It’s not intentional, but there’s a Lent theme going on this blog so far. On Ash Wednesday, I wrote about fasting (from Android). Thursday, I wrote about OfferUp, which sounds kind of Lenten. Friday, I meditated on the Third Station, “Jesus Falls for the First Time,” by failing to uphold my Lenten commitment to give alms, via my blog. And Saturday, I jumped right ahead to the Seventh Station, “Jesus Falls for the Second Time,” and skipped writing a second time.
Now is the time to make this right. I owe the world three high-quality posts by midnight. For those of you keeping score at home, you may notice that I am writing on Sunday. In so doing, I suppose I could be seen as making a statement in some theoretical argument about Sundays in Lent.
And that’s what I’d like to focus on today. Very few Catholics seem to understand the basic nature of Lent, even though every Lent I see about 500 very well-written articles explaining it. So I’m going to try to sum it again, since I’m such a good writer. Here goes:
The Church requires Catholics to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain on all Fridays in Lent. Here, the terms “fast” and “abstain” have relatively clear, legal, definitions provided by the Church. You can find those in the Catechism. Beyond “fasting and abstinence” on those particular days, there are no other “rules”. There is more “guidance” from the Church about how to practice Lent, and a lot of nice things to read about what the spirit of Lent is, but no more hard rules. It’s kinda totally up to you and your conscience.
It seems to me that people assume there are other “rules”.
Oftentimes, in my experience, people will come in quite confident that there’s a law that exists, because they were lucky enough to be there at a homily when they understood a priest to have been telling everybody about secret extra rule. Like, “you have to give something up AND do something, actively, but then you also have to GIVE something! See? That is the secret extra rule to explain Lent. It’s in the Bible.”
Anytime you hear somebody make a declaration like that, know that the person is incorrect (unless it is me, right now). If it’s not Ash Wednesday, and it’s not a Friday, then Lent is simply up to you. The purpose of Lent is a tad abstract – I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying, it’s hard to really explain it in practical “actionable” terms. Different people have different spiritual needs at different times.
Ok folks, one down, two to go!