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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reverse Lent

St. Francis of Assisi, the Mel Gibson of his day for attempting to bring history to life, invented the Stations of the Cross.

St. Francis also invented the re-creation of the manger scene.

He did both for the same reasons, so that we could understand what really happened to Jesus, the extreme poverty of His birth, the terrible suffering of His Passion.

Lent is the season where we try to more closely identity with the suffering of Jesus. Write that on the blackboard one hundred times.

So when one of our readers sent this list of ideas for Lenten fasting that came from an archdiocese newspaper, I read it with interest. My eyes flew out of my head, hit the monitor and bounced back in again. If I could take my head off and rest it in my lap so I wouldn't have to think about this list, it would help me immeasurably.

I could just brush the whole thing aside and say, with one fell swoop, it's just way too huggy New Ager, "let's feel good about ourselves, please does someone have a guitar? Mass is about to start"-ish for me.

But I feel I have to address the list, if this is the type of thing that's passing for a great plan for Lent these days. Here's the list. Sing along won't you? (I wish I had a guitar to strum):

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Now, don't get me wrong. You should keep this list out where you can see it all the time. But this isn't a good list of what to do for Lent. This is a list of things you should be doing in the first place.

For Lent we can pare this list down really quickly. The things I put in bold are actually sins. You should always be refraining from these things. I can't think that I've ever heard anyone have to encourage people to fast from sin. Take a break from sinning during Lent? And what? Get back to it in time for Spring Break?

Lord Have Mercy.

So cross off all the things in bold.

And cross off all that feasting. This is lent. No feasting.

Heaven help us.

Now the list looks like this:

Fast from emphasis on differences;
Fast from pessimism;
Fast from worry
Fast from complaining
Fast from negatives
Fast from unrelenting pressures
Fast from bitterness
Fast from personal anxiety
Fast from facts that depress;

Now the four things in bold italics are things that are more or less out of your control. It would be nice if we didn't have unrelenting pressure and depressing news which can cause personal anxiety. But here we are in the real world, not the world where the Care Bears live. It would be nice if you would put your faith in Jesus and calm down.

So out they go. Now we have:

Fast from emphasis on differences;
Fast from pessimism;
Fast from complaining
Fast from negatives
Fast from bitterness

Aren't these all just ways to describe the same thing? Suck it up. Walk it off.

So we're down to emphasizing our areas of agreement for Lent.

Well. Kum Bye YAH. That should bring us closer to Jesus' suffering.

The list reminded me of a character from the old Superman comics. I think the man came from a place called "Bizarro World" where everything was opposite. Lent in reverse, feast on being sin free and happy! Just jump ahead to Easter!

Next we'll have the reverse Stations of the Cross where we all play the glad game.
And we will.
Right after Lent.


Anonymous said...

I wonder, Sister? What would Jesus prefer - that I spend my Lent working at eliminating my sinfulness: judging, anger, discontent, etc. and arriving at Easter a better person - or giving up those desserts? Hmmm - feasting on purposeful silence...


Pauli said...

or giving up those desserts

Why is it either/or? Seems like the Holy Church gave us Lent to help us in ridding ourselves of all disordered passions, not just the ones deemed undesirable to the modern day culture.

Kasia said...

I think Sister's point, Paula, is that we should be working on eliminating our sinfulness all year 'round. Saying "I'm going to fast from anger for Lent" is like saying "I'm going to fast from murder for Lent." We shouldn't be doing it to begin with, so giving it up for Lent is sort of missing the point.

And I don't think Jesus would want you to give up those desserts strictly for the sake of giving up those desserts, and not to arrive at Easter a better person. "If I speak with tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." So even if I fast from ALL food for all of Lent (my priest used to know someone who did that), if I don't do it with the intention of growing closer to Jesus and identifying more with His sufferings, it's all for naught.

Maybe the best way to put it is: Lent is the time when we try to identify with Jesus' sufferings for us, so that for the rest of the year we can (hopefully) be better people. Does that make sense?

Sister Mary Martha said...

I think I did say that, Kasia. In fact, I asked you to write it on the board one hundred times.

Sarada said...

A priest once told me that making regular small sacrifices will help give you the strength resist, well, things on that list.

So making sacrifices shouldn't take away your energy from working on eliminating sinfullness. It should help.

At least, if the priest was right. I also had a priest tell me that birth control was just fine for any reason, so sometimes I take these things with a grain of salt.

Kasia said...

True, Sister. I haven't found a board yet. Will pen and paper suffice?

Sister Mary Martha said...

Miss Sarada, maybe the priest was referring to abstinence.

Mark said...

"Fast from emphasis on differences"

Translation please, Psychobabble to English will be fine. Ta.

CMinor said...

I dunno, Sister, I have an adult child who's always found the Care Bears kinda scary.

In addition to going off the goodies for the greater glory and not just because we need to lose a whole buncha pounds, how about praying the Stations of the Cross regularly during Lent? Or making a mission?

I like the idea of St. Francis as the "Mel Gibson of his Day." Could it be because in some ways, they both seem a little nutty?

Bekah said...

I read or heard somewhere that when you choose to give up something for Lent, you should be giving up a good for something better. We should be working on reforming our character all year 'round. Lent serves a different purpose. If what your giving up isn't a good thing, rethink your Lenten sacrifice, and perhaps how frequently you visit the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

We share in his humanity, so that we can share in his divinity.
His Humanity was not a bowl of cherries was it?
Should we trivialize that, we trivialize it all. IOW, we can not share in HIS glory if we are not willing or able to share in his Passion.
You got it right SMM.
Proud to be a Trad at heart

PraiseDivineMercy said...

You are truly awesome sister. Way to burn the fluff away and get to the heart of the matter.

It annoys me when people want to replace the practicality of doing things like penance and the works of mercy with touchy-feely stuff that doesn't mean anything.

kired said...

Consider the readings from ash wednesday mass, and then try to work harder against the seven deadly sins through the opposed virtues.
Read and put into practice the lenten message from HH Benedict XVI.


Beth Pack said...

Great Post Sister, It really gives me something to think about.

Dirty Butter said...

The list reminds me of some blogs I've seen that appear to have a Christian emphasis at first glance, but really don't say anything. Just a lot of pretty words.

cattiekit said...

exCUSE me?????!!???

*What* blog are YOU reading?

Kasia said...


Unless I'm much mistaken, "Dirty Butter" was referring to the list SMM fisked.

Anonymous said...

cattiekit seems to fly off into fits of aggressive rage rather easily.
I understand this personality type much better after reading about mentalpause symptoms and it's manifestations when my mother first exhibited the warning signs.
The good news is she ended up having a heart attack. Now she thinks a split second or two before she jumps the gun, but she still does not apologize for her rudeness. Its a step.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Miss Anonymous, please either reveal yourself so we can all talk equally or stop commenting on the disposition and faith, or lack thereof, of others.

I'm not seeing any fits of rage from anyone but I am certainly seeing some judgement.

Alexandra said...

This list is VERY close to A Lenten Prayer from The Essential Lenten Prayer Book: A Daily Companion, a Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, but it's been added to in places. We got a copy of the prayer in a Liguori pamphlet in church Wednesday.

BTW, I loved the Lenten wreath idea! You can purchase it at Catholicshoppers.com for $36.00 or make you own. I made my own...there is a picture of it on my blog. Thanks for the idea...I have a new tradition for my family now, and a new way to teach the children about Lent for the next 40 days. Thanks sister! ;)

cattiekit said...

Yes, anonymous - perhaps the symptoms of "mentalpause" are yours alone. ;>D

Perhaps you fancy yourself a psychic who can divine a poster's age from a post.

I think they call it "transference" - you transferring your problems onto others.

Reveal yourself or get lost - that's my take. Quit hiding or hit the road.

By the way, I can say that with a smile on my face and no rise in blood pressure. ;>)

I'm certainly less kind about it than our beloved SMM.

And kasia? I'm sure you're right about it being the list "Dirty Butter" was referring to in that post.

It *was* kind of New Age-y, wasn't it? ;>D

cattiekit said...

For all those who are interested, I went to dirty butter's email and sent her a personal apology for misreading her post.

I hope she comes back - we need more posters like her. :>)

Suzanne said...

My friend gave me that list of "fasting and feasting" last year during lent, and yes, alarms went off in my head. She also used to send me things about Medjugorie (sp.) that seemed a little "off", so I politely asked her to stop. I certainly don't want to start a discussion about Medjugorie, but as I said to her, it is not approved by the Church and I would rather not receive these types of info.-prayers unless they are something solid, back by the Magisterium.

Dirty Butter said...


I didn't get your email, cattiekit, but apology accepted, if it makes you feel better. Thing is, I wasn't offended - just confused. I do have some blogs in mind that to the uneducated eye would appear to be Christian. The even mention Jesus every once in awhile, and occasionally quote scripture. But mostly they say biblical "sounding" things that are not at all in the Bible. I've even read some posts that said Jesus said some things that we have no record of at all!! I have 3 blogs in particular in mind, but it's not my place to name names here.

New Agey is a good way to describe them, and that's what I thought of the list, too. All dolled up and pretty sounding, but, except for the first one, it could just as easily be a list written by an atheist!

cattiekit said...

Oh,*thank you* for coming back! My original comment was more meant like "Huh?" than meant to be scathing, really.

I know what you mean about the Bible-ish babble. Once at a Protestant funeral around here I was subjected to quite a gushing fountain of the aforementioned.

I was left (along with the Protestant relatives-in-law) scratching my head. ?????

The sound and the fury, signifying nothing.

Chris said...

"Fast from emphasis on differences"

As no-one seems to have translated this, how about: Stop banging on about how Papes and Proddies are so different that they have to fight every time they meet and concentrate on the fact that they're all Christians?
A Glaswegian's take!

mark said...

aye that's awfy braw ma wee chuckle faldy

cattiekit said...

OK, chris. :>)

"Fast from emphasis on difference" must mean something like *Be More Tolerant Of Those Not Like You*.

Which, for most people, is everybody except themselves. ;>)

I take it to mean that, anyhoo.

Okey? :>)

Fr. Ben Hawley, SJ said...

a wonderful post. but i disagree with the premise that i can and should "suck it up. walk it off." i need forgiveness and healing before i can turn my attention away from myself and focus it on the Lord, which you correctly identify as the work of Lent.

i elaborate on this point in the post The Good Sister and the Jesuit on my blog The Good News www.thegoodnewsofchrist.blogspot.com.

thank you again for your wonderful post!

fr. ben hawley, sj