Ash Wednesday, Fasting, Abstaining, and You

According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church, Latin Church Catholics are bound to observe fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday.

Here are some details. I am sure you know them already, but they are good to review.

FASTING: Catholics who are 18 year old and up, until their 59th birthday (when you begin your 60th year), are bound to fast (1 full meal and perhaps some food at a couple points during the day, call it 2 “snacks”, according to local custom or law – call it, two snacks that don’t add up to a full meal) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  There is no scientific formula for this.  Figure it out.

ABSTINENCE: Catholics who are 14 years old and older are abound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent.

In general, when you have a medical condition of some kind, or you are pregnant, etc., these requirements can be relaxed.

For Eastern Catholics there are differences concerning dates and practices. Perhaps our Eastern friends can fill us Latins in.

You should by now have a plan for your spiritual life and your physical/material mortifications and penitential practices during Lent.

You would do well to include some works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal.

I also recommend making a good confession close to the beginning of Lent.  Let me put that another way:


“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying anxiously, “What about my Mystic Monk Coffee?  I can drink my Mystic Monk Coffee, can’t I?  Can’t I?”

You can, of course, with and as part of your full meal and two “snacks”.  No question there.

How about in between?  The old axiom, for the Lenten fast, is “Liquidum non frangit ieiuniumliquid does not break the fast”, provided you are drinking for the sake of thirst, rather than for eating.  Common sense suggests that chocolate banana shakes or “smoothies”, etc., are not permissible, even though they are pretty much liquid in form.  They are not what you would drink because you are thirsty, as you might more commonly do with water, coffee, tea, wine in some cases, lemonade, even some of these sports drinks such as “Gatorade”, etc.  Again, common sense applies, so figure it out.

Drinks such as coffee and tea seem not break the Lenten fast even if they have a little milk added, or a bit of sugar, or fruit juice, which in the case of tea might be lemon.

Coffee would break the Eucharistic fast (one hour before Communion), since – pace fallentes  – coffee is no longer water, but it does not break the Lenten fast on Ash Wednesday.

You will be happy to know that chewing tobacco does not break the fast (unless you eat the quid, I guess), nor does using mouthwash (gargarisatio in one manual I checked) or brushing your teeth (pulverisatio).

If you want to drink your coffee and tea with true merit I suggest drinking it from one of my coffee mugs.  I’d like to offer an indulgence for doing so, but that’s above my pay grade.

Perhaps I should make a “Liquidum non frangit ieiunium” mug.

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Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, at 7 pm we will have a traditional Sung Mass, Extraordinary Form, at the chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Center.  All are welcome.

Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation.  This, however, could be one of the “last chance” Masses in the area and opportunity to receive ashes, even if you cannot receive Holy Communion.

Bring friends.

As I mentioned elsewhere, my intention for the Mass is for my benefactors and that they have a fruitful Lent. 7 pm CST = 0100 GMT 19 Feb.

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About that Heliocentric thing…

This is waaaaay too cool not to share about your planet’s yellow Sun.

And then there is this.

A good thought project for Lent. As you watch the animation, as you watch the little dot planets whirl about the Sun, and the Sun on the galactic plane go zooming along in its own snaky path, consider how many times you see the planets circle the Sun and then consider the span of your life…

… after which you are going before the Judge, through whom all things came into being.

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WDTPRS – Ash Wednesday (2002MR) – WAR!

The Roman Station for Ash Wednesday is Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.

The Collect in the 2002 Missale Romanum, is an ancient prayer found in the Gelasian Sacramentary for the Vigil of Pentecost.  It is also among the prayers for the 4th day of the 4th month, which more than likely involved the traditional fast of the fourth month (there were fasts in the 4th, 7th and 10th months).  This prayer is in the so-called Veronese Sacramentary under the title In ieiunio quarti mensis.

This prayer was also in the 1962 Missale Romanum but at the end of the section for the blessing of and imposition of ashes, before the Introit of the Mass itself.

Let’s see what the prayer really says.

Concede nobis, Domine, praesidia militiae christianae
sanctis inchoare ieiuniis,
ut, contra spiritales nequitias pugnaturi,
continentiae muniamur auxiliis.

Praesidium has a military connotation.  It means fundamentally “defense, protection, help, aid, assistance” and thus it refers to “soldiers who are to serve as a guard”.  Thus, by extension, it comes to mean “any place occupied by troops, as a hill, a camp, etc.; a post, station, entrenchment, fortification, camp”.  Munio is equally military: “to build a wall around, to defend with a wall, to fortify, defend, protect, secure, put in a state of defense”.  As you can imagine pugno, “to combat, give battle, engage, contend”, is a military term.  Are you getting the picture?  Of course auxilium means “help, aid, assistance, support, succor”, but when in the plural it is also “auxiliary troops, auxiliaries (mostly composed of allies and light-armed troops; hence opposed to the legions)”.  Then there is militia, which is “military service, warfare, war” and also specifically in the genitive militiae “in military service, or on a campaign, in the field”.

Grant us, O Lord, to commence the defenses of the Christian field campaign by means of holy fasts,
so that, we who are about to do battle against spiritual negligences,
may be fortified by the support of continence.

This is a mighty prayer.

Most of us when we were confirmed were reminded in some way that we are soldiers in this pilgrim Church.  We must be ready to suffer for the Faith.

Militaristic imagery informs much of the history of Christian spirituality.  We should take this to heart.  It is part of our identity as Christians.  The Christian life is not for cowards,

We are soldiers on the march, pilgrim soldiers.  We are on campaign.

When the Roman legions were on the march, they would build a fortified camp when they halted.  They took no chances.  We are on the march in a vale of tears where anything and everything can happen to us and around us.

Furthermore, when we make mistakes, the results can be deadly. The word nequitia means “bad quality, badness” but that is because it is “bad moral quality, of all degrees, idleness, negligence, worthlessness, vileness”.  It usually refers to a lack of attention that duty and prudence require, resulting in negative consequences.  Moreover, the virtue of continence is described with the same word used to describe the auxiliary troops that supported the legion’s regulars.  While it could simply refer to “abstinence”, continence is the virtue which restrains the will from consenting to strong impulses of sexual desire.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint

Father in Heaven,
Protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
make this season holy by our self-denial

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LENTCAzT 01: Ash Wednesday

LENTCAzT15Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence.


Here is another 5 minute daily podcast for Lent.  They are intended to give you a small boost every day, a little encouragement in your own use of this holy season.

I am providing these again this year especially in gratitude to benefactors who help me and this blog.

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Bp. Morlino (D. Madison) on EWTN – talking sense

A few days ago, The Extraordinary Ordinary, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, was on with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN.

Bp. Morlino spoke about what Pope Francis is up to, what is going on in the divorced and remarried Communion debate, Card. Burke’s comments about resistance, etc.

He makes a lot of sense.


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ASK FATHER: How to respond when homosexuals tell you they’re “married”?

From a reader…


Our comings and goings in civil society are going to be getting markedly more and more difficult, especially as “gay marriage” becomes legal in state after state, and as “transgendered” people are being allowed to have their bodies mutilated so as to appear to be something they are not. As Catholics, we simply cannot accept lies and untruth. Two men who exchange rings and pledge their troth to each other are not married, and can never be married to each other. A man who chooses to have himself surgically altered and wear dresses and high heels is not a woman, and can never be one. But now civil society is, more and more, saying that these logical inconsistencies and untruths are true.

What is a Catholic to do?

In our social lives, we need to continue to be polite. If Bruce and Alphonse show off their “wedding” rings and talk about their fabulous honeymoon to Cabo at a neighborhood barbecue, we should nod and smile and move on to another table. Haranguing them about the Truth then and there would not be effective. If LaVerne now wants to be called Herman, we are not under any obligation to now include her on the men’s softball team, or bring her into the study for cigars and brandy after supper.

In our work lives, things are going to get dicey. Some corporations, under the influence of the very heavy-handed gay agenda, are pushing a policy of “tolerance” that forces acceptance of every sort of deviant lifestyle and intolerance of traditional mores. These policies will make it more or less mandatory to accept “gay marriages.” The employee who fails to acknowledge that Ellen and Bernice are now wife and wife will be subject to discipline.

We have to craft our responses to these situations carefully.

“Boris, good to see you, it’s been a long time! I understand from your recent correspondence that you and Philbert said ‘I do.’  [Keep that smile plastered on your face!] Now, that’s going to change your income tax filling status!  I’m glad you came in to get that all sorted out, and I’m here to help you.”

St. Thomas More would be a good patron to invoke for assistance in walking that tightrope between upholding truth and morality, while attempting to live in a society that’s quickly going mad.

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ASK FATHER: Children and ashes

From a reader:

Are children of any age able to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday or is First Communion/Confirmation required first? My son is almost 2.

Yes, children of any age can receive ashes.  That’s up to you parents and, I suppose, the willingness of little stupor mundi to submit to the moment without having a fit.

I suspect that these very early memories could play a part in a deeper formation of identity.

Watch out, however, lest ashes get into the eyes of the really little ones.

Come to think of it, I don’t see why non-Catholics couldn’t receive ashes.  They are not forbidden from making the sign of the Cross with Holy Water when entering our churches.  They can have blessed palms on Palm Sunday.  Why couldn’t they get some ashes on Ash Wednesday?

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ASK FATHER: Can I smoke marijuana?

From a reader…


I enjoy smoking marijuana from time to time (about once a week). I’m trying to be a better Catholic and was wondering if I absolutely have to give this up? To put it into context, when I get high I don’t act like an idiot. I generally read Aristotle or Aquinas, or listen to Mozart. Marijuana activates my religious side, it doesn’t dull it. [Uh huh… riiiiight.]

Also, most Catholics enjoy a beer. I don’t see why they can have a drink but I can’t have a joint. I think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and more enjoyable.

Smoking marijuana has been condemned on two principles: 1) the fact that it is illegal and 2) that it dulls the senses.

The fact that, in a few states and municipalities in the United States and elsewhere around the world, the legality of marijuana is an open question, causes us to turn with more concentration to the second principle.

Now – please concentrate. Don’t get distracted by that thing on the wall that may or may not be a fly. Put down the bag of chips and drop that fudge brownie. We’re going to do some detailed moral reasoning here.

Smoking marijuana dulls the senses. Even the most devoted fan will admit that. In fact, that’s why many people smoke it. It can seem to heighten some senses, but for the most part it leads to impaired motor skills, decreased memory, impaired concentration, and the inhibition of moral constraints.

“But Father! But Father!”, some are gurgling, “So does alcohol!  But we don’t say it’s wrong to drink alcohol.  Jesus used alcohol!  He turned water into wine!  You must hate Vatican II.”

Sure, we don’t condemn the use of alcohol except in excess and at the wrong moments and places.  And, for many people, the effects of alcohol are far more adverse than those of marijuana.

Taking any substance that leads to the loss of control of the will is problematic. One should never freely surrender one’s will. When one’s will is impeded, one often makes poor moral choices. One’s culpability for one’s choices can be lessened when one’s will is impaired.  For example, the man who, in a blind rage, kills the one who is injuring his child is less culpable for his actions than the man who hatches a murderous plot in cold blood. But when one purposely impairs one’s own will by getting intoxicated or high or stoned, one’s culpability is increased. If, for example, I know that I get violent when I am drunk, but I nevertheless choose to get drunk, I have no excuse.

Is smoking marijuana, but not to excess, in places where it is legal morally wrong? It’s high time we get a definitive answer.

Those who have argued that marijuana is always immoral, no matter how strong the dosage or what the circumstances, have had their say. The moralists who are in favor of a limited use of marijuana should be weighing in any moment now. Right after that next Twinkie.

UPDATE 21 Feb:

A priest-reader sent me the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care’s Handbook on Drugs and Drug Addiction:  HERE

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ASK FATHER: Isn’t the priest supposed to genuflect after the elevation?

From a reader…


Has the rubric requiring priests to genuflect after showing the Eucharistic Species to the people been altered? Did someone get an indult or something so that bowing is now legitimate? I wonder because at our local parish the priests I have seen celebrating Mass are now bowing, one of them very profoundly (he is not old nor infirm).

What is going on? Is this widespread now? (Haven’t been to N.O. Mass elsewhere in quite a while.

No, the rubrics have not changed.  In the Novus Ordo, after the elevation the priest is to genuflect, not bow.

We are in the Latin Church, not one of the Eastern Churches.

Of course, if the priest has a bum knee or some other problem, and genuflecting isn’t possible, that’s another matter.  But that’s not the case for most priests.

It seems to me that this mania of standing, rather than kneeling or genuflecting, when in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament boils down to plain old willful pride.


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