When I was a kid, preparation for Lent meant Mardi Gras, my mother was so good she always looked for fun things to do, also instructional things at the same time, which would help us both to learn and enjoy. So, at St. Anne’s we would sometimes have candies or cupcakes on Mardi Gras. Sometimes at home we would have pancakes. If ethnic food was served for Mardi Gras at all it was either French, eclairs or some such goodie, or perhaps Belgian Waffles for supper, with lots of ice cream and fruit on top.
I think it was in seminary when I first became aware of Mardi Gras having taken on a Cajun flavor. Now, I have no doubt that fish deserves to be eaten in Lent, and in great abundance, as it is the greatest penance inflicted upon right thinking people. Imagine my shock, when I found out that people were eating something called “blackened fish” and not for LENT but for Mardi Gras! I have nothing against our fine New Orleans friends, although I think I would be more comfortable at the Mobile Mardi Gras, but I do know that eating fish of any sort is NOT good preparation for Lent.
As a youth, when Lent started, we gave up what we were giving up, and attend the Stations of the Cross, but without too much planning ahead of time. It was only when I became more aware of the traditional calendar, that I learned of the preparation season for Lent, beginning today on Septuagesima Sunday. For the next three Sundays, according to the traditional calendar, we are called upon really to think about what is coming, and how we will approach our Lord during Lent. Septuagesima means 70 days, Sexagesima means 60 days, and Quinquagesima means 50, leading up to the first Sunday of Lent, after Ash Wednesday, Quadragesima, meaning 40 days. By then, certainly, we should have in place our spiritual practices which will help us to approach our Lord, learning from Him, living in his grace, and becoming closer to Him during Lent.
Would it be better if we carried out our Lenten spiritual practices the whole year through? Possibly. But, just as we buckle down to study before an exam, or perform a thorough house cleaning before the visit of the Mother in Law (or priest, perhaps), during Lent we concentrate, for an intense period of time, on those things which have been holding us back from deeper Communion with our Lord.
Perhaps you could encourage, for Lent, your friends or family to read these notes, if you find them helpful! Copy and forward them along, print them out, slip them under doors or in mailboxes!
Copyright 2011 Msgr. Richard Soseman