By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
An Irish dignitary once shared a railway compartment with two prim-looking spinsters. A few moments before reaching his destination the train passed through a tunnel. In the utter darkness of the tunnel the Irishman repeatedly kissed the back of his hand with noisy smacks. As the train drew into the station, he rose, lifted his hat, and in a gentlemanly way said to the women: “May I thank whichever one of you two lovely ladies I am indebted to for the charming incident in the tunnel.” He quickly turned and stepped off the train leaving the two ladies glaring at each other.
They tell me a sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to our steps as we walk the tightrope of life.’
According to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, ‘Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.’
‘Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells seem to live forever,’ Maybe the Church encourages us to fast during Lent to shorten the life span of fat cells. However, according to church Lenten regulations, there are only two days of Fast and Abstinence – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (I hope you remembered to fast and abstain last week).
If we only fast for two days, those fat cells will certainly live forever. ‘Fast’ means that those 18 to 59 years of age must eat one full meal a day, and two smaller meals to maintain one’s energy. Perhaps we can make an extra sacrifice by fasting an extra day each week. As many folks know, a second day of fasting might sharpen our awareness of God, as well as shortening the live span of our fat cells.
A young girl in our parish asked about those smaller lunches. How much food consists of a small meal? So I asked her what she usually eats for breakfast. She said, “Two waffles.” I asked her if she could get by with one waffle. She smiled and said, “Yes.” That would be fasting.
‘Abstinence’ means abstaining from meat. In addition to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday everyone over the age of 14 is obliged to abstain from meat. Many Americans enjoy a delicious T-bone steak. The Church wants us to remember Christ who died for us on a Friday. by denying ourselves of that steak or some other favorite foods on Lenten Fridays, we will be more apt to remember our Savior who gave His life out of love for us.
A teacher was giving a lesson to the third graders on the circulation of the blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, she said, “Now, Class, if I stood on my head, the blood would run down into my head, turning my face red. That’s right, isn’t it?” “Yes,” the class shouted. “Then, why is it,” the teacher asked, “that while I am standing upright in this ordinary position the blood doesn’t run into my feet, turning my feet red?” The class thought for a few minutes. Then a little boy spoke up, “Cuz your feet ain’t empty.”
Just in case our heads seem to be a bit empty, Lent is a time to fill them with spiritual thoughts and practices. We can relate to a young kid’s response when the pediatric nurse allowed him to listen to his own heartbeat. The kid gently tucked the stethoscope in his ears and placed the disk over his heart. “Listen,” she said, “what do you suppose that is?” He drew his eyebrows together with a puzzled expression on his face as he listened to the strange tap-tap-tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin and said, “It’s Jesus knocking!” Jesus is knocking at our hearts. During Lent, we can open the doors to our hearts and welcome Jesus with a few extra spiritual practices.
Here are some suggestions. Attend Mass each day. Pray the way of the cross at 4:30 each Friday. Read a spiritual message on your email after you registered – BestLentEver.com. Say the rosary each day. Read a chapter of the Bible each day.
St. John Vianney was the pastor of the church in the little village of Ars, France. He is known as the Cure of Ars. One day a wealthy woman, who was quite portly, asked him what she needed in order to reduce her weight. With a twinkle in his eye, the Cure of Ars said, “About three Lents, Madam.”
A blessed Lenten Season to all,
In the Redeeming Christ,
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.