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Whatever happened to (Lenten) obligations? [Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving]Archbishop John Vlazny
Catholic Sentinel ^ | 03-19-09 | Archbishop John Vlazny

Posted on 03/23/2009 7:32:43 PM PDT by Salvation

Whatever happened to obligations?

Lent is already half gone and what have we to show for it? In days of yore, by this time the Lenten obligation of fasting and abstaining together with the annual struggle to carry out our Lenten resolutions was getting tiresome. The desire for Easter freedom was almost tangible as we failed to keep our resolutions and tried to suppress our desire for snacks between meals.

Nowadays our obligations are minimal and resolutions are few. Catholics used to observe abstinence from meat every Friday of the year. Now it is required only on Fridays in Lent and Good Friday. Obligatory fasting is required only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We are still expected to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days but everyone recognizes how lax many are in that regard. We were even supposed to support the church, a precept we learned in addition to the Ten Commandments. What ever happened to all those obligations of the past? Are we better off without them?

At the beginning of Lent we were reminded of the traditional disciplines that should mark our observance of this holy season, namely, prayer, fasting and almsgiving or works of charity. For the most part these are now counsels, not obligations. I sense that most of us ignore the counsels and disdain any conversation about obligations. But I suggest that these disciplines are still obligatory for us if we are serious about Christian living. In the past we used to talk about such obligations being obligatory under “pain of sin.” I say that they are now obligatory at the risk of “the loss of faith.” What do I mean?

In my role as pastor of this archdiocese, I sometimes see myself as the coach of a lovable team that is out of shape spiritually. I include myself as a member of that team. We all know that in order to stay physically healthy we need to have some sensible habits of diet and exercise. In order to stay spiritually healthy, we also need some good habits of virtuous living. Such habits are facilitated by the traditional penances suggested every Lent, namely, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and works of charity. Without them, our faith life becomes far too casual and inevitably we lose when we struggle with temptation and sin.

In the past, when it came to prayer, the only obligation we had focused on was Mass attendance on Sundays and holy days. We still have that obligation but obviously it is not something everyone takes seriously. We excuse ourselves easily. Furthermore, the thought that we might participate in the celebration of the Eucharist more often than on Sundays is apparently moot.

Oh, yes, many people were in attendance at the cathedral on Ash Wednesday, even though it was not an obligation. But by Friday of that same week there was the usual small gathering for weekday Eucharist. When I was a youngster, our parish had a daily Mass one-half hour before school began. Even though no one said we had to go, many of us attended that Mass together with our moms and/or dads during Lent or other special days. I don’t see that happening at my parish. I suspect it’s much the same elsewhere. No one gives a thought to praying at Eucharist more often during Lent than any other time. I also wonder about family prayer and grace before meals.

If it’s not obligatory under pain of sin, then people seem to think it’s not obligatory at all. And I worry about the diminishment of faith when such practices are minimal.
Fasting is another matter. With only two days as obligatory, I doubt that even those days are observed well. It’s true that the law of fasting obliges only those between 21 and 59. Catholic practice requires not eating between meals with only one full meal each day of fasting. When abstinence is in order, then no meat is to be eaten at all. I still remember all those Lenten suppers in the seminary when the folks in the kitchen were trying to vary our meatless meals. Maybe it looked somewhat foolish at the time. But I know it helped us understand that Christian living meant denying ourselves some of the things we want so that we might more readily be able to tolerate and endure things we don’t want at all, like sickness, alienation, suffering and hard times. True discipleship means embracing our share in the full paschal mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, not simply the glory of rising to new life.

As far as almsgiving or church support is concerned, we Catholics tend to do reasonably well when the almsgiving or support is beneficial to our own parish or those we know. Our sense of wider outreach has been greatly diminished. Yes, it used to be an obligation to support your church. But nowadays people use it as a negotiating tool. “If we like you or you do what we want, then we will support the church. But if we don’t like you or you don’t do what we want, then we won’t support the church.” Maybe there’s no “pain of sin” attached to that refusal, but I clearly sense a great loss of faith.

Yes, I do believe the obligations to pray, to fast, and to share our personal resources in the support of the church and other charities are essential for Catholic living, just as much today as they were in the past. The resulting “loss of faith” when such practices are ignored is indeed the “sin” of these post-modern times. We Catholics don’t go to Mass simply for pleasure, although for many of us it is indeed a great pleasure. We do it because we love our Lord and one another and we want to be strengthened in these relationships. We don’t fast because it’s a dietary issue. We do so because we want to lead virtuous lives and we need good habits in order to grow in virtue. As we learned during the years of “Disciples in Mission” here in this archdiocese, we are all responsible for the church’s evangelizing mission. One of the time-honored ways of expressing that commitment is through our support of the church itself and our participation in all kinds of works of charity.

What ever happened to obligations? They remain but they are misunderstood. I tell young people they have an obligation to go to Mass on Sunday just the same as they have an obligation to eat. Without the nourishment of God’s word and the Eucharist, faith will be diminished. We all have an obligation to deprive ourselves of some of the things we want. Otherwise self-serving becomes the hallmark of our behavior and virtue becomes an afterthought. Charitable contributions are an essential expression of our commitment to building the kingdom of God here on earth and leveling the playing field for all our sisters and brothers who struggle because of ignorance, poverty or human suffering.

Even though Lent is half spent, it’s never too late. Doing only what we want, when we want and how we want makes us all look immature. Turning away from sin and being faithful to the gospel inevitably confront us with the practices that are essential if we are to succeed. You are in my prayers as together we walk the road to Easter glory by way of Calvary.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Moral Issues; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; lent
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For your continued discussion.

Highlighting is mine.

1 posted on 03/23/2009 7:32:43 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...

With two weeks left in Lent, how are you doing on the obligations of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Add abstinence on Fridays too.

Catholic Ping

2 posted on 03/23/2009 7:33:54 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
I've given up beer, chocolate, coffee, and chips for lent.

It is harder than it would sound -- the cravings remind one of what *REAL* suffering is, and how petty complaining is, everytime you compare it to what Our Lord gave up...

So it's working, but there's a LOT of work left to be done on me.

Let us pray for one another.

Kyrie eleison!

3 posted on 03/23/2009 7:37:18 PM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: All

Fast from judging others;
Feast on Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from apparent darkness;
Feast on the reality of light.

Fast from pessimism;
Feast on optimism.

Fast from thoughts of illness;
Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute;
Feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from anger;
Feast on patience.

Fast from worry;
Feast on Divine Providence.

Fast from unrelenting pressure;
Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from negatives;
Feast on positives.

Fast from complaining;
Feast on appreciation.

Fast from hostility;
Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness;
Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from anxiety;
Feast on hope.

Fast from yourself;
Feast on a silent heart.

4 posted on 03/23/2009 7:37:24 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: grey_whiskers

That’s quite the undertaking there.

5 posted on 03/23/2009 7:38:11 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Fasting, great, gave a 20 to st vincent de paul society for easter dinners for the poor on sunday, and abstinence (yeesh, getting personal here arent you, LOL, JK) I have a bunch of salmon in the freezer for no meat fridays :)

How about yourself?

6 posted on 03/23/2009 7:38:36 PM PDT by wombtotomb
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To: Salvation; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.

Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment

Obama: “If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

7 posted on 03/23/2009 7:41:10 PM PDT by narses (
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To: wombtotomb

I do better on the almsgiving-giving of my time than on the fasting. I am over the age limit, but I try to cut down during Lent. On the prayer — I haven’t really increased anything that what I usually do, Daily Mass, Daily Rosary and complete Rosary on Fridays — all four sets of mysteries.

8 posted on 03/23/2009 7:41:21 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: wombtotomb

Another area that I am trying to fast from

Driving the speed limit and not speeding — harder than I thought.

Keeping my mouth shut and not voicing my judgments about others. Very difficult for me. I’ve been to Confession twice on that one.

9 posted on 03/23/2009 7:43:38 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
> Whatever happened to (Lenten) obligations?

"The Spirit of Vatican II" happened, that's what.

10 posted on 03/23/2009 7:43:54 PM PDT by NewJerseyJoe (Rat mantra: "Facts are meaningless! You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!")
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To: NewJerseyJoe

So what is happening with your Lenten oobligations? I think that’s what the article is addressing.

11 posted on 03/23/2009 7:48:10 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

I try so hard to pray more frequently than I do. I guess that is my weakest link. I talked to a couple of priests about it. The answer surprised me.

When I explained that God is always in my conscious mind, even if I don’t formulate a silent prayer, I am just always aware that He is with me. I said it angered me that I would fall asleep before I prayed and often wake up and have to get going right away. I do try to thank Him or talk to Him when I become aware of my thinking about Him, but it doesn’t always happen. The priests response was I was doing exactly what scripture said. From rising up to setting down I am keeping Him always present in my mind and heart and that is indeed a powerful prayer. I still do all I can to try to pray “formal “ prayers, but I feel better knowing that this is as well a prayer that God loves; just letting Him share each moment of my day. The priest said that most people can’t do that, and I should be thankful for that gift.

12 posted on 03/23/2009 7:49:25 PM PDT by wombtotomb
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To: NewJerseyJoe

The Wagu beef President is being honored at Notre Dame so that is pretty much the spirit these days.

13 posted on 03/23/2009 7:50:58 PM PDT by xp38
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To: Salvation

Who hasn’t as far as ending up in that line for speaking your mind! LOL! Speed limit- no problem for me. I look at it this way, and it has always helped:

My kids are always in the car with me, and no, it is not about safety. My kids watch me like a hawk for hypocrisy. They are learning to walk the walk from my example. If I break a law I disagree with, what will stop them from breaking one they disagree with? What if they don’t like the stop sign law, or the drunk driving law? No, it is much easier as a parent(at least for me) to set the example I want them to follow. Its that whole nation of laws thingy that hangs me up :)

14 posted on 03/23/2009 7:54:30 PM PDT by wombtotomb
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To: wombtotomb

I try to remember to thank God for the day as my eyes open or my feet hit the floor and I ask him to guide me in all my actions that day. However —— I very often forget the second part.

When I go to bed I thank God for the day and try to do a quick examination of conscience — Did I hurt God that day? Did I hurt anyone else that day? If my answer is affirmative, then I say an Act of Contrition and go to sleep.

But I’m like you — in the car I am always praying for converts, always praying for my children, always praying for someone or something. It’s a good place to pray. When I pass a cemetery I make the Sign of the Cross and pray for the dead therein. If I hear a siren or see police lights ahead I always say a Hail Mary for the people the office is helping or to whom the ambulance or fire truck is going.

15 posted on 03/23/2009 7:56:12 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: xp38

Pray for Father John Jenkins the Prez of the University of Notre Dame and pray for Bishop D’Arcy of FortWayne/South Bend Diocese.

16 posted on 03/23/2009 7:57:59 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: grey_whiskers

We gave up tv for lent as it has been out practice for years to do so.

Except for EWTN.

17 posted on 03/23/2009 8:05:17 PM PDT by Global2010 (Worship the Creator Not the Creature.)
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To: Salvation

I am doing fine.....but have an unexpected trip to San Jose tomorrow....for two weeks. The ladies on my weekend retreat gave me their dispensation to suspend Lenton sacrifices for those two weeks.....LOL.

18 posted on 03/23/2009 8:08:55 PM PDT by tioga
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To: Salvation
I gave up all alcohol, am praying the Rosary every evening, no meat on Fridays, and am making an effort to donate extra to St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Relief, and out church's operating fund.

The alcohol give up was really hard, although not so much now. Personally, I think I have been blessed by making the sacrifice.

I am also beginning to look forward to the Rosary, rather than seeing it as my duty.

Oh, and I am reading Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict for my evening reading.

Thanks for asking. I have always tried to observe Lent, even when I was a Methodist. Many years ago I gave up soap operas for Lent, which sounds funny, but I was addicted to them when my children were young, and it was also one of those instances when the sacrifice gave me something good in return...more time for getting things done and a quiet time for prayer before children came home from school.

19 posted on 03/23/2009 8:17:58 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: Miss Marple

I am reading that books as well. I am enjoying it.

20 posted on 03/23/2009 8:25:31 PM PDT by tioga
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