Each year, Lent offers us an opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Catholic lives. It also helps us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we become more merciful towards our brothers and sisters.
During Lent, Catholics traditionally carry out tasks that help in the process of inner renewal. We pray, give alms and fast. Like many of our brothers and sisters in other religions such as Islam and Judaism fasting is an integral part of what we do. The Code of Canon Law, states that Catholics between the ages of 18-59 are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Catholics fourteen and older are to abstain from meat on all Fridays, although they are allowed to eat eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
This Lent an environmental group is asking Pope Francis to abstain from all animal products during Lent. Their reasoning is because recent studies have expressed the need to cut the level of meat and dairy production as it has a major impact on climate change. The group harkens back to Francis’ encyclical Laudato si in 2015 in which he asked us to care for society as part of the common good. His Holiness, “stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production and consumption.”
A vegan fast is not now mandated by the Church but the practice dates back to the early Church and to our brethren in the Eastern Rite. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church stated that the early observance of the Lenten fast was very strict. People were allowed one meal per day. As with Ramadan, the Muslim Holy Month, it was taken in the evening. What the faithful were allowed to eat was limited The rule stated that “flesh-meat and fish, and in most places also eggs and dairy products, were … forbidden.” However the practice was relaxed in the west from the 9th century onwards.
Later in the 12th century St. Gregory the Great said that “... we abstain from ... meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, eggs.” Writing in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledged that it was common for those fasting to abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy products. However, people were allowed to eat fish. Finally the practice of “Fat Tuesday”, also known today as Shrove Tuesday, was at a time when the use of animal products was banned during Lent. “Fat Tuesday” was the day to use up meat and dairy products stored in the home.
We at St. Paul School will have our own “Fat Tuesday” when our students and staff will be provided with a nice breakfast at the school. The following day we will start the season of Lent when we go to St. Basil’s Church to receive Ashes.
A Lenten Thought
“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”