Carmel Bulletin, 2 March 2014
The season of Lent begins this Wednesday. Both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are particular days of fast and abstinence, and we are encouraged to make these regular practices, especially during this season.
The purpose of our fasting and abstaining is simple – to remove the distractions that the “wants” in our lives cause us, so that we may focus on what we really need. The first and foremost need in our lives of course being a deep, loving relationship with our God and with each other. We are called to consider how we may make this penitential practice an authentic part of our Lenten observance, as we hear in the gospel of Ash Wednesday.
The thought of fasting or abstaining may seem somewhat extreme, or old-fashioned, or both. It can often be something that is seen as the typical behaviour of “those Catholics”, with the connotations and preconceived notions that come with it.
Yet periods of fast and abstinence are alive and well in the wider community, even if people don’t realise it. World Vision still fundraises through the 40 Hour Famine each year. We’re asked every twelve months to abstain from using electricity for an hour (funnily enough, this year on 29 March – during Lent). Men are encouraged every November to abstain (somewhat) from shaving to support research into prostate cancer, while to support leukaemia research, we’re asked to give up our hair altogether (until it grows back, of course, and again, this will fall during Lent this year).
It all certainly makes not having meat for a handful of Fridays sound pretty tame, doesn’t it?
- Paschale Solemnitatis: Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts.
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 1988
- General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar
Sacred Congregation for Rites, 1969
- Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 2001