What is the significance of abstaining from meat during Lent? And why eat fish?
Christians have fasted (gone without food) and abstained (gone without certain foods, especially meat) since the beginning. The Book of Genesis teaches that all the plants and animals that God created and entrusted to human beings are good, especially those given to us as food (Genesis 1:29). Jesus taught that nothing that a person eats makes him or her evil (Mark 7:18). So why then do Christians fast and abstain?
What Christians can learn from Muslims about the meaning of Lent.
Last spring I made a spontaneous decision to observe Ramadan, the Muslim season of fasting and spiritual renewal. I did so after watching a news report of a hate crime targeting Muslim worshippers amid the growing tide of fear and intolerance gripping our nation. It was one way of embodying solidarity with a community that is too often misunderstood and ostracized.
This Lent, reflect on the lives and legacies of six female saints.
My friend Teresa tells an endearing story of her second-grade self beaming with pride as she returned home from school one day carrying a picture of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Her class learned about saints that morning, and it tickled young Teresa to think she was named after the “Little Flower.”
Lent did not always begin on Ash Wednesday.
In the Ash Wednesday gospel reading Jesus directs us to clean up: “Put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may not be seen by others” (Matt. 6:17–18a). And yet shortly after hearing these words we line up to receive ashes on our foreheads, a mark associated with penance and fasting. Clearly the Ash Wednesday ritual does not come from the gospel.
Lent did not always begin on Ash Wednesday. In the sixth century, Gregory the Great identified the season of Lent (Quadragesima, or the “Forty Days”) as beginning on a Sunday and lasting until Easter Sunday.
From dust we have come and to dust we shall return. That is essentially not true for plastics.
Practicing Catholics the world over understand the importance of giving up something for Lent. The typical Lenten sacrifice includes perennial favorites such as giving up candy or swearing off swearing, but Lenten offerings also change with the times, reflecting technological and cultural shifts. Contemporary Lenten fasting could include forgoing that extravagant morning mocha latte or abstaining from the social media that distract us from our interior lives or from “interfacing” with humanoids in the real world.
Sometimes the most important job of a parent is to watch and wait.
I was standing in the middle of a small frozen lake near our house, chatting with my husband and Nate, another father in our neighborhood. I was in ice skates and a down coat; Bill and Nate had on heavy boots and warm gear. The ice was about eight inches thick from a recent cold snap, and the wind was brisk from the north. As we talked, I noticed our teenage daughter walking out onto the ice in socks and sandals. From the other shore, Nate’s teenage son approached in basketball shorts and bare legs.
This Lent, reflect on your identity in Christ.
When I was little, I was very shy. Once I went with my cousin Kathy to her friend Linda’s house. We knocked and walked into the kitchen, where Linda’s mother said hello to Kathy, and then, peering down at me with piercing eyes, asked, “And who are YOU?” I never answered. I couldn’t. Quaking, I hid behind my cousin.
These days, I hide differently. I have some achievements, a community, and a job title. Now when the question is put to me, I can say “I’m a Dominican sister” or “I’m a retreat director.” Like most of us, I answer in terms of what I do or how I’m related to others.
On Good Friday, Christians find themselves face-to-face with Christ on the cross. But we can also find crucified people much closer to home.
On Good Friday millions of Christians prayerfully mark the way of the cross. Pope Francis often notes that Christ’s crucifixion is not just historical but plays out today, and when we commemorate Jesus’ path to the cross we recognize the oppressed and violated in our world.
In his first papal homily, Francis urged a focus on journeying with people, building the church, and professing Christ crucified. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, Pope Francis asks us to inhabit rather than pass through Good Friday.
Lent didn’t begin as a season of guilt, and it shouldn’t stay that way.
Memories of a Catholic boyhood. It is Ash Wednesday, and the choice about what to give up for Lent finally take effect. I remember that Ash Wednesday meant the beginning of things like no candy, no ice-cream sodas, and most difficult of all, six Saturday afternoons without a Hopalong Cassidy movie at the neighborhood theater. Such choices were made after a bit of comparison shopping (What are you giving up?) and not without a spirit of one-upmanship. We hadn’t absorbed much about Jesus’ command to do good deeds without parading them before others.
Prayer isn't easy. There's a reason it's called a discipline.
How do you pray? The way I pray changes often. Sometimes it’s intentional, quiet, in front of a candle even. At other times, it’s simply sitting quietly on my commute to work, purposefully avoiding my email and social media while I mindfully observe my surroundings. For a while there in the summer, after putting my son to bed, I would sit on my back porch and attempt watercolor paintings of the scenery around me.