Thursday, February 22, 2024

Today, February 22, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter!

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, celebrated every February 22nd, isn't just another day on the liturgical calendar. It's a deep dive into the heart of the Church's history, spotlighting the unique role of St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome. This day goes beyond remembering Peter as a leading apostle; it symbolizes the uninterrupted succession of leaders who've shaped the Church since its inception.

First off, the "Chair" isn't just furniture. It's a powerful symbol of the teaching authority and unity in the Church, grounded in the belief that Jesus handed Peter the keys to Heaven. This idea isn't just theological fluff; it's backed by centuries of tradition and writings from early Church bigwigs like St. Augustine and councils that have steered Christian doctrine through choppy waters.

Diving into specifics, the Chair of St. Peter, as showcased in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, isn't just an artifact; it's a masterpiece of religious art and a declaration of the papacy's guiding role in the Church. Created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, this iconic sculpture isn't just for show. It encapsulates the essence of Peter's mission, surrounded by allegories of faith, hope, and charity, and topped with a celestial glow that seems to affirm divine approval.

But why does this feast matter to us? It's a vivid reminder of the Church's foundation on apostolic roots, specifically Peter's. It calls us to appreciate the continuity and the leadership that's kept the faith alive and kicking for over two millennia. It's a nod to the unity and the shared beliefs that bind Catholics worldwide, urging us to stay true to the core teachings that have been handed down through generations.

In modern terms, think of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter as the Church's way of celebrating its backbone — the leadership and authority that have kept it standing strong against the tests of time. It's a call to remember and recommit to the values at the heart of the Catholic faith, emphasizing unity, tradition, and the enduring guidance of those who lead the Church.

So, as we mark this feast day, let's not just see it as a historical footnote. It's a living, breathing reminder of our collective journey in faith, guided by the enduring legacy of St. Peter and the line of leaders who've followed in his footsteps. It's about recognizing our place in a story that spans centuries, rooted in teachings that continue to inspire and guide millions around the globe.

I just thought this was funny


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

What happens for Catholics when Ash Wednesday is on the same day as Valentine's Day?

When Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day coincide, the observance of Ash Wednesday takes precedence for Catholics. This means that the obligations of fasting and abstinence from meat, as required on Ash Wednesday, remain in place even when it falls on Valentine's Day. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast, which entails eating one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal another full meal, with no solid food between meals. Additionally, all Catholics 14 years of age and older must abstain from eating meat on this day.

Bishops and dioceses have clarified that no dispensations will be given for Ash Wednesday, emphasizing the significance of this day in the Catholic liturgical calendar and urging the faithful to observe the day's penitential requirements. Some bishops have suggested celebrating Valentine's Day on another day, such as Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday), to maintain the spirit of both observances. This approach underscores the importance of Ash Wednesday as a day of prayerful reflection and penance that marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn period leading up to Easter.

The unique overlap of Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day offers Catholics an opportunity to reflect on the deeper meaning of love and sacrifice. While Valentine's Day celebrations often focus on romantic love with gifts, candy, and meals, Ash Wednesday calls for a focus on divine love, repentance, and the preparation for Easter. This confluence can serve as a reminder of the many forms of love and the ways in which love and sacrifice are interwoven in the Christian faith.

For more detailed guidance and suggestions on how to navigate this rare occurrence, refer to resources like The Dialog, The Catholic Company, and statements from dioceses as reported by PressReader. These sources offer insights into the Church's stance on the matter and practical advice for Catholics seeking to honor both the solemnity of Ash Wednesday and the celebratory spirit of Valentine's Day in a manner consistent with their faith.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Does the Catholic Church still believe in Purgatory?

Yes, the Catholic Church indeed still believes in purgatory. This teaching is not an obscure theological footnote but a significant aspect of Catholic eschatology—the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

Purgatory is a state of purification for souls who have died in God's grace but still need to be purified of the temporal effects of sin before entering heaven. This teaching is based on the understanding that nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Revelation 21:27). Purgatory reflects God's mercy, offering a process of purification to ensure souls are wholly sanctified for the beatific vision, the direct encounter with God in heaven.

The Church's belief in purgatory underscores the importance of prayers for the deceased, suggesting that the living can assist the souls in purgatory through their prayers and sacrifices, particularly through the Mass. This practice is rooted in Scripture and Tradition, with early Christians praying for the dead, a practice that finds its basis in passages like 2 Maccabees 12:45-46, which commend prayers for the deceased to be released from their sins.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 1030-1032, clearly articulates the nature of purgatory, emphasizing it as a merciful cleansing fire for those who die in God's friendship, yet still imperfectly purified. The councils of Florence and Trent further defined the Church's teaching on purgatory, highlighting its existence and the beneficial impact of the prayers of the faithful for the souls undergoing purification.

Purgatory is fundamentally about God's love, ensuring that souls are prepared to enter into eternal communion with Him in heaven. It is a hopeful doctrine, affirming the continued journey of the soul towards complete union with God and the communal nature of salvation, where the prayers of the Church militant benefit the Church suffering.

Monday, February 12, 2024

What is the Catholic Church in Canada's Position on MAiD?

The Catholic Church in Canada, represented by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), maintains a staunch opposition to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). This unified stance is reflected in their unequivocal message that institutions and associations operating under the Church's name will not permit MAiD. Calgary's Bishop William McGrattan, serving as the president of the CCCB, emphasized during the annual CCCB plenary assembly that the Church is committed to promoting dignified care through palliative care rather than medically-provided death. McGrattan's statements, made in the context of the assembly held from September 25-29, 2023, underscore the Church's dedication to upholding the dignity of the human person in Catholic health care settings​​.

This position is further underscored by the Church's response to legislative changes and societal pressures. The CCCB has actively participated in national dialogues, expressing its concerns over Bill C-7 and its implications for expanding eligibility for legally-sanctioned suicide. The bishops, along with other religious leaders, have articulated their profound ethical and moral objections to euthanasia and assisted suicide, framing MAiD as a direct affront to the sanctity of life, which they equate to murder. Their collective stance, aimed at preserving the integrity of life and offering a critique of societal moral regression, highlights the depth of their opposition​​.

Furthermore, the CCCB's formal statements reiterate their unanimous and unequivocal opposition to the performance of either euthanasia or assisted suicide within health organizations with a Catholic identity. Issued on November 30, 2023, these statements reinforce the Church's moral teachings on the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person. The bishops have articulated that efforts to compel Catholic facilities to perform MAiD would betray the identity of Catholic institutions and violate Catholic teaching. They advocate for comprehensive palliative care that addresses not only physical pain but also existential, psychological, and spiritual needs, positioning it as a life-affirming alternative that aligns with Canadian values of care and inclusion​​.

The CCCB's stance is a testament to the Catholic Church's broader commitment to advocating for the inviolability of life at all stages, offering a clear moral and ethical critique of MAiD legislation in Canada. Through their statements and actions, the Canadian bishops aim to foster a society that prioritizes compassionate care and support for the vulnerable over interventions that end life.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Does the Catholic Church Allow Divorce?

The Catholic Church holds a definitive and unwavering stance regarding the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage, categorically opposing divorce as a means to dissolve the marital bond as recognized by the Church. This position is deeply rooted in Scripture, Tradition, and the Church's Magisterium, affirming that marriage is a sacramental covenant, a divine institution established by God, and, as such, cannot be broken by any human authority.

The foundation of the Church's teaching on marriage is found in the words of Jesus Christ Himself, who unequivocally stated, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mark 10:9). This scriptural mandate underscores the permanence of the marital union, which is reflective of Christ's enduring commitment to His Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reiterates this, stating in paragraph 1614, "In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning: permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts. The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it 'what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.'"

Given this divine ordinance, the Church teaches that a valid sacramental marriage, once consummated, cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death. The Church's Code of Canon Law, canon 1141, affirms this principle, stating, "A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death."

It is important to distinguish between civil divorce and the concept of annulment in the Catholic Church. While civil divorce might legally end a marriage in the eyes of the state, it does not alter the marital status of the individuals within the Church. The Church may, however, issue a declaration of nullity (commonly referred to as an annulment) under specific circumstances. This declaration is a finding by a Church tribunal that a marriage, though appearing to be valid, lacked one of the essential elements required for a binding sacramental union from its beginning. Such a declaration does not dissolve a marriage but rather states that a valid marriage was never sacramentally present.

The Church's firm opposition to divorce is not merely a legalistic stance but a profound affirmation of the dignity and sanctity of the marriage covenant. Divorce is seen as a grave offense against the natural law, causing harm to the spouses involved, to children, and to society as a whole by undermining the concept of fidelity and the stability of the family unit. The CCC, in paragraph 2384, describes divorce as a moral offense that introduces disorder into the family and society. This teaching is not intended to burden the faithful but to protect the sacredness of marriage and to remind the faithful of the gravity of their marital vows before God.

In conclusion, the Catholic Church's opposition to divorce is unequivocal and grounded in its commitment to uphold the sanctity and permanence of the marriage covenant as instituted by God. While the Church acknowledges the complexities and challenges that married couples may face, it encourages them to seek reconciliation and healing within the sacrament of marriage. The Church, through its pastoral care, stands ready to support and guide couples in difficulty, always aiming to lead them towards the fulfillment of their marital vows in accordance with God's divine plan for marriage.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Does the Catholic Church Believe in Evolution?

While the Catholic Church does not explicitly reject the theory of evolution, it exercises caution and provides critical guidance regarding its interpretation, especially when such theories are considered in relation to the truths of faith. The Church maintains a prudent stance, emphasizing that while it does not venture into purely scientific debates, it firmly upholds the doctrinal truths that must not be compromised by scientific theories.

The primary concern of the Church regarding the theory of evolution pertains to the philosophical and theological implications that are often attached to it, especially when it is presented in a manner that undermines the understanding of divine creation, particularly the creation of the human soul. The Church insists that any discussion on human origins must acknowledge the immediate creation of the soul by God. This is a non-negotiable aspect of Catholic doctrine, as it touches upon the fundamental belief in the special creation of human beings, made in the image and likeness of God (Imago Dei).

Pope Pius XII, in "Humani Generis" (1950), while not dismissing the scientific study of human origins, cautioned against interpretations of evolution that deny the essential intervention of God in the direct creation of the human soul. This encyclical highlights the dangers of adopting materialistic and deterministic views of human existence that are often associated with evolutionary theory. Such views are incompatible with the truth of human dignity and the spiritual realities affirmed by the Church.

The Church has not issued any official endorsement of the theory of evolution. Its engagement with scientific theories is always guided by the principle that faith and reason are complementary, not contradictory. However, this engagement does not equate to an acceptance of specific scientific theories as definitive explanations of human origins, especially when such theories are still subject to scientific debate and revision.

In sum, while the Catholic Church recognizes the legitimate domain of science in investigating the material world, it remains vigilant against ideologies that misuse the theory of evolution to challenge the doctrinal truths of the Catholic faith. The Church's main concern is to safeguard the faith from interpretations of evolution that diminish the role of divine providence in creation, particularly the direct creation of the human soul by God, the spiritual nature of human beings, and the ultimate purpose of human existence. This cautious stance underscores the Church's commitment to protecting the integrity of faith amidst the complexities of scientific inquiry.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Does the Catholic Church Allow Cremation?

The Catholic Church, deeply rooted in tradition and reverence for the sacredness of the human body, has historically advocated for the burial of the deceased. This preference is not merely ceremonial but deeply theological, reflecting the belief in the resurrection of the body, a fundamental tenet of Christian faith. The practice of burial, mirroring the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, serves as a powerful symbol of the Christian hope in eternal life and resurrection.

For centuries, cremation was prohibited within the Catholic Church. This prohibition was grounded in the Church's desire to distance Christian practice from non-Christian customs, particularly those that denied the resurrection of the body. The association of cremation with pagan practices and a denial of the Christian doctrine of resurrection contributed to the Church's longstanding opposition to the practice.

The Code of Canon Law of 1917 explicitly reflected this stance, underscoring the preference for burial as a manifestation of belief in the resurrection of the flesh. The Church's position was not only doctrinal but also pastoral, aiming to guide the faithful in practices that affirm their faith in the face of death.

While the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1963 marked a concession, allowing cremation under certain conditions, this should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the practice. The permission granted for cremation comes with significant caveats, primarily that it must not be chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine. The Church's allowance for cremation is a reluctant concession to changing societal circumstances, not a change in doctrinal understanding or an affirmation of the practice.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body" (CCC, 2300). This statement, while acknowledging the allowance for cremation, implicitly reaffirms the Church's preference for burial. The conditional nature of this permission highlights the Church's ongoing concerns regarding the practice.

The 2016 instruction "Ad resurgendum cum Christo" further emphasizes the Church's cautious stance towards cremation, stipulating that ashes must be kept in a sacred place and not subjected to practices that could diminish their dignity or suggest a denial of Christian beliefs about the afterlife and resurrection. These guidelines reflect a broader concern for maintaining the sanctity and integrity of the faith in the context of funeral practices.

In advocating for burial over cremation, the Church upholds a practice that more clearly reflects and honors Christian beliefs about the body, death, and resurrection. Burial serves as a tangible expression of faith in the resurrection and the unity of the body and soul, destined for glorification in eternal life. While cremation is technically allowed, the Church's historical and doctrinal reservations about the practice underscore a clear preference for burial—a preference that honors the Christian understanding of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and a participant in the resurrection to come.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Does the Catholic Church Support Israel?

The Catholic Church's stance towards Israel, like its approach to all nation-states, is guided by principles of neutrality in political conflicts, a commitment to peace, and the promotion of justice and reconciliation. The Church does not issue blanket endorsements or criticisms of any country, including Israel. Instead, it focuses on the well-being of all people involved in conflicts, the respect for human rights, and the sacredness of life. The Church's support for Israel, as for any nation, is contingent upon these principles and the actions of the state in question in upholding them.

The Vatican formally recognized the State of Israel in 1993, establishing diplomatic relations in an agreement that acknowledged Israel's sovereignty while also calling for peaceful solutions to conflicts in the region, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This recognition marked a significant step in the relationship between the Holy See and Israel, aiming to foster dialogue and mutual understanding.

The Church's support for Israel, as well as for Palestine, is framed within the context of its advocacy for peace and justice. The Holy See has consistently called for the respect of international law and the rights of all people in the region to live in peace and security. The Church emphasizes the importance of dialogue and negotiation as the paths to achieving a just and lasting peace that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all visited Israel, gestures that underscore the Church's commitment to fostering positive relations with Jews and promoting interreligious dialogue. These visits have been occasions to pray for peace, to encourage the faithful, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between Christians and Jews.

The Church's teachings and the actions of its leaders highlight a nuanced approach to supporting Israel. The Church advocates for the protection of the Holy Places and the rights of Christians in Israel, along with the freedom of religion and access to sacred sites for all faiths. At the same time, the Church expresses concern over policies and actions that may undermine the prospects for peace or violate human rights, regardless of the parties involved.

The Catholic Church's approach is ultimately rooted in its broader moral and spiritual principles rather than political alignments. It supports efforts that advance peace, justice, and the common good in Israel and the broader Middle East. The Church's vision for the region is one where all people, regardless of nationality or religion, can live in dignity, peace, and mutual respect, with their rights fully protected.

In summary, the Catholic Church's stance towards Israel is characterized by a desire for peace and justice, guided by the principles of neutrality, dialogue, and the promotion of human rights. The Church supports Israel insofar as it upholds these values and works towards a peaceful resolution of conflicts, always within the context of its commitment to the well-being of all people in the region.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

How to find Catholic Mass Times when Traveling

Whenever I travel, be it abroad or within my own country, finding a Mass for Sunday is a priority. Here's a quick guide to help you locate a Catholic church and Mass times near you:

Search Engines: Simply type “Catholic Church near me” or “Mass times near me” into your preferred search engine. This will provide a list of nearby churches with addresses and contact details.

Google Maps: Open Google Maps and enter “Catholic Church” in the search bar. This will show churches in your vicinity. Click on a church to see Mass times, usually listed under the 'About' section. offers a comprehensive database of Catholic churches and Mass schedules worldwide. This website provides church locations, Mass times, and even parish contact information for churches in the USA

Church Websites: If you have a specific church in mind, visit their official website. Most churches post their Mass and reconciliation schedules online.

One of my number one tips is to check the bulletin of the church you are interested in! Sometimes the website may not be updated, but if the bulletin has a date on it and it's recent, there is a good chance the schedule is also updated.

Diocesan Websites: Visiting the website of the diocese you're in can be helpful. They usually have a directory of all the churches in the area along with Mass times.

Parish Apps: Some parishes have their own apps or use platforms like the “MyParish” app. These can be very useful for finding Mass and reconciliation times.

Social Media: Check the church’s social media pages, especially Facebook. Be careful that it is updated though as social media often isn't.

Call the Parish: When in doubt, a quick phone call to the parish office can provide you with the Mass schedule. It's important to plan ahead. Often parish offices have very limited hours and for some reason many do not mention Mass times on their recordings.

Remember, Mass times can vary, especially during holidays and Holy Days of Obligation, so it's always a good idea to double-check.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Easter 2024 & Related Liturgical Dates: A Quick and Informative Guide

Hey everyone,

With Easter 2024 fast approaching, I thought it would be helpful to put together a quick reference guide covering the key dates and some fascinating background on how these dates are determined. This is for all of you who are looking for a concise yet informative overview.

Easter 2024 Date: Mark your calendars, Easter Sunday falls on March 31, 2024.

Key Dates Leading Up to Easter:

Ash Wednesday: The Lenten season begins on February 14, 2024.

Holy Week: Starts on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2024.

Holy Thursday: Commemorated on March 28, 2024.

Good Friday: Observed on March 29, 2024.

Holy Saturday: March 30, 2024.

The Triduum: These are the three days leading up to Easter Sunday, starting with the evening of Holy Thursday and culminating in the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.

Post-Easter Dates:

Ascension of Jesus: Celebrated on May 9, 2024.

Pentecost: Falling on May 19, 2024, this marks the end of the Easter season.

How Is the Date of Easter Determined?

Easter's date varies each year. It's calculated as the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon following the vernal equinox. This method, established by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, aligns Easter with the Jewish Passover based on lunar cycles, as Passover was the time of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.

A Bit of History:

The observance of Easter has evolved significantly since the early days of Christianity. The precise date of Easter was a major point of contention in early Christianity, leading to the establishment of the current method at the Council of Nicaea.

This quick guide should help you keep track of the significant dates in the 2024 liturgical calendar. Whether you're planning community gatherings, personal reflections, or just curious about these dates, I hope this serves as a handy reference.

Stay blessed and keep these dates in mind as we journey through the Lenten and Easter seasons of 2024!

Monday, January 29, 2024

St. Thomas Aquinas: An Inspiring Doctor of the Church

I must apologize for the oversight, as yesterday was the feast day of the great St. Thomas Aquinas, a luminary whose life and teachings continue to inspire me deeply. Born in 1225 in Roccasecca, Italy, St. Thomas Aquinas was an exemplary figure in the Church, a true giant of theology and philosophy.

St. Thomas, a Dominican friar, theologian, and Doctor of the Church, is perhaps best known for his monumental work, the "Summa Theologica." This seminal text, a model of clarity and intellectual rigor, seeks to explain and defend the teachings of the Church. It covers a vast range of topics, from the existence of God to the nature of sin, and stands as a testament to the power of human reason informed by faith.

Educated at the University of Naples and later at the University of Paris, St. Thomas was a student of another great saint, Albert the Great. His writings, although deeply rooted in Christian doctrine, also drew extensively from the works of the ancient philosopher Aristotle. St. Thomas had a remarkable ability to harmonize reason and faith, showing that they are not in opposition but are complementary paths to understanding truth.

St. Thomas’s contributions were not confined to theology alone; he was also a master of metaphysics, ethics, and natural law. His concept of the 'law of nature' has profoundly influenced Western thought, emphasizing that certain rights and values are inherent and universally recognizable.

His life, marked by deep devotion and humility, was dedicated to the pursuit of truth. He experienced a mystical revelation towards the end of his life, after which he stopped writing, claiming that all he had written seemed like "straw" compared to the divine revelation he had experienced.

As we remember St. Thomas Aquinas, we are reminded of the depth and richness of our faith. His teachings encourage us to seek God not just with our hearts but also with our minds. St. Thomas Aquinas remains a beacon of intellectual and spiritual wisdom, guiding us in our quest to understand and live the truths of the Gospel.

Lenten Curiosities: Unusual Foods from Days of Abstinence

Hey everyone,

As we inch closer to Lent this year, with Ash Wednesday landing on February 14, it strikes me how this season not only unites us in spiritual practices but also in some rather unique culinary traditions. Today, let’s take a delightful detour and explore the quirky and sometimes downright strange foods people have consumed during days of abstinence in Lent.

1. Pretzels: A Twist of Faith

Starting with something familiar, did you know that pretzels were traditionally associated with Lent? Originating in Europe, these twisted breads were made simply with flour, water, and salt - aligning perfectly with the fasting rules. Their shape, believed to represent arms crossed in prayer, makes them a staple with a deep spiritual significance.

2. Fasting Bread of the Middle Ages

In medieval times, particularly in Europe, a special 'fasting bread' was often consumed. This bread, far from our usual loaves, was made with unusual ingredients like peas and beans, adhering to the strict Lenten prohibitions against certain foods.

3. Capybara: Swimming through a Loophole

In parts of South America, there's a fascinating history of eating capybara during Lent. Due to a peculiar classification by the Church centuries ago, this large rodent was considered fish, thus making it acceptable for consumption on days of abstinence. It’s a quirky example of how cultural and geographical factors influenced Lenten practices.

4. Barnacle Geese: A Fowl Fish?

Similarly, in medieval Europe, the barnacle goose was classified as a fish by some Christian scholars. This bizarre classification stemmed from a belief that these geese developed from barnacles - a theory that, while scientifically inaccurate, allowed people to eat them during Lent.

5. Ale and Beer: Liquid Bread

In some monastic communities, particularly in Germany, monks brewed special beers for Lent. These were nutritious, hearty brews, often referred to as 'liquid bread.' They provided sustenance during fasting and were a creative adaptation of Lenten restrictions.

6. Vegetable Lamb: A Botanical Oddity

Lastly, there's the curious tale of the 'vegetable lamb,' a mythical plant believed in medieval times to grow sheep as its fruit. While it never made it to the Lenten table (for obvious reasons), it’s a whimsical example of the lengths to which people went to reconcile dietary restrictions with their need for sustenance.

As we embark on our Lenten journey this year, these historical tidbits remind us of the rich and diverse tapestry of our faith. Lent is not just a time for spiritual reflection but also a period that has inspired creativity and adaptability in various cultures around the world. Whether you're sticking to traditional Lenten fare or exploring new culinary avenues, let's embrace this season with the joy and curiosity it deserves.

Until next time, keep the faith and maybe experiment a bit with your Lenten menu - who knows what interesting traditions you might discover!

Friday, January 26, 2024

Where in the Holy Scriptures can we find the foundations for the Lenten practice of fasting and penance?

With Lent soon approaching – starting in less than three weeks on February 14 – it's a great opportunity to reflect on the scriptural underpinnings of our Lenten traditions, particularly fasting and penance. It's like piecing together a beautiful mosaic from the Scriptures that illuminates our path to Easter.

The practice of fasting is deeply rooted in the Bible, with Christ Himself setting the precedent. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2). This period of Jesus’ fasting, a time of solitude and deep communion with the Father, forms the bedrock of our Lenten practice. It's as if each year, through our Lenten fast, we join Christ in the desert, seeking to deepen our own spiritual communion.

Then there's the profound teaching of Jesus on fasting in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:16-18, Christ instructs us on how to fast – not as a public display of piety, but as a private act of devotion. His words guide our Lenten observance, reminding us that our fasting is a personal journey of faith, seen not by others, but by our Father in heaven.

The concept of penance, too, finds its scriptural roots in the calls for repentance throughout the Bible. The Book of Joel, for example, implores us to "return to the Lord with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12). This heartfelt return to God, marked by fasting and sorrow for sins, echoes the very essence of Lent.

As we count down the days to Easter, let’s remember these scriptural foundations of fasting and penance. They’re not just ancient texts; they're living words that guide us each Lenten season as we prepare our hearts for the glory of the Resurrection. It's a journey we take together, supported by the wisdom of the Scriptures.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

History of Lent in the Church

As we find ourselves here on January 25, 2024, with the Lenten season just around the corner, beginning on February 14 this year, I thought it would be a fitting time to embark on a historical exploration. Let's take a stroll down the memory lanes of our Church's past to uncover the origins of Lent. This journey is not just about tracing our roots; it's about deepening our understanding and appreciation as we prepare to enter this sacred season. So, gather around, and let's travel back to the earliest days of our Lenten traditions, connecting our present with the rich tapestry of our faith's history.

Our first stop is in the era of the Didache, one of the earliest Christian documents, dating back to the late first or early second century. It's like a window into the practices of the earliest Christians, showing us their dedication to fasting, though it doesn't explicitly mention a 40-day Lenten period (Didache 8:1). It's fascinating to think how these early believers, much like us, sought to live out their faith through such disciplines.

Moving forward to around 180-190 AD, we encounter St. Irenaeus of Lyons. In his correspondence with Pope St. Victor I, he discusses the variations in the fasting period before Easter (Eusebius, 'Church History', V.24). This shows us that while the practice was widespread, there wasn't yet a uniform way of observing it. Imagine being part of those early discussions, shaping a tradition that we continue today.

The pivotal moment comes with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. This council, which was crucial in defining key aspects of our faith, also sheds light on the Lenten practice. While the council's main focus wasn't on Lent, subsequent canons, like those from the Synod of Laodicea around 363-364 AD, reference a 40-day period of preparation for Easter, echoing Jesus' 40 days in the desert.

And in the early fourth century, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, in his Easter letters (Letter 4, 330 AD), urges his flock to observe a 40-day fast. It’s moments like these that connect us directly to the traditions we uphold today.

Isn't it amazing to think about how our Lenten journey ties us back to these early Christians? Each year, as we embark on our 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we're participating in a practice that's been a cornerstone of Christian life for centuries. It's a beautiful reminder of our shared faith and heritage.

Friday, December 29, 2023

A Sunrise and Belief in God

A Sunrise and Belief in God

Recently I was on my morning walk and I saw a beautiful sunrise, a veritable palette of magnificent colors. Red, peach, yellow. The red was especially intense between two hills, where in their trough was the ocean. This is a place in my city where one can best view this daily event.

I was in awe of the natural beauty before me, more spectacular than any manmade painting. Then an idea dawned on me (excuse the pun!): This is just one of the many ways God reveals himself to us. He could have created any kind of world, but just look how much he went above and beyond in creating absolute beauty and wonderment.

I thought of the idea presented by some that goes something like this: If God is real, why doesn't he make it extremely obvious. Various examples of how he could achieve this have been brought forth.

  • He could create a massive structure in space, perhaps the size of the moon or even larger that conveys some kind of message such as "I am God, worship me".
  • God could appear, perhaps taking on human proportions, again as a giant entity, in a way that he would be visible to all of humanity on the planet, again expressing something about himself and asking us to follow him.

There are surely countless other ways people have proposed for God to reveal himself. We can overlook the idea that we are demanding God "perform" in this way to serve us and satisfy our curiosity for the moment while we consider this argument.

I could respond to this line of reasoning in a way that many others have by stating that if God were to make his presence too obvious then our refusal to accept it would be impossible and thus we would not be freely choosing to love and trust him. However, I feel like this line of reasoning has been thoroughly explained by many people ancient and modern. I would like to take a slightly different approach.

For one thing, as I already mentioned with the sunrise, it seems to anybody who's paying attention that God is making his presence known in many ways all over the place. I've already discussed all of the natural beauty that surrounds us. We look at this as God's handiwork. Also look at all of the things that he has created right before our very eyes. Another angle to look at is the fact that God came to Earth in the form of a man. Yet despite fulfilling prophecy and performing miracles, he was rejected by many. I don't really know how God could make his presence any more obvious than he already has.

There's also an element of fallacy in the line of reasoning that if God were to make himself more obvious then people would automatically believe. Just imagine for example if God appeared as a giant being in the sky. If this were to happen now, in our current day and age, we would say that is very unusual and unbelievable but perhaps we would say this because it is not our current situation. If, however, since the dawn of humanity there were a giant being in the sky, many people would perhaps attribute his existence to the same things to which they attribute our own. They would say things like perhaps he evolved or he is just another, albeit a rather impressive, being in our universe. We have to understand that the Christian idea of God is not just one being among many. For example, our being is contingent whereas God's being is not contingent but necessary. All things that are in the universe ultimately stem from God and his creation. So he is fundamentally different than we are. But if a giant being was simply appearing in the sky, there's no reason to think that people would not simply think of him as another species just like we are.

Ultimately I think we all have that spark given to us by God to come to love and trust in Him and it's a choice whether we accept that spark. A quote attributed to St. Augustine sums it up: "To those who have faith, no explanation is necessary; to those without faith, no explanation is possible".