores

The second question related to abstinence that most people do not understand is “Why can’t we eat “meat” but may eat fish. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Throughout the Latin Church the law of abstinence prohibits all responsible subjects from indulging in meat diet on duly appointed days. Meat diet comprises the flesh, blood, or marrow of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat according to the appreciation of intelligent and law-abiding Christians. For this reason the use of fish, vegetables, mollusks, crabs, turtles, frogs, and such-like cold-blooded creatures is not at variance with the law of abstinence. Amphibians are relegated to the category whereunto they bear most striking resemblance. (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia – Abstinence)

Basically, we are taking about warm-blooded animals. Warm-blooded animals are considered to constitute what man “needs” to consume in order to survive. You may disagree, but it is likely you did not grow up wandering through a desert.

Abstinence is linked back to the 40 years of wandering through the desert. After the golden calf incident, God outlawed all animals that were not worshiped by the Egyptians and surrounding pagan nations (basically all cold-blooded). He then commanded them to eat all animals that were worshiped. In fact, He gave directions on literally how to “assassinate” their gods for food. How does that relate to us? Really, the only food in the middle of the desert were the red meat animals they brought with them or were flying through the air. Thus, if you had to abstain, you went hungry for the day. This tradition is carried on in our faith though many have forgotten the reasoning behind it.

We also abstain to remind ourselves that we depend on God the Father for our “daily bread”. We also abstain out of respect for God the Son who was executed on Good Friday. To assist we could recall that each time Scripture mentions our Lord eating, he was partaking of bread and a couple of fish.

Something to remember. You do not have to stop at meat. Even a hundred years ago, the Lenten abstinence included all dairy products and marital relations throughout the entirety of Lent. Just remember that Sundays are never a day of fasting or abstinence (See Vivifying our Spiritual Senses)

When do we abstain?

All Fridays throughout the year are days of abstinence though all do not incur a penalty.

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). (CCC 1438)

Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church. (1983 Code of Canon Law)

Thus, Fridays outside or Lent are abstinence days but the penance can be substituted by an equivalent act of charity or penance.

Abstinence with a Twist

For those who do not eat meat, you are clearly not bound by the Law of abstinence. The spirit of the law would encourage you to abstain from something equivalent..as if you were a carnivore. Remember, as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would say, “Don’t give unless it hurts.”