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February 21, 2007



If you are dieting to lose weight and are normally eating what many would consider as "fasting", do you eat even less? (just two small meals)?


With regards to note #8 -- where does broth fall? I was thinking of having some beef broth to stave off hunger.


I'm not trying to cause a ..beef....but for just 2 little days out of the year...can't we try to think of foods that don't, in any way, contain parts of cows, pigs, sheep..oh yeah..and chikuns too?


Does pregnancy count as a medical condition? I'm in the second trimester and while I'm not eating a lot, I'm getting nauseated quickly if I don't eat small amounts throughout the day. I'd really thought I could get through a single fast day but am now doubting it. I know I can get through the day on one meal if I can have it spread out throughout the day; but this clearly would violate the "one meal and two snacks" rule.

Pregnancy definitely counts as a medical condition.


Expecting mother: I'm going to try to fast as much as I can this lent.

Unborn Baby: HEY, I'm not 14 yet!!! Keep the food comming!

God bless you in your pregnancy!


What about chewing gum? It would seem OK because you just swallow the liquid, but all that chewing seems to sort of violate the spirit of things too, doesn't it? Same for chewing ice, perhaps?
I've never seen them addressed.


Can you give up drinking alcohol for lent?

Tim J.

I can't! (rimshot)

Just kidding.

You can give up anything... or nothing... for Lent.

"Giving up something for Lent" is a pious custom, but is not a matter of Church law. More important is to observe the days of fast and abstinence and to maintain the spirit of penance. Going to Confession is always a good thing, but especially appropriate during Lent.



Since the law regulates not how much we move our jaws, but rather how much food we eat; also, since the nutritive value of gum is practically nil, it would seem that the amount of gum one chews has no bearing on the quality of one's Lent. But as always, this would be a matter to discuss with a trusted spiritual advisor.


LOL--Good point about little Cuthbert being under 14! I realized last week that this will be my first Lenten pregnancy--both my others were winter babies--and I'd never given the fasting any thought. I think I'll stick to giving up fast food and junk food (better for both of us anyway) and go for non-meat protein sources.

Mike Melendez

My family is going to attempt abstinence from meat throughout Lent, though we may exempt weekends. My wife has chosen a meatless meal off the Rice Bowl calendar for Fridays in previous years. This year, we want to attempt a little more to try and keep Lent in our minds every day as it is so easy to get lost in the busy-ness of life and eat meat on a Friday for lunch.


I was pregnant twice during Lent, and both times my pastor told me that pregnancy definitely excuses a person from fasting. In fact, you really shouldn't fast while pregnant, your little one needs the nutrition. Congrats!



Thanks! Funny, Lenten nursing wasn't a problem; I didn't really want to eat much of anything anyway, I just drank liquids like a fish, and lived happily off of the pregnancy fat.

I think I will go have an egg now.


Thanks for clearing up the '2 smalls are less than 1 regular meal' issue. That got insane for us grazers. My normal routine is to have a breakfasty snack with my hubby at about 5am, another at 8am with the kids, usually an apple at 10, lunch at noon.... and then sometimes a bowl of all bran randomly (for 'medicinal' reasons, not because I like it). And so on throughout the day. So even just having the 3 meals/day requires much attention and hand slapping for me. I never bothered to agonize over the size of the 2 smalls, but now I don't have to get irritable when people insist on those details.

o.h. my nutritionist used to tell me to set my alarm and have an egg in the middle of the night so I wouldn't wake up with the nausia. Salt helped too. Don't forget, you're growing a brain in there - Feed it well! God bless you both.


Can anyone recommend a good mediation book (or anything like that) to read during Lent? I like to add something spiritual during Lent instead of giving something up.


Specific to Ash Wednesday

I have a 6 year old and a 5 year old. Should they go up to get ashes at Mass tonight? What's the protocol there?

I really have no recollection of when I first started to recieve ashes. I know that we did during Mass in gradeschool, but I can't remember if it was before 2nd grade/1st Communion.


caine: even infants usually receive ashes since they are only a sacramental (like holy water).


AFAIK, anyone can receive ashes, even babies.



If you like what you read below, you can follow the link and do further reading...it's from a fantastic autobiography of an incredible modern Saint, St. Anthony Mary Claret. It's loaded with excellent spiritual advice and good example.


438. Love is the most necessary of all the virtues. Yes, I say it and will say it a thousand times: the virtue an apostolic missionary needs most of all is love. He must love God, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his neighbors. If he lacks this love, all his talents, however fine in themselves, are for nothing. But if, together with his natural endowments, he has much love, he has everything.273

439. Love in a man who preaches the Word of God is like fire in a musket. If a man were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if he takes this same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the Word of God. If God's Word is spoken only naturally, it does very little; but if it is spoken by a priest who is filled with the fire of charity-- the fire of love of God and neighbor--it will wound vices, kill sins, convert sinners, and work wonders. We can see this in the case of St. Peter, who walked out of the upper room afire with the love he had received from the Holy Spirit, with the result that through just two sermons he converted 8,000 people, three in the first sermon and five in the second.274

440. The same Holy Spirit, by appearing in the form of tongues of fire above the Apostles on Pentecost, showed us this truth quite clearly: an apostolic missionary must have both heart and tongue ablaze with charity. One day the Venerable Avila was asked by a young priest what he should do to become a good preacher. His ready answer was, "Love much.''275 And both experience and the history of the Church teach us that the greatest preachers have always been the most fervent lovers.

441. In truth, the fire of love acts in a minister of the Lord in much the same way that material fire acts in the engine of a locomotive or a ship: it enables them to move the heaviest cargo with the greatest of ease.276 What good would either of these two huge machines be without fire and steam to move them? None at all. What good is a priest who has finished all his studies and holds degrees in theology and canon and civil law if he lacks the fire of love? None at all. He is no good for others because he is like a locomotive without steam. Instead of being a help, as he should, he may only be a hindrance. He is no good even for himself. As St. Paul says, "If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal."277

For more reading, copy and paste this link:

Tim J.

"Can anyone recommend a good mediation book (or anything like that) to read during Lent?"

If you like poetry at all, the work of Pavel Chichikov is outstanding. He has a poetry cycle of the Mysteries of the Rosary, as well as a lot of other Catholic themes.

This is beautiful lyric poetry. It actually rhymes and has metre and paints word pictures that can be understood even by a literary Neanderthal like me.

You can read (and listen to him reading) his work online.



pous estin gegraptai?

8. Beverages, even calorie-laden beverages (milk, OJ, coffee with cream, protein shakes) do not violate the law of fast. "Food" means solids food, not drinks (which count as "drink"), though disproportionate consumption of caloric beverages violates the spirit of the fast.

Does the creamer in the coffee violate the abstinence from meat mandate (that usually accompanies the fasting obligation on fast days)?

The reason I'm asking is that last year I started doing a full fast from midnight to dinner drinking only coffee with cream, and water. I'm wondering if I've been screwing it up (and have already screwed it up for this year).


cream falls in the 'milk' catagory, not the 'meat' catagory, and is therefore just fine. Now if you put a hamburger in the blender and then call it a 'drink' you've crossed the line.


Yes, one might give up alcoholic drinks for Lent. But the monks who founded what became Munich saw it a different way. Being brewers and knowing that liquids did not break the fast, they brewed stronger beer during Lent. If you are observing the penitential season, you might as well enjoy it.

Fr Martin Fox

Remember St. Paul's counsel about the letter and the spirit of the law . . .

Remember also that "doing penance" is a divine law, but it is a general law; the Church particularizes it to be practical and pastoral, and we obey the Church because we are willingly a part of her.

But the Church counsels reason, practicality, allows exceptions, etc. . . . this is not an absolute law like "you shall not do murder."

So--do penance! Lots of ways to do that; don't agonize about the details or the boundaries such as, "uh oh, they used meat protein in my diet shake!"


>>AFAIK, anyone can receive ashes, even babies.
>>Posted by: SDG | Feb 21, 2007 7:48:43 AM

I had this same questions myself, as I was thinking of inviting a Protestant friend tonight. I had assumed she could receive the ashes; I guess so far nobody has disagreed with that.

>>If you like poetry at all, the work of Pavel >>Chichikov is outstanding. He has a poetry >>cycle of the Mysteries of the Rosary, as well >>as a lot of other Catholic themes.
>>Posted by: Tim J. | Feb 21, 2007 7:55:39 AM

It's funny you should mention that, I got into a heated argument on global warming with him on Mark Shea's site, and made it more personal than I should have with a little dig at poetry. Perhaps, since it's lent, I should read some of his work as penance - not that I'm insulting him again... anybody's would be penance for me. I just really hate poetry. But you did say that you didn't find it difficult to understand. That's what I hate about poetry, the vague metaphors that could mean anything, and I'm supposed to be able to decipher it all. It reminds me of some modern art, where somebody paints three stripes, and says it represents the conflict of the soul, or something like that. It looks to me like a close-up of a striped shirt. Maybe I'm lacking in imagination.

Eileen R

For many years, I used to give up sweets and junk food under my parents' suggestion. Then I grew up, and heard a lot of stuff about how Lent should be a time of interior growth without so much legalistic "giving up" of stuff, because often it's no sacrifice at all to give up sweets and just feast on something non-sweet instead.

Now, I know where the people who said this were coming from, but I also think that they can't have liked chocolate and sugar as much as I do. The years I skipped giving up those things were because I'd been given a green light *not* to sacrifice something that meant so much to me. So these past two years, I've tried to make this small sacrifice again. And boy is it hard. I keep falling all the time but it's worth it.


Hey Snowman, never mind poetry - you might want to give up going to That Other Site for Lent ;) Probably be good for your blood pressure anyway.

If you're looking for good reading, I'd suggest the letters and essays of Flannery O'Connor. A very devout woman with absolutely nothing sweetly pious about her.


Hey Snowman, never mind poetry - you might want to give up going to That Other Site for Lent ;) Probably be good for your blood pressure anyway.

If you're looking for good reading, I'd suggest the letters and essays of Flannery O'Connor. A very devout woman with absolutely nothing sweetly pious about her.

Tim J.

Snowman -

I also argue with Pavel about global warming. People can't be expected to agree on everything, and global warming is certainly one of those topics on which Catholics are allowed to disagree. I consider him a friend (or as close as one can come to that on the net) and our divergence on GW a minor squabble.

I am not a big "fan" of poetry, I know almost nothing about it. I feel about most modern prose poetry/stream of consciousness stuff just about exactly like you do. It does remind me of a lot of modern art... basically an overblown Rorschach (the ink-blot test).

Pavel's work is generally comprehensible with only a little effort at deciphering the symbolism. I find that aspect of it both interesting and rewarding. It's like putting a puzzle together. It does take some work, but in the end, there is a significant image there.

G.K. Chesterton said "The aim of good prose words is to mean what they say. The aim of good poetical words is to mean what they do not say."


Ronny re reading suggestion:

For several years I've used The Desert, An anthology for Lent by John Moses.

I would also recommend listening to http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/
this is a British Jesuit website that offers a daily 10 -15 minute personal prayer/meditation based on one of the day's Scripture reading from the Mass. I am hooked on their daily offerings!
Have a great Lent!


hi all, I love all the comments so far but I had another question to add. I know that if someone has type one diabeedies they shouldn't fast, but what if a person has type 2? It's hard for me to fast because not eating really does screw up my sugars and if I take my meds along with not eating at least something, I drop too fast. I'd really like to fast because I think it's a great thing to do and because the Church says so but I'm still a little concerned. Any answers would be great,
thanks and God bless

Brent Brown


Can anyone recommend a good mediation book (or anything like that) to read during Lent?

We're reading through The Spiritual Combat on our podcast. You're welcome to join us.



Maybe check out "Testimony of Hope" by Fr. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
The book contains the spiritual exercises that Fr. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan gave to the Curia in 2000. Much is about finding hope in life's many (often terrible) circumstances. Fr. Van Thuan spent 13 years in Communist prisons in his native Vietnam. Much of his time was spent in solitary confinement. He is an authority on suffering and ways to find hope in the darkest times. I found this to be a gem for Lenten reading.

Jimmy Akin

what if a person has type 2 [diabetes]? It's hard for me to fast because not eating really does screw up my sugars and if I take my meds along with not eating at least something, I drop too fast.

A person in this situation *clearly* is not required to fast.

You need to do what you need to do to take care of your medical condition.

J.R. Stoodley

What I don't get is the part about eating non-nutritive or non-caloric things to curb hunger. I'll accept that it is allowed by Church law, but it seems to go completely against the spirit of the fast.

I would have thought the point was to experience the hunger, not to hurt your body. If it were possible to keep your body well nurished but still feel the hunger I'd think that would be ideal, and the other way around would be the worst thing possible.

Another Tim


I highly recommend "In Conversation With God: Lent and Eastertide." It's the second volume of a 7-volume set. The author is Fr. Francis Fernandez. The whole set is quite good, and will take you through the entire liturgical year, but it's not cheap -- the entire set is $130 -- so you might try just one volume first and see if you like it.


I have a priest friend who marvelled over the degree to which people will go to get their ashes. He wishes they beat as eager a path to the church door on any other day (including Christmas and Easter!).

Dr. Eric

Here is the prayer of St. Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.

In the East this prayer is said everyday (sometimes multiple times throughout the day) it sums up the spiritual struggles of Lent. It is short and easy but very powerful.

Here is a commentary by Fr. Alexander Schmemann about the prayer:


Even though he is Orthodox (not that there's anything wrong with that) the article is a great help in understanding the prayer and what Great Lent means in the East.

Dr. Eric

I noticed that there were more people for Ash Wednesday Mass than there are on Sundays.

I believe it is the 3rd most attended Mass of the year after Christmas and Easter!


Depending on the age of the child, I consider breastfeeding to be a medical condition,too. My newborn turns 3 weeks tomorrow and fasting would be too much for me. So, I do more of a fast like in the book of Daniel--nothing sweet, smaller portions than usual, no seconds, but make sure I get enough calories so that I can nourish my baby--not quite just bread and water, but the general idea. So, hot cereal with no sweetener for me this morning. With older children, I've fasted maybe one meal,but living off the pregnancy fat, as o.h. suggested, isn't enough this year.

Along with Eileen R, I feel that giving up chocolate for Lent IS a sacrifice. I already miss it!

I guess I should change my name for blog comments to "5dd in TX".

Tim J.

"I noticed that there were more people for Ash Wednesday Mass than there are on Sundays."

What's odd is, Ash Wednesday isn't even a Holy Day of obligation. The Feast of the Ascension or the Immaculate Conception go begging, but Ash Wednesday is really crowded, for some reason.


A friend calls them "A&P Catholics" ("Ashes and Plams")


Maybe Ash Wednesday Mass gets so packed because there's only one or two celebrated. In my parish, two Masses are celebrated Sunday morning plus the one on Saturday evening, and a nearby parish celebrates Sunday evening Mass. But on Ash Wednesday, there's only one at 12pm, which very few people can attend, and then the one at 7pm, which most families can attend and do. And people do feel like they must go to that Mass.

Personally, I didn't know about Holy Days of Obligation until I started reading apologetics. And I still don't know which are the days for my country (Puerto Rico).

I have a question for y'all - do you try to not wash the ashes off your forehead until at least the next day? I know I do. But maybe it annoys some people...



Someone told me that you have to leave them on until bedtime. It might've been at RCIA on Sunday, or it might've been somewhere else. However, I accidentally smeared mine at work today (I tend to rest my forehead in my hand when I'm on a challenging phone call, of which I've had several today), so I just have some vague grayness on my forehead. Instead of looking like a penitent, I just look somewhat dirty. :-p Ah well - I guess God knows that I got 'em!

I understand the 9:30 Mass at my parish was jammed today (as busy as 10:15 on Sundays, my friend said, and that Sunday Mass is standing room only), and the 7 a.m. one I attended was reasonably attended, though nowhere near full. I'll bet the 7 p.m. one draws a crowd though...


Tim J:
It's funny you should mention Chesterton, his poem "The Song of the Strange Ascetic" is a rare poem that I actually like. I had heard it on Dale Ahlquist's show, so when Shea had it on his site last week, I took the opportunity to print it out. I just started Ahlquist's book "Commonsense 101".

Yes, staying away from That Site should be better for my blood pressure, and disposition. There's a reason they don't let me listen to talk radio at work! Regarding your recommendation of Flannery O'Connor, I had gotten a book from the library a couple years ago with a bunch of her short stories and three novels in it. I didn't finish it before I needed to return it, but I got through a fair number of stories. They were some fairly dark stories though; I wasn't sure what to make of them. Maybe I'll have to get that one back after I finish the Chesterton book.

Lent question:
Now I know the "giving something up for lent" is not mandatory, but the fasting/abstinence on certain days is. Is failing to observe these considered to be a sin, requiring either confession or repentance (if only venial)? Or is it simply a lost opportunity to grow in holiness, that sort of has its own punishment in that loss? This would be with no health or other reasons to excuse one from the requirement. Like, let's say a company was having a barbecue for all the employees, and you really wanted a hamburger. Have you comitted a sin by eating one, or have you perhaps lost a chance for growth, and to evangelize, but have not actually sinned?


The answer to why people crowd on Ash Wednesday is simple. It is one of the very few clear cut ways that this society knows that you are Catholic. True our unity is best shown as Mass, but this is the one time its just as solemn and outside (where people can see you) for a whole day.

This can lead to a brag factor or an additional form of Christmas & Easter only, but it can lead to interesting opportunities. Just last year at a temp job, my associates and I got on the topic of missionary work, since one was very keen on social justice and activity. During the conversation, one cracked a joke on how Catholics help out but try to convert you before helping. (I laughed too because it is true. Souls > Bodies). Then I walk in the next day with the big ole marks and they were abashed, but it lead to discussion on fasting and vestments and clearing up some really weird misconceptions.



Failing to observe the mandatory dietary laws of the Church (e.g. by intentionally eating meat on a Friday in Lent without a medical excuse) is a sin. I can't think of a reasonable situation where it would be anything other than a venial sin, but it is an actual sinful act as opposed to merely a lost opportunity. The same would be true of other breaches of Canon Law, such as getting married outside the Church or a priest saying an illicit Mass.


I guess if it's Canon Law, that would make sense. Thanks Paul.


Would a Snickers be ok? We *all* know that it has no nutritional value, right? So that's *gotta* fulfill one of the conditions.

And then, of course, there's the advertising that assures us it will curb our hunger: "Snickers" handles your hunger so you can handle, well ... anything. :-D

Tim J.

"Someone told me that you have to leave them (ashes) on until bedtime"

Not so. You are not required to even get the ashes, and you are not required to keep them on for any certain period of time.


I've often wondered why Ash Wednesday is so well attended; it's quite often better attended than some days of obligation. I think it is because the ritual of the ashes actually speaks to people in a way that other liturgies do not. Perhaps it is simply the novelty; most Holy Days are just Mass, but maybe longer, whereas Ash Wednesday has this unique custom that people find meaningful.



Yes, O'Connor's stories can be dark and disturbing, which is why I recommended you read her letters and essays instead. She's speaking in her own voice about many things - the Church, her life with her mother on the dairy farm, politics and popular culture, the problems of being a Catholic fiction writer. Most of it is wise and some of it is screamingly funny.

Here's a little slice of life from a 1960 letter. She's checking into a hospital :

``When I came in & gave the information about myself at the admitting place, the woman, who had carrot-colored hair and eyeglasses to match, asked me by whom I was employed. ``Self-employed,'' says I. ``What's your bidnis?'' she says. ``I'm a writer,'' I says. She stopped typing & after a second said, ``What?''

``Writer,'' I says.

``She looked at me for a while, then she says, ``How do you spell that?''...

So go thou and enjoy.

"Pavel >>Chichikov"

Hmmm...wasn't he the young Russian navigator on the original "Star Trek" series? ;)


I also read In Conversation with God by Fr. Fernandez during lent. Actually it's so good I read it outside lent too! It's a great series following the Liturgical calendar.


Anyone who wants to get In Conversation with God for Lent would order VOLUME TWO --and can do so at www.scepterpublishers.org or more precisely http://www.scepterpublishers.org/product-exec/product_id/122/nm/In_Conversation_With_God_Volume_2_Lent_and_Eastertide

Happy reading....


When my mother was explaining fast and abstinence to me, she used pregnacy as the example of a medical condition exempting you.

It is harder to think of conditions that would nullify the requirement to abstain, though, since protein is available from so many sources other than meat.

OTOH, it's not impossible. If you need the protein, and either have no reasonable access to the other sources of protein or have other sources that are problematic (you may be allegeric, or because of your medical problems lack appetite to eat enough of a less concentrated source of protein).

Then, on the third hand, it's hard to imagine a medical condition where you can't put off eating protein for a day.

Dan Hunter

How about flagellation.I have strung myself a cat o ninetails of leather strip cord and metacarpal bones.I feel a need for deep carnal penance to remit punishment due to the worlds sins of impurity and liturgical abuse.
God bless you

Boko Fittleworth

The annointing with ashes sacramental:

Who can do it? (Priest, Deacon, EMHC?)

Is it qualitatively different if done by a (lay) EMHC versus a priest?


I know parishes where baptized children below the age of reason are expressly excused from receiving ashes because receipt of ashes is a sign of penitence for sins, which such children are not guilty of by Church teaching.

As for how long to keep the ashes on your forehead: you may brush them off right after the service or keep them on to your heart's content - there is no tradition in this regard.

Ashes may be administered by non-clerics and the effect of the sacramental does not depend on who is adminstering it.


"Paul" (above) wrote:

"Failing to observe the mandatory dietary laws of the Church (e.g. by intentionally eating meat on a Friday in Lent without a medical excuse) is a sin. I can't think of a reasonable situation where it would be anything other than a venial sin, but it is an actual sinful act as opposed to merely a lost opportunity."

But the Paenitemini states clearly that "Their substantial observance binds gravely." Doesn't this mean that intentionally eating meat on a Friday in Lent would be mortally sinful?


Sorry, had the wrong e-mail address in the last post!



If you are dieting to lose weight and are normally eating what many would consider as "fasting", do you eat even less? (just two small meals)?

You may need to remember that Lent is supposed to be a time of learning to desire God over the things of this world. If Lent suddenly becomes merely a "self-improvement" thing (e.g., fasting just to loose weight in order to improve one's self-image), then it defeats the entire meaning of Lent (i.e., to instill in us the selfless desire for God over the World and the things of the Flesh) and such activities can become one of selfish intent rather than that of self-detachment, self-denial and, above all, self-less devotion to God over temporal and worldly things.

Dieting is, itself, not a bad thing. But, if you are fasting during Lent merely to loose weight, the message of Lent is entirely lost.


The poster isn't talking about fasting _as_ dieting. It's "I was already dieting; so how do I diet and keep Lent also?"

The answer is, "Very carefully." :)

If you have a lot of caloric leeway in your diet, you could probably drop a bit more. But if you don't have much leeway between your diet caloric intake and the 1000-1200 calories that mark the starvation point, you're already fasting for all intents and purposes; and probably ingesting fewer calories than most Lenten fasters do. You're just not fasting for a religious reason. In this case, there's no reason to change your caloric intake. You might want to change how you divvy up your calories into meals in order to fit the Lenten regulations, if the diet doesn't fit them already.

I am in this same predicament, btw. Ash Wednesday went pretty well. But this Friday my divvying was clumsy, and I had bad blood sugar problems. All I can say is, "Use your judgment."


Actually Maureen, that's why I started with:
You may need to remember...

It's just that I was so bothered this week where somebody had said something to this effect:

Great, it's Lent! I can kill two birds with one stone -- fast and loose weight!

That really isn't the point of Lent, as I had expressed above.

God bless!

Joseph D'Hippolito

Many of the concerns I've seen on this thread are reasons why I've had it with the Church's perspective concerning fasting on Lent. The Church's bishops aren't interested in promoting true, personal spiritual renewal. They're interested in "keeping order" -- i.e., preserving their power over the laity -- by reducing Lent to a series of rules and regulations that must be followed to the letter. Then people start tripping over themselves (just like on this thread) over what's "permissible" and what isn't.

Do any of you seriously believe that Christ would reduce fasting to such legalistic nonsense?

Now, Esau and Inocencio, before you start "reminidng" me about "apostolic succession," please understand that the Pharisees were "apostolic successors," of a sort, from Moses -- and Christ tore into them frequently about their legalistic pseudo-piety, which is all these Lenten "regulations" are!


Yeah, Hippo:

It's too bad that the early Christians and the Apostles and even Christ Himself practiced such legalistic nonsense!

Read about the early Christian church and how they practiced fasting and abstainence before you reduce what they in fact did (as had taught them by the Apostles) before you reduce their practices to legalistic nonsense!

Joseph D'Hippolito

The truth hurts, don't it, Esau?

Have you ever considered even the remote possibility that members of the early church, bishops and laity alike, had a far better grasp of the spiritual nature of fasting than today's bishops and laity? Have you even read any of the posts on this thread, which almost exclusively express legalistic concerns?'

Where is the concern for beihg Christ-like, here? Where is the concern for spiritual development or improvement?

I'm certainly not critcizing fasting itself. But this circus of rules and regulations, and excessive concern about them, doesn't nothing to promote the spiritual aspects of fasting.


As I've said in another thread:

Didn't Jesus observe fasting and abstinence? Also, didn't the Apostles as well as the Early Christians?

You seem to neglect that despite your argument that there are so many ways to interpret Scripture, that the Apostles, the Early Christians, and Christ Himself have interpreted the passages in Scripture as such and, in fact, observed such practices! Also, the very purpose of the Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence is supposed to teach us to place the things that are of God (and, by so doing, God Himself) over the things of this world -- even human nourishment! As even Jesus said in Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him: it is written that Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Posted by: Esau | Feb 25, 2007 10:14:26 PM


As had been said in one of St. Thomas More's books:

"Leave therefore, leave, I beseech you, these inventions of men, your foolish Lenten fasts and your childish penance! Diminish never Christ's thanks nor look to save yourselves! It is Christ's death, I tell you, that must save us all--Christ's death, I tell you yet again, and not our own deeds. Leave your own fasting, therefore, and lean to Christ alone, good Christian people, for Christ's dear bitter passion!"

Which came the retort (an extract of it, at least):

"...that fasting serveth but for temperance to tame the flesh and keep it from wantonness, I would in good faith have thought that Moses had not been so wild that for the taming of his flesh he should have need to fast whole forty days together. No, not Hely neither. Nor yet our Saviour himself, who began the Lenten forty-days fast--and the apostles followed, and all Christendom hath kept it--that these folk call now so foolish.

King Achab was not disposed to be wanton in his flesh, when he fasted and went clothed in sackcloth and all besprent with ashes. No more was the king in Nineveh and all the city, but they wailed and did painful penance for their sin to procure God to pity them and withdraw his indignation. Anna, who in her widowhood abode so many years with fasting and praying in the temple till the birth of Christ, was not, I suppose, in her old age so sore disposed to the wantonness of the flesh that she fasted for all that.

Nor St. Paul, who fasted so much, fasted not all for that, neither.

The scripture is full of places that prove fasting to be not the invention of man but the institution of God, and to have many more profits than one.

And that the fasting of one man may do good unto another, our Saviour showeth himself where he saith that some kind of devils cannot be cast out of one man by another "without prayer and fasting."

And therefore I marvel that they take this way against fasting and other bodily penance.

And yet much more I marvel that they mislike the sorrow and heaviness and displeasure of mind that a man should take in thinking of his sin.

The prophet saith, "Tear your hearts and not your clothes." And the prophet David saith, "A contrite heart and an humbled"--that is to say, a heart broken, torn, and laid low under foot with tribulation of heaviness for his sins- "shalt thou not, good Lord, despise." He saith also of his own contrition, "I have laboured in my wailing; I shall every night wash my bed with my tears, my couch will I water."

But why should I need in this matter to lay forth one place or twain?

The scripture is full of those places, by which it plainly appeareth that God looketh of duty, not only that we should amend and be better in the time to come, but also that we should be sorry and weep and bewail our sins committed before.

And all the old holy doctors be full and whole of that opinion, that men must have for their sins contrition and sorrow in heart.


Tim J.

Okay, Joe, we understand that you are more spiritual than anyone here, because... well...

I'll get back to you...


Does any religious faith have a corner on the "truth" market.

Dr. Eric

Yes, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church does!!!

Joseph D'Hippolito

Esau and Tim J., I wonder why I'm even taking your bait, but here goes....

I am not crticizing fasting in and of itself. I never have. I am criticizing the reductionistic approach taken by most Catholics and their bishops, an approach that has resulted in the kind of legalistic concerns that much of this thread reflects.

That kind of approach precludes the kind of approach that Thomas More is defending. That kind of approach is more akin to tearing one's clothes instead of one's hearts!

Can't either of you understand that the kind of fasting regulations established by the bishops seem to impede fasting as a means to pursue spiritual maturity? Instead, they tie fasting down with ritualistic, legalistic obligations that turn adult Catholics into children (giving up chocolate, for example, merely for its own sake without any kind of concommitant spiritual discipline) wondering how much they can "get away with."

Do either of you allegedly esteemed gentlemen realize that the Church Establishment is promoting the exact opposite of what More is defending?



Are we talking about the same Thomas More???

Hmmmm... I could of sworn Sir Thomas also said:

"Forasmuch as, my Lord" (quoth he), "this indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy Church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon the earth, to St. Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative, granted, it is therefore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any Christian."

Tim J.


No, I don't see any of that.

I don't see what you are protesting. You seem to be awfully quick to impute bad motives behind very ordinary acts.

Is it somehow intolerable that the Church should say "Christians should fast at such-and-such a time?", and then explain what fasting looks like?

Is that terribly ritualistic and legalistic?

What the heck is wrong with ritual? Laws and traditions can be followed sincerely or insincerely. It is not the fault of the laws that some people keep them hypocritically.

Would you explain to me what a non-reductionist approach would look like in practice? Or a non-legalistic approach? What would it take to make you happy, Joe?

You always seem out of joint about something. Do you ever leave positive comments on blogs? I have never seen a post authored by you that wasn't tearing into somebody. You must know a better way. Do show us what it is.

Tim H.

Well, it seems to me that Joe's objections are primarily that, say, worries over the categorization of coffee cream miss the spiritual point of fasting. If a man's fast degrades into his worrying over this level of ritual detail, then he'd be focussing on the outward signs, and I'd suspect it has not benefited him.

I have no idea if he's right that the RC bishops are actually promoting legalism at the expense of a change in the heart, but even if they did, I'd suspect it wasn't intentional.



I know that you like scripture, so I can ask you to think about what Jesus said when warning His disciples about the doctrines of the Pharisees. It was on their way back to Bethsaida, when they were in a hurry to depart from the presence of the Pharisees, after Jesus rebuked them for asking for a 'sign', even after they were well aware of all of His former miracles! Nothing would pursuade them, He knew it and they knew it! They merely wanted to 'act' like they were honest, and capable of belief...which is also why he frequently referred to them as 'hippocrites', which mean't, in his day, 'actors'.

Now what did Jesus teach these Apostles on this trip back to the northern shores of the Sea of Galillee?

Knowing that the apostles didn't have time to bring bread to eat, and that they were perturbed over this fact(that they only had 1 loaf for 13 people to share), and further knowing that they almost completely forgot that just a couple of months before, He performed a miracle and completely satisfied the hunger of 5000 men...and in the very same local..He wanted toteach them an important pastoral lesson. He wanted to tie 2 teachings together. One, that the act of 'hippocracy', just witnessed with the pharisees, was important to remember for the future church. The second, is that, they completely lacked in faith, and have complained over having a meager lunch, forgetting the power that Jesus showed, and so recently at that, in the feeding of the 5000, with leftovers too.

But he said to them: 'Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and of the leaven of Herod.'

Now I remind you of this passage so that you might study it more closely, and all that the story pertains to, because you frequently compare the present Church to these very same Pharisees, that were attacking Jesus. And it is important to be able to distiguish one group of so-called holy men from another...because really both appear to be very devout servants of God.

And this is a frequent problem on this site, as well, and that is, there are many similarities between the doctrines believed, and all seem to be righteous and holy, but they conflict with one another. And this is why we need to study the teachings of Christ in all of these things, to learn how distinguish between them!

"...beware of the leaven of the Pharisees".

Now if leaven is only one part of the equation, we know that He means 'the leaven...in the bread...of the Pharisees'...and that barley, or wheat, is thus the other part of the equation. So he is not saying, beware of the bread of the pharisees, but rather, the 'leaven' of the bread of the Pharisees. And really, leaven might here signify both "doctrine" and 'spirit' also. For later the disciples say:

'Then they understood that he said not that they should beware of the leaven of bread,but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'

So herein, Jesus is definitely warning His future Church to not make the same mistakes that the current Jewish Church of His day had...that is they preferred 'hipprocracy' and 'acting' religious...as opposed to being 'actually' religious. And this is really the 'leaven', I think, Jesus is talking about.

The whole bread, that is 'un-leavened' isn't bad, its just the addition of the sinful(in this symbolism) 'leaven' that needs to be guarded against.

Now, all the regulations and teachings of the Church can thus be seen as doctrine and 'bread', even as Jesus refers this symbol of Bread to His very self. ( I am the Bread that comes down from Heaven..etc.)And so all the practices of the Church may indeed look like those things practiced by the ancient Pharisees of His day. But Jesus doesn't condemn ALL of these practices. Not the ENTIRE BREAD! He, in fact, supports many of them! He even admonishes, in these regards, that:

' All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.'

So, in the Church we must never make the mistake that ALL of the Doctine..or all of the BREAD is bad..but rather know how to distinguish the 'leaven of the Pharisees', which is to be guarded against, from the healthful bread (doctrines and practices), which are truly good, permitted and inspired by God.

How do we tell the difference?

We need to examine 'motives'. Why is someone doing a particular thing? A fast for one person, like St. Francis of Assisi, might be a completely 'Pharisaical' and 'leavened' thing for another. The intention and motive is therefore the important thing. However, this is NOT to condemn the fast itself! And even if there are specific rules and regulations, on WHICH days to fast, for instance,so too we need to look at the MOTIVATION for such rules--to determine whether they are promulgated for a good and holy reason, or if they are just another form of pride and pharisaical 'leaven'.

In examining the present Church doctrines and disciplines I can see nothing that speaks of such 'leaven'. Everything is carefully and very humbly taught in current Vatican documents, catequisms and encyclicals. And they all give very suitable reasons and explanations for the particular religious disciplines, rituals and practices. And really, the Church, if anything, is OVERLY flexible, and lenient in most of its regulations, and an argument can be better made that it is TOO LENIENT!...and really demands very little from the average catholic.(At least in comparison to former times!)

So, I hope everybody studies well this symbolism, of the leavened bread, because it is essential to the understanding and promoting of the true teachings of Christ, as Jesus intends. And we can further appreciate our Catholic Church for being so open, powerful, charitable, wisdom-filled, and truth seeking....as compared to so many of the truly hippocritical, 'pharisaical',and mere religious 'actors' teaching in the world today!

Joseph D'Hippolito

What the heck is wrong with ritual? Laws and traditions can be followed sincerely or insincerely. It is not the fault of the laws that some people keep them hypocritically.

No, Tim J., it's not the fault of the laws that some people keep them hypocritically. It is, however, the fault of those responsible for teaching spiritual discernment to focus on the laws themselves as opposed to the fundamental meaning and purpose behind them. Legalism encourages the kind of focus that I'm criticizing.

God Himself criticized the legalistic approach to Israelite worship when His prophet Isaiah said that their righteousness was "like filthy rags" (i.e, menstral garments). Now, this was the same God who created the forms of OT worship in the first place. Was He criticizing what He actually encouraged? No, He was criticizing the superficial, self-serving attitude toward that worship amongst the Israelites. That is the exact same attitude many Catholics have toward Lenten fasting!

Again, I'm not criticizing fasting in and of itself. I'm criticizing the attitude toward it that many Catholics have -- and that many bishops seem to promote.

Tim H. has the right idea when he says that "worries over the categorization of coffee cream miss the spiritual point of fasting. If a man's fast degrades into his worrying over this level of ritual detail, then he'd be focussing on the outward signs, and I'd suspect it has not benefited him."

A. Williams, let me respond to your challenge with a challenge. Prominent Catholics have devised many different spiritual exercises connected with fasting. If the bishops are as "unleavened" as you claim, then why don't they challenge the laity by encouraging some of these exercises?


Again, I'm not criticizing fasting in and of itself. I'm criticizing the attitude toward it that many Catholics have -- and that many bishops seem to promote.

Actually, Joe, for the first time, I respect and agree (to the extent that you finally revised your original sentiments) your comments here.

As I stated earlier:

You may need to remember that Lent is supposed to be a time of learning to desire God over the things of this world. If Lent suddenly becomes merely a "self-improvement" thing (e.g., fasting just to loose weight in order to improve one's self-image), then it defeats the entire meaning of Lent (i.e., to instill in us the selfless desire for God over the World and the things of the Flesh) and such activities can become one of selfish intent rather than that of self-detachment, self-denial and, above all, self-less devotion to God over temporal and worldly things.

Dieting is, itself, not a bad thing. But, if you are fasting during Lent merely to loose weight, the message of Lent is entirely lost.

Posted by: Esau | Feb 22, 2007 2:56:35 PM

Tim H.

A. Williams--

When Jesus tells his disciples to do what the Pharisees say, we've got to interpret that in the light of a few things. First, the next verses are, "...but do not act as they act, for they speak, but they do not do. They bind burdens that are heavy and hard to bear, and place them on mens' shoulders. But they themselves refuse to lift a finger to remove them."

I believe the do-what-they-say part, in this light, is talking about doing the purposes of the Law. Jesus didn't criticize the Pharisees for *failing* to observe the intricate rituals that they'd added onto the Law. In fact, he criticizes them for adding on a heavy burden that they won't remove--that's their rituals.

Furthermore, remember how Jesus himself pointedly broke some of these rituals: he did not wash his hands before the meal (Matt. 15:2), and he hinted at an attack on a lot of the kosher laws in general (Mat. 15:10-20), when he said that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out. Furthermore, he was a couple of times accused of breaking the Sabbath by doing things that counted as work to the Pharisees--gathering grain and healing.

He did not accept the Pharisees' ritual formulae. He said that the Law wasn't in their ritual additions to it, but in the observations in the heart.

So, anyway, I'm not criticizing fasting. It can be a helpful thing, and Fr. Martin Fox, and others above this post, have pointed the way for you to observe with a right heart. But don't go around wishing for extra regulations and saying the church is too easy on them: Jesus doesn't tell you to bind that heavy burden--he wants your heart changed.

Tim H.

In fact, rereading this, I'd add that you should be very careful when you say the church's regulations on this ritual are too lenient, and you seem to show a glee in wanting to shoulder your fellows with extra rules and burdens. You might have already fallen into the way of the Pharisees.

Rather, pray for the ritual as it is to work better in their hearts, and yours.

cialis cheap

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cialis cheap

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I think that drinking beef broth would be OK for a fasting standpoint, but you still can't have it because it is made from beef, and you can't eat beef on Ash Wednesday.

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