Saturday, February 25, 2012

The perfume of lent

Some years ago, in a meeting during lent, a marist brother surprisingly announced that he hadn't joined the line for the lent ashes imposition. Even more, he pulled off a perfume and suggested us to put some on ourselves. Yes, this is a real story!, and since then, it comes back to my mind every lent.

The ashes are a liturgical element, and as such they are great. They are an external sign of something internal, namely our human fragility, the need of conversion etc. But outside the liturgical context, the ashes may be a showing-off sign. In New York, for instance, I always saw a bunch of people with the ashes in their foreheads all day long. I don't know if this was out of an excess of respect to the ashes, or maybe an opportunity to talk about christianity to the stand-by-surprised people, but to me, it seemed like they were saying "Look, I am such a good christian!". And New York is not the only place where I encountered this. During lent mass in In Portsmouth I even heard the priest asking the school children that were attending not to remove the ashes until the end of the day. Maybe the ashes are a good opportunity for them to stand out as Christians in the very secularised UK society. Yet not every opportunity needs to be taken. It could be done in another they and in another fashion, specially when   in fact, today's gospel ask us to to otherwise:

“When you fast, do not do like the hypocrites, who put a sad apparence and distort they faces so that every one will see that they are fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face¨ (Mt 6.16-17, read on Ash Wednesday)

This is what our marist brother remembers us. Today's gospel is a call for interior conversion, which obviously will require some external sings, but be careful not to fall into showing off ourselves or feeling that we are better than others. All in all, I want the ashes, but I also want the perfume.

Have a good lent, everyone!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fasting and Abstinence Discipline of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Spain and US.

The Basics:

The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way (Cannon 1249)
Fasting and Abstinence are two ways of doing penance. There are other ways too. Fasting means not eating food for some length of time. Abstinence means not doing a particular thing or not eating a particular food. If you want to know why I think that Abstinence and Fasting are a good idea, go here.

All Fridays of the year, and the whole seasson of Lent are stablished as penitential days for all Catholics.

Who is bind to fasting or abstinence 

-  The law of abstinence bind people who are 14 or older
-  The law of fasting bind people who are between 18 (majority age in the Church) and 59 years old.
   (C 1252, 97)

-  Even if you may not bind to fasting or abstinence you are still bind to do penance in some form.
-  You may be excused of abstinence and fasting if you are sick.
-  The diocesan bishop can dispense of this law, and for individual cases so can the pastor or the religious superior.

Days of fasting and abstinence.  

-  Ash Wednesday
-  Good Friday
-  Is up to the Episcopal Conferences to set obligations or not of abstinence on the rest of Fridays that are not Solemnities.

England and Wales

Abstinence every Friday of the year.

The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this [penance] should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011[...]

Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.

Spring 2011 plenary resolutions

United States of America 

Abstinence of meat on Fridays of Lent. Other Fridays this may be substituted by works of penance.
See here for details


Abstinence of meat on Fridays of Lent. Other Fridays this may be substituted for certain works of penance.

2. El Miércoles de Ceniza, comienzo de la Cuaresma, y el Viernes Santo, memoria de la Pasión y Muerte de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, son días de ayuno y abstinencia. Los otros viernes de Cuaresma son también días de abstinencia, que consiste en no tomar carne, según antigua práctica del pueblo cristiano. [...]
3. En los restantes viernes del año, la abstinencia puede ser sustituida, según la libre voluntad de los fieles, por cualquiera de las siguientes prácticas recomendadas por la Iglesia: lectura de la Sagrada Escritura, limosna (en la cuantía que cada uno estime en conciencia), otras obras de caridad (visita de enfermos o atribulados), obras de piedad (participación en la santa misa, rezo del rosario, etc.) y mortificaciones corporales.

Conferencia Episcopal Española de 21 de noviembre de 1986

Abstaining from meat,  but what meat means here? And fasting, how much?

Either explicitly or implicitly these Episcopal Conferences are following the Apostiolic Constitution Paenitemini, Paul VI, 1966

1. The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. 
2  The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.

Fast not related to penance.

Eucharistic Fast

One hour before communion.

"One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion" (CIC 919 §1). Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (cf. CIC 89).