Matthew 4:1-2: Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.
Lent is the Catholic season to try and honor the Lord Jesus when he went into the desert for 40 days by emulating in a some small way his struggle with extra prayer, alms giving and penance. During this time we try to live a physically simpler life and try to focus or minds and bodies in following in Lord Christ’s example. Fat Tuesdays or in French Mardi Gras is when people who participate in Lent (Catholics) would party before Lent. Easter is at the end of Lent and is another nice party and time for celebration. It is of note that Mardi Gras ends at midnight on Tuesday, because one minute after midnight Lent starts. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we fast. Why should we fast?
We fast for many reasons. Even if there were no other reason to fast, we fast out of obedience: Our Lord and His Apostles tell us to. We also fast to discipline the body so that we can focus more intently on the spiritual. And we fast to do penance. This last reason is described well by Pope Clement XIII in his “Appetente Sacro,” written in 1759. In this document, he exhorts his Bishops to explain to their flocks the reasons for fasting:
You will begin most appropriately, and with hope of the greatest profit, to recall men to the observance of the holy law of fasting, if you teach the people this: penance for the Christian man is not satisfied by withdrawing from sin, by detesting a past life badly lived, or by the sacramental confession of these same sins. Rather, penance also demands that we satisfy divine justice with fasting, almsgiving, prayer, and other works of the spiritual life. Every wrongdoing — be it large or small — is fittingly punished, either by the penitent or by a vengeful God. Therefore we cannot avoid God’s punishment in any other way than by punishing ourselves. If this teaching is constantly implanted in the minds of the faithful, and if they drink deeply of it, there will be very little cause to fear that those who have discarded their degraded habits and washed their sins clean through sacramental confession would not want to expiate the same sins through fasting, to eliminate the concupiscence of the flesh. Besides, consider the man who is convinced that he repents of his sins more firmly when he toes not allow himself to go unpunished. That man, already consumed with the love of penance, will rejoice during the season of Lent and on certain other days, when the Church declares that the faithful should fast and gives them the opportunity to bring forth worthy fruits of penance.
Many traditional Catholics approach Lent with abstinence and fasting for the entire 40 days of Lent. We don’t do the minimal, we do more. In addition we traditionally Catholics attempt to do “something extra” during Lent. There are only three things that gather graces during Lent; prayer, alms giving and penance.
Prayer. This does not mean your “normal” prayers. It means making extra prayers during Lent. One member of this blog is having a regular Bible study with a group of people to help him deepen his faith and personal relationship with God. The point, is this is extra prayers, not your normal prayers.
Alms giving. This is not your normal tithing or giving you perform, this again is something extra, something more. I would humbly suggest looking at supporting the Monks of Wyoming with an extra gift if you are already helping them. These Brothers need your support. I have even tried to make it easy by allowing you to subscribe to coffee and support this blog and support the Monks of Wyoming. I just ran into a person who I would assume was working on Lent. I was in a take out line for food. When I ordered and went to pay, the person said that the random person ahead of me had already paid. They simply paid for some random person. That was nice, and to tell you the truth, kind of strange.
Penance. Penance is intense. To me this means struggling to control my physical body, and mind. Traditionally major Saints would go to what we would think of as “extreme” methods to try and have “mind over matter” or master their body. They approached it nearly like Monks of the Far East do, hammering their body until they felt they were in more control of their own bodies.
Normally you don’t share what you are doing for Lent as the Lord says do your penance and such in private, don’t try and get “credit” from people from doing it in public. However I wanted to give you an example of how I am weaving Lent and self-sufficiency together, which is fairly unique. Perhaps this can give you some ideas.
Rosary by candle light. We will try to cut out the lights and say the rosary together as a family by candle and / or lamp oil for 30 minutes per day. That means turning off the electronics. I believe this quiets our home down and improves our ability and how “calm” our family is if the power goes out. This will also limit my normal process of stopping off after work a few nights a week, with the guys for a quick one before heading home.
Physical Training (PT). I have fallen away from regular workouts in the morning, and my 30 minutes of walk / run at lunch. When Mike Tyson was a monster in the boxing ring, he didn’t use weights to train. He used only resistance training. This means simply, pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups run (or walk) for 30 minutes. I will make a significant effort to complete that each and every morning. I sometimes do that while listening to Gregorian chant or other classic Catholic holy music. It is a time to “get my mind right.”
Cold showers. One of the things that is hard for me to do is to take a cold shower even for a few minutes. I hate cold showers. However it may be required in the future. Thus after taking a normal shower I make the water as “cold as I can stand” and then say three Hail Mary’s. It really does suck. Badly. In case of grid down, I think I would be taking “towel” showers for the most part.
Anyway, that is how I am combining Lent and focusing on my self-reliance. Trying a little extra prayer, a little physical penance / PT. I have asked my wife if we as a family can abstain from meat for the entire 40 days, just makes it simpler. She is not impressed, however I will do my best to abstain and fast for the entire 40 days as an individual. The way we approach it, fasting is simply eating two meals a day. We fix one meal (of vegetable or fish) which we take with us in our lunch box, and eat it in two servings and then eat our main meal at dinner time. We may crack open some of our survival foods also to cycle through them and see how to make them and what we like. That is another great way to combine Lent and prepping. When is the last time you made some of that food?
Abstinence. In the Rome Catholic Church, abstinence means refraining from eating the meat from mammals or fowl, and soup or gravy made from them. Fish is allowed, hence Fridays are known as “Fish Fridays.” Traditionally, the laws of abstinence apply to all aged 7 and over.
Fasting. Fasting is the taking of only one full meal (which may include meat) and two smaller, meatless meals that don’t equal the large one meal. No eating between meals is allowed, but water, milk tea, coffee, and juices are ok. Meat is allowed at one meal (assuming abstinence isn’t also expected on a given day like it is during Lent). Traditionally, everyone over 21 years of age and under 59 years of age is bound to observe the law of fast.
More from Fish Eaters.