Tag Archives: lent

Our Loving Mother, the Church, Teaches Us through Her Liturgy… Or at Least She Used To: A Holy Week Oration and Why We Fast

I have harped about fasting these past six weeks. I am sure it is tiresome to some. But please indulge me one more time. It is Holy Week, after all. Sidenote: this is the week where our fasting should take on extra urgency and our desire to be as generous to God as possible should cause our hearts to burn. Step it up, brethren.

I remember in the days when I foolishly believed I was helping to form young men and women for God by teaching the Catholic faith in “Catholic” schools. Please God, at least some of those I taught actually learned something. Owing to my own theological training which itself sprang from an imbued love of the faith, I would voraciously devour what we now refer to so blandly as “content”. Whereas today I scan through favorited websites and watch hours of YouTube videos (I also read books too), back then I would get a hold of every new encyclical and exhortation. That was when we had a pope to write them.

I remember reading one such document of Benedict XVI (the name of which I cannot recall at the moment) and being struck by two things. The first was a line that said something to the effect of “Our first prayer should always be a plea for a god’s mercy.” I never forgot that. The second was the notion that the faith should be taught from the Mass. In other words, in order to teach the Catholic faith, we need only immerse ourselves in the sacred rites of the Church. You will find all you need to know therein. This seems to me nothing more than a play on “lex orandi, lex credendi “.

Stained glass transom, St. Lucy’s Church, Newark, NJ FYI please pray for Mr. and Mrs. Russo.

So this brings us to the great Lenten fast. As I have mentioned, I have made the effort this year to truly embrace the fast for all that it is worth. Over the past 4-5 years (corresponding to my time “in tradition”) I have come to learn much from the ancient Mass – much that was hidden from me during the previous 40 years in the Novus Ordo. Ask yourself, if the Mass teaches us the faith and I was going every day and didn’t know things I should have known, why is that? We know the answer. The Bugnini rite stripped away the beauty of the fundamentals. Apostolic teaching like fasting got reduced to something akin to a suggestion on a couple of days a year. I am angry when I think about it. Things necessary to the salvation of my soul were kept from me. I’m sure some will argue that one doesn’t, strictly speaking, need to fast to attain heaven like one doesn’t need to pray the rosary. The same people would accuse me of legalism for wanting to adhere to rubrics.

But now I see it. It is clear to me. Fasting is fundamental. Fasting is salutary. Fasting is an imitation of Christ! It takes our wills and curbs our vices to surrender the desires of the appetites to God. It keeps demons at bay (much as the rosary does). It allows us full, conscious, and active participation in our salvation by uniting ourselves with the Crucified Savior!

Today, for the first time in a long time, I was unable to attend the Holy Mass. My daughter had a doctor’s appointment that I had forgotten about and it overlapped with the Mass time. So this evening, in the quiet setting of my front porch, I took out my missal and prayed the prayers of the Mass to myself. I read Mark’s account of the Passion. I read the Offertory prayers. I prayed the Leonine prayers. But I also found another hidden gem.

And here, with just two days until the most austere fast of all (Holy Thursday until the Vigil), the ancient teaching words of our loving Mother the Church hit me like a hammer.

“May our vices be cured, O Almighty God, by Thy holy mysteries, and may we receive everlasting healing. Per Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum…”

Postcommunion, Tuesday of Holy Week

Fasting is a gift from God as is the free and undeserved grace to fast and He gives it to us to purify us by curbing our vices and heal us forever.

That oration, in the noble simplicity of ancient Roman oratory, is your crib sheet. That is why we fast.

I so love the rites of Holy Week and I desire the more to lay myself at the foot of His Cross and mourn for my sins and for the wasted time. The fasting this year has increased that love. It has indeed strengthened me. It has shielded me. It has, dare I say it, made me more of a man. But thanks be to God for giving me this grace now and May He bless each of you to fast generously during the Triduum!

Our Lady of Revelation, pray for us!

The Generous Gift of Fasting

One of the things I love about writing this blog is the ability to share with others beautiful things that I come across. Shortly before noon as I drove to Mass I was preparing myself mentally for the Sacrifice. I had on my mind and in my heart feelings of failure. Over the past week I had a family member in town and had also had to engage in some travel and a business luncheon. All of these things contributed to me “fudging” with my Lenten fast a little bit. What had until that time been a miraculous thing for me – the ability to subsist on literally bread and water for four weeks – now felt like a drag as I attempted to recover that spirit. Shortly before leaving the house I had come across a video on Youtube from the Norbertine Fathers in California. When I stopped at a red light I decided to play the video, listening to the audio as I continued my drive.

Here is that video. It is simply put one of the most edifying explanations of why we fast and how we ought to fast. I will not comment further. PLEASE watch this video.

Fr. Nortbert’s words lifted my soul and gave me hope. I pray now for the grace to go harder, as he says, and to be as generous as possible in this gift I will offer God. I pray that you who read this might also embrace the ancient fast of the Church in preparation for the great feast of Easter.

But Fr. Norbert continued. Fasting throughout the year should also be a part of our life as Catholics. True, he says, the grace to fast is more abundant to us during the season of Lent but that shouldn’t mean we abandon the practice for 9/10ths of the year. The early Christians would fast – man, woman, and child – on Wednesdays and Fridays all year. I believe I will try this myself. Our Lord certainly knows better than I do that I have much to atone for, much like Fr.’s example of St Norbert who fasted every day after his conversion.

Then I got to Mass and prayed the Missal as is my custom, silently mouthing along through the ancient prayers. Again, I was reassured that this is Our Lord’s intention for us – to offer to Him our sacrifice, to chasten our bodies, curb our vices, give our wills over to Him, and ultimately, detaching ourselves from the things of this world, to LOVE Him with purity of heart and body.

The Collect:

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the dignity of human nature, weakened by excessive self-indulgence, may be restored by the earnest practice of healing self-denial.

Divinum Officium

The Post-Communion (which is also one of the Ablution prayers at every Mass):

May we receive with pure mind, O Lord, what we have taken by mouth, and as a gift in time, may it become for us a remedy for eternity.

Divinum Officium

This is not my favorite translation of this prayer but it works. What I see in this is a deeper reference to the Eucharist as the only food we truly need.

And finally, the Gospel of the Mass was taken from St. Luke 7:36-50:

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him; so He went into the house of the Pharisee and reclined at table. And behold, a woman in the town who was a sinner, upon learning that He was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment; and standing behind Him at His feet, she began to bathe His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with ointment. Now when the Pharisee, who had invited Him, saw it, he said to himself, This man, were He a prophet, would surely know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. And Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. And he said, Master, speak. A certain money-lender had two debtors; the one owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. As they had no means of paying, he forgave them both. Which of them, therefore, will love him more? Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave more. And He said to him, You have judged rightly. And turning to the woman, He said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into your house; you gave Me no water for My feet; but she has bathed My feet with tears, and has wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, from the moment she entered, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint my head with oil; but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say to you, her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much. But he to whom little is forgiven, loves little. And He said to her, Your sins are forgiven. And they who were at table with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this man, who even forgives sins? But He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

About eighteen months ago I had some time during several cross-country drives and I decided to “catch up” by listening to every Barnhardt Podcast. She still sounds great at 1.5X speed. Sidenote: If ever I meet Miss B. in person I’m not sure I’ll know it’s really her if she suddenly starts speaking in a slower tempo. But I digress. In one episode linked below, Ann and Supernerd discuss Mary Magdalene and how she did not simply live the rest of her life after the Ascension as she had before nor even as if nothing was different. Instead, she practiced austere penance. Think about that. She who had been forgiven directly by Christ (as in the Gospel above), who had wept at the foot of His cross, and to whom He had appeared after His resurrection, did not slack as a penitent. Rather she carried the Gospel to France with her brother and sister, Martha and Lazarus, and lived in a cave, fasting and praying for decades until the same Lord called her to Himself.

This evening, a friend stopped by and I showed him the Norbertine video. We talked about Magdalene. He reminded me that he had traveled through France this past summer and then showed me the following pictures.

Remains of St. Mary Magdalene, Ste. Baume, France, courtesy GH. Zoom in on the image. There is still skin covering the part of her forehead where Our Lord laid His hand on her.
Grotto in the Cave of St. Mary Magdalene, courtesy GH

Again, Our Lord saw fit to humble me today and to give me new hope. If you have done no fasting this Lent, I pray you will follow the example of Magdalene. I pray you will heed the words of Fr. Norbert. I pray you will make a generous gift of your fasting to Our Lord. We have one week left.

St. Norbert, pray for us!

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Barnhardt Podcast Episode #16 – Mary Magdalene…

The Definitive Post on Lenten Fasting

My brother-in-law and I talk often. He is a solid man who is raising his family right. I appreciate conversing with him about our traditional Catholic faith. Just a day ago, he mentioned the video I am including below as one I would find interesting.

X Station – Jesus is Made to Bear His Cross, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, Newark, NJ

Before I get to that video I would like to make a few notes. Until now, I have been reluctant to mention specifics of my own Lenten fast. Call it a stab at humility if you will. I am trying to avoid the snares set forth by the devil. I will however, in light of this video and if it helps anyone, mention a few of them. Since Ash Wednesday, I along with several of my nephews and other family members far and wide have been waiting until 3:00 PM to eat. When we eat, it is bread. And that is all. Other than two instances where I planned to eat a little more (such as this Laetare Sunday and a gala I must attend in Virginia), we have, by the grace of God, kept to that.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart – Praised be Jesus Christ! This is the most wonderful Lent I have ever lived. And I only share this because I know the Lord has given me the grace (as He promises to do). This should be impossible. I should be collapsed on the ground. I am a very active man. I am on the go all the time. I increased my workouts. I’m lifting heavier and doing more. And all I’m eating is bread once a day. Truly, God be praised! Seriously, men, if you lift weights or do anything active then you know what I mean. Also I’m 45 years old. I should be on the ground by that fact alone! But I want to ask each of you – especially the men reading this – to give it a shot. If it helps, my wife and mother-in-law are doing this too so no shame there, dudes. And I almost don’t want to go back to how I lived before vis. my eating habits.

On a sidenote, I have been Catholic my entire life. Mr. Plese as a convert truly typifies the best of the Catholic Church, in my opinion. I will offer a prayer for him and I enjoin you to as well.

Let us go forward toward Easter in penance and prayer. I feel so much more invigorated. Our Lord asks this of us.

At the end of the video, Plese asks, “If you are not willing to do this, who is?” I ask the same. Let us do this together and keep each other in prayer.

Lord Jesus crucified, have mercy on us!

The Priest’s Priest on Fasting

My mother-in-law found this crumpled piece of paper among her things this morning and sent me a picture. I am most appreciative of things like this. God saw fit to show me the wisdom of one of His saints today.

Simply beautiful!

St. John Vianney, pray for us!

Deny Thyself… It’s Lent

I’m trying my best to cast a more “spiritual” and prayerful glow on these pages during the 40 days. This one is short and if it seems like a repetition of several previous posts; that’s because it is.

The Collect for Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent:

Hear us, almighty and merciful God, and in Thy kindness grant us the graces of self-denial that lead to salvation.
Through Jesus Christ…

First of all, can you believe it’s already the third week?! Second, there it is again. The Church prayers in Holy Mass during these days that Almighty God, in His kindness, grant us the graces of self-denial. This self-denial leads to salvation. Get on board the fasting train if you haven’t already done so. Brothers and sisters, it is our Catholic duty.

Keep Keeping the Fast

I was looking for a topic to post tonight when I came across the following video.

I do not know these monks but I like what I’m hearing. I hate to beat a dead horse but I am convinced this is a missing key to growth in personal holiness. I’ve been paying careful attention to the orations at daily Mass and they bear witness to this.

We must be fasting during Lent. It isn’t easy. But it is not only worth it but also a command. The spiritual benefits I have already seen have caused me to wonder why I haven’t done this before. Also, I have a tendency to look to the early Church and see what they were doing and how I could imitate these our forefathers. They fasted every day of Lent. Many were also martyred.

The new crowd? Well, my mother-in-law and I had a conversation a few days ago about all the craziness in the world and in the Church. At one point she said, “They don’t want any remnants of the past.” Boy is she right. They hate tradition. We already know that. But they have to destroy every vestige of the past because the past is our heritage and our pillar. It is our foundation.

Why would anyone fast today? Seriously. I have heard people tell me, “The Church doesn’t really want us to fast anymore,” or “You’re overdoing it. Don’t you know we’re supposed to do something positive instead of just giving stuff up,” or “Hey man, it’s Sunday. That’s not part of Lent.” On that last point the implication is that Sundays are apparently for gluttony.

Let me issue a challenge. Since there is no prohibition of fasting; why not give it a shot. Men among this readership – be men. Go hard. Make it hurt. Do it for your sins. Do it for your wives and children. Unite the pain to the cross. It’s only for a short while. If you don’t notice the same things I’m noticing in my fast, then go back to your Ash Wednesday/Good Friday-one big and two small meal thing. What have you got to lose?

“Grant that our fasting may be beneficial to us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, so that by chastising our flesh we may obtain strength for our souls.”

Collect for Saturday, Second Week of Lent, copied from Divinum Officium

St. Bernadette, pray for us!

Hurry On In! He’s Practically Giving It Away!

I have been having more conversations lately where the subject of God’s grace has been coming up more and more frequently. Typically these conversations are with my male confreres, for lack of a better word. I am referring to men whom I count among my family and friends, but also with several of my sisters. Why am I focusing on the men? It is because we have a particular interest in raising our families that is distinct from the interests our wives have.

I mentioned last week the phrase that kept popping up in a Fr. Ripperger video – the husbands and fathers, through their prayers, sufferings, and good works merit grace for their wives and children. It is also, of course, the holy season of Lent – a time when we are to pray, fast, and give alms in a more focused and heightened way. And it MUST be heightened and intentional. Gentlemen, I’m speaking to you. And I am speaking as a man humbled and sorrowful in the knowledge that I have never truly done this before.

What am I talking about? Let’s see… On the prayer front; I can say I always pray for my wife and kids. I am at Mass every day, pray my rosary, all the things you’d expect. Could I do better? Of course I could. On the almsgiving? Let me leave that one for another post. But on the fasting? Oh boy…

Something, some pious knowledge, some sermon, something over the past few years finally burrowed deep into my brain and my heart and finally clicked for me. In addition to the mortifcations and disciplines of “giving something up” for Lent, I need to be actually fasting. This year I think it finally dawned on me that fasting is just that – actual fasting, like for the full 40 days. It means an actual reduction in my intake of food. It implies abstinence from meat(s) for the full 40 days. I have never truly done this before; not seriously anyway. And just like the blessed Mary Magdalene, forgiven by Our Lord Himself yet who lived a life of austere penance and mortification and, yes, fasting until He brought her to her reward; I too MUST do these things to atone for my sins. The beauty is that fasting is so much more than this. Remember, certain demons are only driven out through fasting? And yes, let’s get this one out of the way for all the haters… *Fasting should be conducted according to one’s state in life and overall physical health. Believe me, I understand. Which is why I am extraordinarily grateful that Our Lord has seen fit to give me overall excellent health and a daily life suited to what I have undertaken.

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, St. Lucy’s Church/Shrine of St. Gerard Magella, Newark, NJ

And yet in all of this, the question might arise, “What does this have to do with your conversations on grace with other guys?” Here’s how it comes back.

Have you not noticed that grace – specifically the graces of protection and greater desire to cling to Our Lord and a strengthening of cogitative and common sense powers and a deep and abiding love for the Holy Sacrifice – seem to be abounding among our ilk lo these past few years? Is it not obvious that the world has gone mad? You see the same people as I do – driving in cars, alone and wearing paper masks over their faces. You wonder as I do what was it that caused people like us immediately to take the firm stand that we would never take the poison from the moment it was announced there would be a poison to take. What brought all of us into tradition – whether it was five decades ago or just recently? What continues to bring people into tradition, for they are still coming… And I only include myself in any of this because I am cognizant of the fact that, on my own, I never would be in this place and I am filled with thanks and even joy. We know there is a bigger fight looming over the Mass. I am at peace. All of this is God’s supernatural and superabundant grace flowing in these days. Most especially, if you are a husband and father you definitely know that God’s grace is far more abundant in these days to those who call upon Him and ask for it. How else could we defend our families from what is purely the most evil and vile generation ever to roam the earth?

I especially recognize that in my attempt at fasting. I legitimately thought it would be impossible. Yet, thanks be to God, He has given me the grace such that I am not bothered. I’m only two weeks in but I already feel as though I am not doing enough because it doesn’t really “hurt” the way I thought it would. I believe He has given me the grace to do what He has asked me to do.

Today one of my nephews shared a passage from a book he’s reading that put it all in perspective. I quote the section below. It is from The Catechism Explained by Fr. Spirago. Sidenote: This book is available through Mediatrix Press. I highly encourage you to purchase it there so as to support Ryan Grant. I am sure you all know that his wife is very ill. Say a prayer for their family and for her and then give your money. Consider it almsgiving for Lent.

“The action of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men is not constant, but occasional.
Hence the exhortation of St. Paul: “Now is the acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Compare the parable of the vineyard where the workmen received only one summons (Matt. 20).
Times of special grace are the seasons of Lent or when a mission is being given, or the jubilee year. These times of grace are like the market-days when things are easier to obtain; with this difference, that no money is required, “Come buy wine and milk, without money, and without any price” (Is. 55:1).
Actual graces are obtained by the performance of good works, especially by prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds; and more especially by the use of the means of grace provided by the Church, by hearing of holy Mass, worthy reception of the sacraments, and attendance at sermons.”

p. 175

And there it is! Grace IS more readily available to us right now! The season of Lent is a time of special grace. If I’m reading that correctly, it’s almost like there’s a mega-giveaway on grace right now. “These times of grace are like the market-days.” Not to be crass; but compare it to a super-sale at the mall if you will, but you get the point. And we see as well that these actual graces are obtained through the Lenten means (prayer, fasting, almsgiving) and also by using the grace given by Our Lord through His Church – in particular Mass and the sacraments. Go to daily Mass if you are able. You will never regret that, I promise you. Pray your rosary – all of it if you can. Confess often. Our Lord wants to shower you with grace during these days. Never more than now should we heed His own words to us:

“Ask and ye shall receive.”

And by the way, supplies never run out.

St. Robert Belarmine, pray for us!

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!