Sunday, December 9, 2012


Like many of you I've been praying that the Church would recover a stricter discipline for fasting and abstinence. Be careful of what you ask in prayer!

In particular I was praying that Friday abstinence from meat and fowl (flesh of warm blooded animals) would become a national norm once again, a communal act of penance that we Catholics would take seriously, not so much under the threat of mortal sin but more so as an act of Catholic solidarity in observing Friday as the day of our Lord's great passion and death.

Well, our American bishops have allowed God to move them to establish this form of penance every Friday and not just in observance of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ but to seek God's protection of the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and religious liberty in our country, meaning no government interference in the life of the Church.

But they took it one step further. They are asking us to FAST as well each Friday of the year for the same intentions. The Catholic fast is usually for people 18 years old to 60 (one more year for me!). It means one main meal and two smaller snacks that combined do not equal a full meal and no eating between the full meal and the two snacks. That is reasonable and is what weight watchers recommends but in a different way for every day of the year! It is healthy for the body too, not just spiritually.

So, how do we tell our brides and grooms who live it up on the day of their wedding rehearsal that they have to fast? Maybe they will be dispensed? And how do we tell brides and grooms that their rehearsal meal can't include meal or poultry products, that they have to eat grill cheese sandwiches?

Now while the bishops are at it, how about recovering Ember days? What are ember days you ask. Good question, as I don't remember ever observing them. So here it is taken from the Fisheaters blog:

Four times a year, the Church sets aside three days to focus on God through His marvelous creation. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons that "like some virgins dancing in a circle, succeed one another with the happiest harmony," as St. John Chrysostom wrote.

These four times are each kept on a successive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and are known as "Ember Days," or Quatuor Tempora, in Latin. The first of these four times comes in Winter, after the the Feast of St. Lucy; the second comes in Spring, the week after Ash Wednesday; the third comes in Summer, after Pentecost Sunday; and the last comes in Autumn, after Holy Cross Day. Their dates can be remembered by this old mnemonic:

Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.

Which means:

Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost,
are when the quarter holidays follow.

For non-Latinists, it might be easier to just remember "Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross."

These times are spent fasting and partially abstaining (voluntary since the new Code of Canon Law) in penance and with the intentions of thanking God for the gifts He gives us in nature and beseeching Him for the discipline to use them in moderation. The fasts, known as "Jejunia quatuor temporum," or "the fast of the four seasons," are rooted in Old Testament practices of fasting four times a year.


John Drake said...

I feel such pity for the poor brides and grooms who will have to get their rehearsal dinner restaurants to come up with some disgusting seafood or other non-meat concoction. What a cruel imposition. These young couple already have to endure such tremendous hardships already. I mean, they have to not co-habitate and learn about NFP. Poor things.

Gregorian Mass said...

Have the US Bishops made the decision to follow England and reinstitute the Meatless Fridays once again. If so I applaud it. Is there an official announcement?

ytc said...