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#FishFriday – It’s Not Just for Lent

If you’ve heard the buzz lately, you know that the bishops plan to readdress and reemphasize that the faithful abstain from meat on Fridays, but do you know why? I know that, for many of us, this can come across as “lotsa rules” or “how can the Church be so determined to focus on this {perceived minutia} when we have so many bigger fish to fry?” – pun intended. It’s simple when you understand the core of Christ’s love for us. It’s about the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Let me give you an example of both.

Letter of the law:

Days of Penance*

  • Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
  • Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
  • Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
  • Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

*Pulled from the Vatican website

Spirit of the law:

  • Jesus has a particularly scandalous love for each one of us.
  • Jesus died on the Cross for you – yes, YOU!
  • Each Friday is an opportunity to unite our small sufferings to His redemptive suffering on the Cross.
  • Out of our love for Him, we offer something small {such as meat if that is a particular suffering for you} to show Christ that we recognize and appreciate His gift of salvation for us.
  • We are not limited to giving up meat, but can also offer up other acts of penitential suffering as well – this varies from person to person, depending on our particular struggles and sufferings.

When we break it down into two categories like this, we can see that the letter of the law is borne of the spirit of the law. Without the spirit of the law, it’s all just words. If your heart isn’t convicted to a love for Christ, all you will see giving up your precious meat on Fridays is just a mere inconvenience. It’s so much more than that. SO. MUCH. MORE THAN THAT. The next time you start to feel that way about the laws of the Church, look at the Cross and lay those feelings at His feet. Pray for Jesus to soften your heart to understand the foundation of the rules. They are all rooted in a love for Him. Promise.

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Heavenly Spam

Man… it’s been one of those weeks on the back of a couple of those weeks. You know the kind, when a trip to the restroom- away from whiny children, all these dogs that always want to eat, and people who ask all manner of questions like, “Why did you plug the extension cord into itself, Andrea?”* (I don’t know, Margot!)- feels like a mini-vacation? Yeah. The last few weeks have been super hectic- my husband separated from the military, we moved across the country, I got a new job, my toddler is entering his Terrible Twos with no holds barred, and in an unfortunate, distracted eyebrow-grooming session, I turned myself into Vanilla Ice.

Did I mention I start back to school today? Thank God for makeup, amiright?

Lately, I’ve just been turning my gaze heavenward and yelling saying “Pray for us!”. I’m not even specifying who I’m asking at this point, just hoping that somebody (or a few somebodies) will take pity on me.

Anywho, whining aside, this prayerful desperation reminds me of when I first started going to Mass after a lifetime of Protestantism, and how one of the lines (which is still one of my favorite parts of the Mass by the way) stuck out to me in a surprising way.

Which line, you ask? Why, here we go. The Penitential Act:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Maybe I’m just spiritually greedy, but I want as many people praying for me as possible. Mary, the saints, the angels, all of you… I’ll take what I can get. Lord knows I need it. Seriously- He really does.

After nearly 24 years of the Protestant mindset, this Catholic view of prayer has been eye-opening, to say the least. At first, I was all:

“Wait wait wait… you ask everyone to pray for you? Like… even the angels? Not just people you know and are still alive? If you ask them to pray for you, do they like… have to?”

I was hooked almost immediately. I pictured all of the saints and angels stopping what they were doing to pray for me, because I asked. I was pretty sure that after a while, their prayers for me would turn into “Ugh, Father… it’s her again. Who told her that she could ask us for our prayers, and why didn’t they tell her that she didn’t have to do it all the time? Does she know there are other people who might need prayers, too?”

I had to learn to find the (for me) fine line of prayerful enthusiasm and Heavenly spam. “Did you get that forward from Andrea? I just don’t even open prayers from her anymore.”

I kid… mostly. I don’t spam Heaven. Maybe I say that part of the Penitential Act louder than the other parishioners, but outside of Mass I keep it low-key. Ya know… just the few saints I really love. So, at my confirmation, when you discover that I am now:

Andrea Lynn Mary Therese Faustina Paul Peter Ignatius Irenaeus Augustine Monica Edith Stein

Don’t be surprised.

And if I get to Heaven as I hope I do, and find all these people trying very hard not to make eye-contact with me and saying things like “Did I remember to present those bowls of incense to God? Better check!” when they see me approaching… I won’t be surprised, either.

 

 

*As much as I wish I could say I made this up for humorous effect, the extension cord thing really, actually happened. I offer you the following photographic proof. Yes, I took a picture of it, because when you do something this unbelievable, you save it for posterity… and blog readers.

Extension Cord Fail