Since Lent has now arrived, I thought I would take some time to explore what Lent means. As a fairly new Catholic, in the grand scheme of things, I think that educational reading should be high on my list of things to do over Lent, and really all year long. How else can we learn, if we don't even try? So, the first topic for this, will be what is Lent. And given that J has a huge amount of resources upstairs, I will have plenty of material over the next 40 days....well, closer to 38 now. hehe This time, the resources are partly my own. I have been buying books as we have been going to Newman's in DC, but haven't read them all yet. Please keep in mind, that while I try to be as accurate as possible, I am human and therefore quite capable of making errors. I will do my best to keep things completely truthful, and use good sources, which I will list at the end of each post. Here goes. 🙂 What is Lent? Why do we observe a Lenten season before Easter? What purpose does it serve? Why do people abstain during Lent? The Cathecism states that Lent is "The liturgical season of forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Pashcal mystery (Easter Triduum). Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church's liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer." (P. 996) Well that is quite a mouthful. Alright, so the forty days of Lent, represents the forty days Jesus spent in the desert. Also, Jesus spent his 40 days praying and fasting. Section 540 of the Cathecism states that "By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (P. 138) Along with the Church herself uniting with Jesus, we also take the time during Lent to bring ourselves back to the Jesus. I don't just mean this is a physical way of having stopped going to Mass, but also in finer sense of reminding us why we are going to Mass. Sometimes we can get into a routine. Monday to Friday work, Saturday run errands, Sunday Church, repeat. Lent reminds us about everything Easter related. Easter isn't about the Easter Bunny or the dawning of Spring. Jesus died for our sins. Died and rose again, so that we could have everlasting life. That's pretty important. To think that God's only Son died for us is pretty intense, and not something I think should be looked past. So we have the practice of spending the 40 days before Easter considering what Easter really means, in correlation with the time spent by Jesus in the desert before his crucifixion. So, why do we abstain and fast during Lent as well? The Cathecism says that Penance comes in 2 forms. 1) Interior penance. This is "a conversion of heart toward God and away from sin, which implies the intention to change ones' life because of hope in divine mercy." (P. 892) According to section 1431 in the Cathecism "This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart)." (P. 360) 2) External penance. "External acts of penance include fasting, prayer, and almsgiving...The observance of certain penitential practices is obliged by the fourth precept of the Church" (P. 892). Oh...obliged. hmmm, better look into that one some more. Section 2043 says "The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart." (P. 494) So, the penance is not just merely a suggestion, it is a requirement. This is important information. Diving into the Modern Catholic Dictionary I find the following explanation of fasting during Lent, "According to the prescription of Pope Paul VI, in revising the Church's laws of fast and abstinence, "The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of Great Lent, according to the diversity of rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely" (Paenitemini, III, norm II)." (P. 315). It's my understanding, and at the moment I am at a loss to find something to back this up without delving into Church documents of which I am not familiar, that the usual practice of abstinence on Fridays during Lent is usually not eating meat. The practice of abstinence and fasting is as varied as the people practising it. If you were to go around asking Catholics what they were giving up for Lent you would have a huge variety of answers. The common one that I hear a lot is chocolate or sweets. Lately, giving up Facebook has become popular. I can understand the idea of giving up Facebook. You can have more time to devote elsewhere, like your family, and it can serve to re-center you in your faith, your life, etc. As for the chocolate, I'm not sure I understand. You do suffer by doing it, that's true. But, people gorge themselves the day before Lent starts, and sit there with a chocolate bunny in front of their face watching the hands count down at Easter to be able to shove the whole thing in their mouths. To me, this takes the focus away from Jesus and puts it on that chocolate bunny. That means the point of Lent is lost, and if a person is in this position, then this is probably not the best choice for their Lenten practices. I sat here for quite some time before Lent trying to figure out what to do. First, we do abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. Due to my health issues, we normally do not do this the rest of the year. Trying to remember what day of the week it is and that we are not to have meat on Fridays posses some interesting problems, but that's part of the process. Many people I know, abstain from meat on Fridays all year long, unless a feast day happens to fall on a Friday. Because of this, fasting on Fridays during Lent would be of no consequence on their daily lives. So, they add days, or avoid meat altogether for Lent. I wouldn't recommend this for everyone. There are health issues to consider. In my case, I am severely anaemic, so I need red meat to help try and get me up to a normal level. Not eating meat for that length of time would mean a life threatening drop in iron levels. But, for the healthy, this could be quite fine. You do have to alter your diet accordingly to add proteins and things if needed, and of course seafood is acceptable. For the most part we don't actually give up anything other than meat. What we do is we add things. What we add has to be unselfish though. That's surprisingly difficult. It usually entails spiritual readings, prayer time, etc. The goal is to make this practice a lasting one. That makes it all the more difficult the following year when you have to come up with something else to add on. hehe I am going to cut this off early, because I just noticed my word count, and realized that my topic is massive. I might have to make a part 2 later if it looks like I left a bunch of things out, but this sums up the initial points. I hope you forgive any rambling on my part. 🙂 I did try to make my points quickly. I think it's a good thing that I didn't delve into any Church documents past the Catechism. Bibliography: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. United States Catholic Conference, Inc. 2000. Hardon, John A., S.J. Modern Catholic Dictionary. Bardstown, Kentucky: Eternal Life. 2004.
It can be amazing how on some of your worst days God really does put things into perspective for you. I felt terrible this morning. I was just really down about the house not selling yet, and the Realtors not doing things we thought they should be doing, etc, etc, etc. Then I found out the a friend delivered her baby boy yesterday. The birth was very traumatic, and mom and baby were in trouble. Mom is doing better, but the baby boy is still not well. He might be okay, but he went without oxygen for far longer than they would have liked. We are praying hard for the little man to come out of this, but there is a chance he will have long lasting effects. I'm sure mom and dad can deal with that, as long as they still have their little boy with them. My troubles don't seem that bad anymore...
Joe and I got in the habit when he was still living in Arizona of him reading to me. We usually read something that will help me in terms of spirituality, or teach me about the faith, or something along those lines. About a week ago we finished the book "Catholicism for Dummies". Honestly, it was very good. It really went into some very good details about the Catholic faith. Our latest book we are reading is the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. I haven't read much about the lives of the Saints. I have read the biography of St. Teresa of Avila, and that was it. Although I am starting to read "Interior Castle". We are a little more than half way through the autobiography of St. Therese. I'll have to figure out what to read next. 😀 We have so many books, that it's more of trying to narrow down the choice as opposed to just finding something. I'm also reading "The Imitation of Christ". So many books, so little time!
I purchased a pattern recently called a Reader's Wrap. For the life of me, I can't figure out where I got this from. The office is currently demolished, and I can't get to my pattern at the moment. I'll post an edit when I find it. 😀 It's a super easy pattern to do by memory though. I had started it before the demo, and since then I have been knitting away by memory. The edges have a pattern for 8 stitches, then the inside is all a straight knit or purl, depending on what side you are on. So far I am 20" into it. Since it's a wrap, it has to be long enough to wrap around you, comfortably. It's also wide enough that it goes from my neck down to my elbow when wrapped. When it's finished it will have two little pockets at the end. All I can think of is how my mom used to always stuff Kleenex into pockets like that. hehe It's called a Reader's Wrap, because the way it wraps around you, it covers you well just like a sweater would, but you don't have sleeves getting in your way. It is a very relaxing knit. I have absolutely no complaints thus far. It is laying nice, which is great. I've had a few items, like the scarf that want to roll up. I'm enjoying this day so far. It's absolutely beautiful outside! There isn't a cloud in the sky. Yesterday I was able to get out for a bit an take some pictures around the yard. I wasn't feeling great, so I had to stay home. Joe was waiting for the contractor, so if I was going I had to drive myself. That was not going to happen. Today, I'm still not feeling that well. So, I am staying home again to work on my Greek for tomorrow's test. I will miss the Catholicism class that covers architecture. It's a shame, but I am still covered in hives. Blech! Right now, I have a CD playing in my laptop by The Priests. I really enjoy it. I found it at Walmart, of all places, one day when we were shopping. We were hesitant to spend the money on it, because you never know if it will be any good. But, I am very glad we got it. I haven't listened to it a lot. It had been in the CD player in the bedroom, which I almost never turn on. So, I grabbed it this morning and put it into my laptop. I will hopefully listen to it more often. Ave Maria just played. It's amazing how I grew up absolutely adoring that song, and never knew what it was. Since I didn't grow up Catholic, with very little religion in my life period, I didn't know what the Hail Mary was, apart from what I saw in movies and such. Now that I know what it is, I love it all the more. Joe and I are reading a Scott Hahn book that my mother in law gave me for Christmas. It's called Signs of Life. It is a great book. I am enjoying learning about all the various traditions and customs within the Catholic Church. There seem to be so many customs routed in history. It is really amazing to learn about. The depth of faith within the Catholic Church is mind boggling. My biggest complaint about the religion I grew up with, was the shallowness and emptiness. I couldn't grasp how I was just saved if I believed in Jesus. I couldn't understand how it was possible to get to heaven, without a relationship with God, nor how my actions could be meaningless. If my actions mean nothing, and I have no free will over whether I want to go to heaven or not, then why am I here? No wonder so many people have an identity crisis. I used to ask myself all the time, what is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Now I no longer need to ask that. What I do in this world, the suffering I face, everything means something. And not just something for today, it means something for my eternal life.
I'm pretty sure it's Saturday. My calendar says it's Saturday. Yet here I sit stuck at my desk all afternoon. *sigh* I'm trying desperately to get caught up on my school work. I am 2 chapters behind on my translations for Greek. I am 3 chapters behind in reading for History...okay maybe 2 3/4's. lol As if that is a huge difference. 😀 I ended up with a cold..AGAIN! So, I'm slow on the draw, and I'm nicely drugged. But, that makes for slow going on the homework front. My deal with myself is to get caught up on homework before going to the Mooseheads game tonight. We leave at 5:15 tonight...yeah, it's 2:50 right now...and I still have to do 2 more translations after finishing this. And that's only because I skipped one. Ugh! I might make it, I might not. I think either way, I'm going to the game. If I can be good and sit here all day and make good progress, then I'm going to need the rest. lol I'm not even dressed yet, nor have I eaten anything...yikes! Maybe a quick break for some lunch is in order before I pass out! To the game tonight, I am taking that cable knit scarf. I usually take a small knitting project with me. Especially one that doesn't require a ton of attention to detail. And since there is only one deviation in pattern, it should be a good one to take. I am up to about 22" on it now. I worked on it last night, probably too much, but I needed the break. We have a habit of going to bed, and watching a couple episodes of Numbers on DVD. While we watch, I knit. 😀 It makes for a great wind down to the day. Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the US. For anyone who isn't up on that case, it was the case where the US courts approved abortion. While this didn't technically make it legal, nor did it make it appropriate to have it be full scale as it is, it did set the precedent for abortions to be somehow considered an acceptable form of birth control. But, I digress. So, there were places in the US that were hosting the March For Life. It was cold as anything in most places, but from what I saw from pictures and reports, it seems like there was a great turnout. Being in Canada means that we don't have the March For Life as the do in the US...for the obvious reason that we don't adhere to anything the US court system does, so Roe v Wade would mean nothing to most people up here. I think it is terrific that all of these people were out in the freezing temperatures to lend their support, and their voices to such a great cause!