$2.95 x 40 = $118.00
It should be no secret to any Catholic that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent begins. Lent is that graced period when Catholic Christians and others as well prepare themselves for the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord – Holy Week and Easter Sunday. One of the several ways in which we traditionally enter this penitential season is through private acts of penance which are meant to remind us that if Jesus could endure what was in store for Him, how much more can we give up something far less than our life, our health and well-being to indicate our love and thanks. Sacrificial giving and sacrificial denying oneself are good things to do at times and Lent is the time to do it. Almost every morning of my life I drive into a McDonald’s on the way from my residence to my office and order exactly the same thing – every single morning; a sausage biscuit and a medium Coke. The anonymous voice taking the order knows my voice which is no longer anonymous so I am spared the usual follow-up question “Do you want the meal?” and they know I do not need to be reminded that the two items total $2.95 (that’s only at those McDonalds that still include a sausage biscuit in the dollar meal menu). To be recognized and appreciated at McDonalds is as much fun as the sausage biscuit and medium coke is filling. Last year, I gave it all up for Lent – even Sundays! They missed me at my McDonalds and almost sent the police to search for me (well, a slight exaggeration). But I really missed my morning nourishment. I was grumpy until lunch in the early days of Lent last year and I did not substitute something else, I just went without anything for breakfast. It hurt. It was a pain. I could not wait until Easter Sunday (even went there after midnight on Easter Sunday morning following the Easter Vigil to have my first sausage biscuit in forty days (they had ceased offering breakfast beginning at midnight on Palm Sunday). So among other things I have in mind (we are not after all suppose to go around bragging about our sacrifices) the $118.00 saved will go to the Tuition Assistance Fund this year. But Lent meant a lot more to me last year as a sacrificial season and Easter took on a new meaning. And I need to go beyond the obvious and the easy to something this year perhaps a little more painful, a tad more sacrificial.
Almost everyone has some personal way of living Lent. We have until midnight tonight to put everything in place. Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat and repeat both again on Good Friday. At other times during Lent we will abstain from meat on Friday’s. Here are the Lenten regulations for 2009:
To assist in promoting a common observance of penance during the season of Lent, the following Lenten penitential regulations are issued for the Diocese of St. Petersburg:
1. ASH WEDNESDAY and GOOD FRIDAY are days of FAST. On days of FAST, one full meal and two lesser meals are allowed. Eating between meals is not permitted. Catholics between the ages of 19 and 59 are bound to fast.
2. ASH WEDNESDAY and ALL OF THE FRIDAYS OF LENT, including GOOD FRIDAY, are also days of ABSTINENCE. On days of abstinence, meat may not be taken. The law of abstinence binds all Catholics fourteen years of age or older.
If members of the faithful are unable to observe the fast and abstinence regulations because of ill health or other reasons, they are urged to practice other forms of penance and self-denial suitable to their condition.
The practice of giving something up during the Lenten season is also a good one although not mandated by Church Law. Since the three-fold hallmarks of Lent are prayer, almsgiving and penance, it is always recommended that we be mindful of others and perhaps share what we might have spent on what we might give up with others. Attendance at daily Mass is also strongly recommended. Now there is sacrifice – doubled!
Finally, this is the beginning of the period when one can fulfill his or her “EASTER DUTY”. Minimally this means that we received our blessed Lord at least once in the Eucharist during a period of time from the First Sunday of Lent through Trinity Sunday. “Easter Duty” has nothing to do with going to confession once a year, during this time or otherwise, except that we should use this holy penitential season as an opportunity to experience the healing moment of reconciliation and penance. And, if one has committed serious sin, it must precede the reception of the Eucharist. I will write more on this aspect of Lenten observance in a few days.
So as they say on Southwest Airlines so often, “that ends the list of don’t and do’s, now sit back, kneel down, and enjoy the short flight through this holy and rich penitential season.”