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Lent and Fasting
e3mil.com ^ | 3/4/03 | Grace MacKinnon

Posted on 03/04/2003 12:41:05 AM PST by nickcarraway

Dear Grace: Someone recently asked me why Catholics have Lent and also why we do not fast for the entire forty day period. Could you please explain the message behind Lent and why we do not fast every single day of the forty days?

As Christians, in everything we do, we should have as our model Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and he fasted forty days and forty nights" (Matthew 4:1-2). The season of Lent is a commemoration of Our Lord’s fast, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. It was a time of preparation for the tremendous mission that lay before Him. To do this, He denied Himself food and water during those forty days and nights, relying instead only on God (with whom He was One) to sustain Him.

In the history of the Church, Lent has undergone much development and change, both in duration and in practice. In other words, it was not always forty days in length and the fast was not always observed the same way. For example, during the late second century, the season of penance before Easter was much shorter and some people fasted for one day, others for two days, and others for a greater number of days. The first clear mention and observance of the forty days does not come to us until the fourth century in the decrees of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

What we see from some of the earliest references is that originally the season of Lent was meant as a preparation for baptism or as a time in which people sought absolution from God for their sins. Even though fasting and abstinence were part of the practice, there was no uniform manner in which this was done. That came later. It was observed differently in various countries. In Rome, where it had been customarily three weeks, it was eventually extended to six weeks, but always leaving out the Sundays. Because this made the Lenten season only thirty-six days in duration, with time it was lengthened by adding four more days, making it forty, in remembrance of Jesus’ fast in the desert.

As to why most Catholics do not fast the entire forty days of Lent, the Church in fact strongly recommends that we do so, but leaves it to us to decide for ourselves. On November 18, 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul VI's constitution Pænitemini, published some norms on penitential observance. In one part of the document, they specifically wrote about what is expected and recommended for all Catholics during the entire season of Lent. They stated: “We ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten season a period of special penitential observance.”

In addition to making it clear that we are bound by obligation to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and to abstain from meat on every Friday of Lent, they also added the following: “For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.”

Remembering that fasting is a form of penance and self-denial, we must keep in mind that we are urged to do this during the entire season of Lent, but it does not have to be a fast from food on all those forty days. For example, those Catholics whose health would be compromised, such as the sick, are not bound to observe the Church's laws of fast and abstinence. But there are many other ways in which we can show God how sorry we are for our sins. Among them are the following: being generous with others, visiting the sick and lonely, feeding the poor, studying Scripture, making the Stations of the Cross, praying the rosary, practicing self-control, and many others.

Even when the US Bishops no longer required the faithful to abstain from meat on all the other Fridays of the year, it was never their intention that we should discontinue this practice. What they had hoped was that people would continue to do it out of their love for God and not because they were required to, and also to give us an opportunity to deny ourselves in other ways. Friday has never ceased to be a day of penance and self-denial, and abstaining from meat on that day is given first place, because it was on a Friday that our Lord died for our sins.

Every Friday is a day to prepare for Sunday, the day that, for us who believe, is Easter every week of the year. And Sunday is never a day of fasting (not even during Lent). It is the glorious Day of the Lord!


TOPICS: Catholic; Prayer; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; lent

1 posted on 03/04/2003 12:41:05 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Lady In Blue; Siobhan; Desdemona; Salvation; Canticle_of_Deborah; american colleen; NYer
ping
2 posted on 03/04/2003 12:41:35 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway


3 posted on 03/04/2003 12:43:09 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
BTTT

Happy Mardi Gras. Eat well today.
4 posted on 03/04/2003 6:26:49 AM PST by Desdemona
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To: nickcarraway
Thanks, Nick, I will link this to the All About Lent and Ash Wednesday threads.
5 posted on 03/04/2003 6:41:29 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Diago; narses; Loyalist; BlackElk; american colleen; saradippity; Polycarp; Dajjal; ...
Could you please explain the message behind Lent and why we do not fast every single day of the forty days?

This article is somewhat disingenuous by purposely obscuring the fact that the traditional practice IS to fast for every single one of the 40 days. The article talks about the 2nd century, but then jumps ahead to 1966, in a perfect example of the "antiquarianism" that was condemned by Pope Pius XII. Somehow it fails to mention that for hundreds of years prior to 1966, all faithful were obligated to fasting and partial abstinence EVERY day during Lent (except Sundays which technically are not included in Lent).

Prenant or nursing women and men who performed hard labor were exempted from the obligation except on Fridays and Ash Wednesday. This would have included a large percentage of the Catholic population a hundred years ago. But all those who lived the way that we live today were obligated to fast and abstain.

Fasting means taking only 2 small meals (called a "collation") not amounting to 1 normal meal, and 1 full meal. Meat, meat soup and meat gravy could only be eaten at the full meal. There could be no "eating between meals" (maybe your mother was on to something).

This is the first year that I have been fully aware of the traditional practice. It would seem hypocritical to attend the Latin Mass but opt out of the difficult part of traditional Catholicism. So this year I plan to follow the traditional guidelines. I also ordered a calendar with both traditional and current feast days so I know when "Ember Days" and "Rogation Days" fall.

6 posted on 03/04/2003 9:50:54 AM PST by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
When we were growing up my Mam always encouraged us to do something during Lent instead of abstaining.

This year, I hope to get to Mass every day. (I've been pretty lax in my faith of late, and this might be a good opportunity to get back on track).

7 posted on 03/04/2003 9:56:41 AM PST by Happygal
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To: Maximilian
Thanx, Max.

I notice that Sundays are not technically part of Lent... but I still observe the fast on that day and I will regardless. However, the mother of a friend of my daughter's told my daughter that she could partake on the Sundays in Lent, whatever it was she was giving up that year. Would that be correct then?

8 posted on 03/04/2003 9:59:20 AM PST by american colleen (Christe Eleison!)
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To: Maximilian
Ahem. Not to correct you because you seem to know so much, but I think that all people over 60 years of age were also exempted from the fasting rules (and still are, as far as I know.) Please correct me, if I am wrong about this.
9 posted on 03/04/2003 10:01:33 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Desdemona
Happy Mardi Gras.

Fat Tuesday. Please remember that we are abstaining from all things French these days! :~)

10 posted on 03/04/2003 10:04:19 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic
I think that all people over 60 years of age were also exempted from the fasting rules (and still are, as far as I know.)

You are correct. I didn't mention that point. Here are the exact official rules from 1958 and 1908, which agree with each other principally, but have some different explanations and emphases:

FASTING AND ABSTINENCE IN THE UNITED STATES 1958

ABSTINENCE: All Catholics seven years old and over are obliged to observe the Law of Abstinence.

On days of complete abstinence flesh meat, soup or gravy made from meat, are not permitted at all. On days of partial abstinence flesh meat, soup or gravy made from meat, are permitted once a day at the principal meal.

Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays; Ash 'Wednesday; Vigils of Immaculate Conception and Christmas; an Holy Saturday. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost.

FASTING: All Catholics from the completion of their twenty first to the beginning of their sixtieth year are bound to observe the Law of Fast. The days of Fast are the weekdays of Lent; Ember Days; the Vigils of Pentecost, Immaculate Conception and Christmas.

Only one full meal is permitted on a day of Fast. Two other meatless meals are permitted. These meals should be sufficient to maintain strength in accordance with each ones needs. Both of these meals, or "collations," together should not equal one full meal.

It is permissible to eat meat at the principal meal on a Fast Day except on Fridays, Ash Wednesday and the Vigils of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas and on Holy Saturday.

Solid food between meals is not permitted. Liquids, including coffee, tea, milk and fruit juices, are allowed.

In connection with problems arising from the Laws of Fast and Abstinence, a confessor or priest should be consulted. Dispensations may be granted for a serious reason concerning health or the ability to work.

*****************************

The Church Law of Abstinence and Fast 1908

1. The Law of Abstinence forbids the use of flesh meat and of the juice thereof (soup, etc.). Eggs, cheese, butter and seasonings of food are permitted. The Law of Fasting forbids more than one full meal a day, but does not forbid a small amount of food in the morning and in the evening.

2. All Catholics seven years old and over are obliged to abstain. All Catholics from the completion of their twenty-first to the beginning of their sixtieth year, unless lawfully excused, are bound to fast.

3. Abstinence alone is prescribed every Friday, unless a holy-day falls thereon. Fasting and abstinence are prescribed in the United States on:
the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent and Holy Saturday forenoon (on all other days of Lent fasting alone is prescribed and meat is allowed once a (day),
the Ember days. viz.: the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the first Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, the 14th of September. and the third Sunday of Advent;
the vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints and Christmas.

There is no fast or abstinence if a vigil falls on a Sunday. Whenever meat is permitted, fish may be taken at the same meal. A dispensation is granted to the laboring classes and their families on all days of fast and abstinence except Fridays, Ash Wednesday, in Holy Week, Holy Saturday forenoon, and the vigil of Christmas. When any member of such a family lawfully uses this privilege all the other members may avail themselves of it also; but those who fast may not eat meat more than once a day.


11 posted on 03/04/2003 10:11:43 AM PST by Maximilian
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To: Happygal
When we were growing up my Mam always encouraged us to do something during Lent instead of abstaining.

This sounds like a good plan, but hopefully it would not be instead of, but in addition to abstaining. Simply "doing something" might be a worthwhile charitable act, but it wouldn't qualify as "mortification" which is the focus of Lent. Here are 3 reasons for mortification:

1. To subdue our passions (pride, anger, envy, greed, lust, sloth, gluttony).
2. To make reparation for our sins.
3. To imitate Christ.

12 posted on 03/04/2003 10:26:48 AM PST by Maximilian
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: frozen section
If you are Irish you are allowed to imbibe to your heart's desire on the 17th. All others must fast.

Which doubles your enjoyment of the day. Just like days off school were twice as enjoyable if the public school kids were stuck inside (which included St. Patrick's day when we got off but they did not).

14 posted on 03/04/2003 10:33:25 AM PST by Maximilian
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To: frozen section
Neither are major feast days such as St. Patrick's Day. If you are Irish you are allowed to imbibe to your heart's desire on the 17th.

~phew~ ;-)

15 posted on 03/04/2003 10:35:43 AM PST by Happygal
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To: Maximilian; american colleen
I wouldn't describe the article as disingenuous, because she clearly mentions that Lent has undergone development and change. But I think it is good to encourage people to take up what penitence they can.

If you want to go back to erlier practices, though, Lent was not just fasting for all of the sixty days, it also included stricter fasts. It was common to abstain from meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, fish, oil, and wine.

Some even abstained from all food and beverages except breads, water, juices, honey, and nuts. (John the Baptist's diet)

There were also many other practice, including fasting from all food by ordinary Christians for an entire day.

16 posted on 03/04/2003 10:54:05 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Maximilian; afraidfortherepublic
Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Besides those outside the age limits, also excused from fast or abstinence are those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Also, soldiers are often excused, which may be especially relevant this year.

17 posted on 03/04/2003 10:57:35 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Desdemona; american colleen; Maximilian
Church Fathers on Fasting

When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.

St. Jerome, Letters, 58, 2

Fasting is a medicine.

St. John Chrysostom

The immoderate long fasts of many displease me, for I have learned by experience that the donkey worn out with fatigue on the road seeks rest at any cost. In a long journey, strength must be supported.

St. Jerome

Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

St. Augustine of Hippo

A wanton horse and an unchaste body should have their feed cut down.

St. Hilarion

It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict unless the appetite has first been subdued.

Pope St. Gregory the Great

18 posted on 03/04/2003 11:31:24 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
Great quotes.

When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.

I'm afraid that describes me to a "T". We'll see how I do in sticking to the rules for the next 40 days.

Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

That is so true also. Once you don't have a clear dividing line, it takes more will power to stop at the right point. Like what constitutes a "collation" and when does it become a real meal?

It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict unless the appetite has first been subdued.

That's why we need periods like Lent when we focus on mortification. I'm afraid that my "spiritual combat" is mostly imaginary due to the laxness of my control of appetities.

19 posted on 03/04/2003 12:08:03 PM PST by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
Black bread and water is the Lenten fast. Now, would someone tell me where to get black bread instead of this cake they sell in American stores?
20 posted on 03/04/2003 1:51:44 PM PST by RobbyS
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To: Maximilian
Thanks.

This is also my first traditional Lent observance. (My first ever). I'm not dreading it, as the preist warned against Sunday, but looking forward to the challenge.

Is there also an age "exemption" included in the Church laws for Lent? I believe it's ages 9-59 for the fasting rules. Regardless of that, the "patriarch" of the company I work for is a 75+ year-old traditionalist to whom age means nothing. He fasts like he's 20, and also often labors hard through the day. I've never seen anyone like him...

PS - the calendar is indeed very handy. Would yours happen to be printed by TAN Publishers?

21 posted on 03/04/2003 2:33:38 PM PST by Possenti
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To: Maximilian
Duh - just caught your post 11.

Thanks.

22 posted on 03/04/2003 2:35:45 PM PST by Possenti
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To: nickcarraway
The immoderate long fasts of many displease me, for I have learned by experience that the donkey worn out with fatigue on the road seeks rest at any cost. In a long journey, strength must be supported.

St. Jerome

I like this one.
23 posted on 03/04/2003 3:13:08 PM PST by Desdemona (Eat well today.)
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To: Maximilian
I think there are a lot of traditions to call upon, but the bottom line is that each penitent has to decide what will be meaningful fasting and abstinence. While that doesn't mean taking the easist possible route, it won't be the same for everyone. We should remember we aren't merely fulfilling an obligation to the bare minimum- and that great Graces come from our sacrfice. Our sacrfices are very little compared to the sacrfices Jesus made, which we are commemorating.
24 posted on 03/04/2003 3:41:33 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: Maximilian
Have you gone back to "nothing but water after midnight", before going to Communion the next morning, and no meat on Fridays?

I remember, as a kid attending Catholic school, taking our peanutbutter and jelly or fried egg sandwitch to school to eat 'after Mass'.

25 posted on 03/04/2003 6:19:12 PM PST by potlatch (Just think of it as "choosing to abort Saddam"! Dennis Miller)
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To: Maximilian
Somehow it fails to mention that for hundreds of years prior to 1966, all faithful were obligated to fasting and partial abstinence EVERY day during Lent

That is the case for all real Roman Catholics to this day. We got the regulations at Mass this week and they are posted on the refrigerator. One full meal with meat (except on days of abstinence) and two meals without meat that together do not equal one full meal. Them's the rules. Ignore them and you commit a mortal sin. No free rides in God's own Church.

26 posted on 03/04/2003 6:21:30 PM PST by Zviadist
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To: afraidfortherepublic
Please remember that we are abstaining from all things French these days!

On the contrary. I am only consuming and wearing things French. French brie while wearing my Hermes ties. I think our Holy Father has made the Catholic Church's position on this war very clear. You cannot be a Catholic during Lent and long for the bombing of innocent Iraqi Christians -- including Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, who is a Roman Catholic.

27 posted on 03/04/2003 6:25:03 PM PST by Zviadist
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To: Possenti
This is also my first traditional Lent observance. (My first ever). I'm not dreading it, as the preist warned against Sunday, but looking forward to the challenge.

Congratulations! Welcome, friend. God bless you and give you strength!

28 posted on 03/04/2003 6:28:02 PM PST by Zviadist
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To: Maximilian
More information here, too.

Ash Wednesday

What is Lent?

Lent and Easter: A Sourcebook for Families The History of Lent

The Mystery of Lent

Practice During Lent

29 posted on 03/04/2003 7:13:08 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Maximilian
All About Lent
30 posted on 03/04/2003 7:15:07 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Possenti
PS - the calendar is indeed very handy. Would yours happen to be printed by TAN Publishers?

Yes indeed it would. I ordered 6 to get the quantity discount and gave away the other 5 to friends and family. I ordered the "Saints and Mary" calendar. They had another option which I forget. Some of the conservative Catholic newspapers advertise another traditional calendar which I was tempted to order. But I saw one that belonged to a fellow church member, and it was on plain buff card stock with 1-color printing. The TAN calendar is very nicely printed.

31 posted on 03/04/2003 8:43:13 PM PST by Maximilian
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To: potlatch
Have you gone back to "nothing but water after midnight", before going to Communion the next morning, and no meat on Fridays?

Partially. I cheat a little bit by having tea (or coffee if I'm having trouble waking up). In the stricter version of the old rules, even water broke the communion fast. But in the Pius XII version from the 1950s you could take plain liquids, and the midnight fast was changed to 3 hours (which made afternoon and evening Mass schedules possible). We have an 11:30 Mass which means that I don't eat anything until after 12:30. But my body seems to know that it's Sunday and doesn't give me any trouble. My biggest problem is the temptation to pig out on the doughnuts after Mass.

Our whole family never eats meat on Friday. However, we don't take it with the seriousness of a mortal sin, although perhaps we should.

I particularly am a fan of the strict communion rules because it gives a ready-made excuse to anyone not attending communion. In the new rite, with the fasting rules that allow you to be eating on the steps on your way into church (if it's going to be a long Mass), you're practically making a public confession of mortal sin by not going up to communion. This problem is exacerbated when some parishes have ushers that come to each row and look at each person as if to ask "So why aren't you going up?" Often, among the hundreds of people at a NO Mass, you won't find 1 not processing up for communion. Remarkable, considering the data about the ubiquitous nature of mortal sin and the neglect of confession. The strict fasting rules, and the more chaotic move to the communion rail whenever the spirit moved you, made it possible for people to avoid sacrilege without everyone noticing.

32 posted on 03/04/2003 8:54:15 PM PST by Maximilian
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To: Zviadist
I think our Holy Father has made the Catholic Church's position on this war very clear.

Vive le France! Why is it that all the traditionalists are sticking with the pope on this issue, while those who are usually "knee-jerk papal loyalists" feel free to ignore his guidance?

33 posted on 03/04/2003 8:56:58 PM PST by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
Why is it that all the traditionalists are sticking with the pope on this issue, while those who are usually "knee-jerk papal loyalists" feel free to ignore his guidance?

Isn't it absolutely hilarious? The pope is a god -- unless he goes mucking around in that "just war" nonsense. How dare he provide moral leadership at a time like this! Outraged!

34 posted on 03/04/2003 9:13:07 PM PST by Zviadist
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To: nickcarraway
Bump! Thanks!
35 posted on 03/04/2003 9:36:54 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: nickcarraway
#3 - love the graphic!
36 posted on 03/04/2003 9:37:36 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Desdemona
Happy Mardi Gras. Eat well today.

Indeed. I ate and drank well. And, hope you did too.

37 posted on 03/04/2003 9:37:46 PM PST by Barnacle (I’m Catholic. Do you have a problem with that?)
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To: Barnacle
Yikes, I was reading this thread, then noticed the time in the bottom of my computer-11:54pm. Drank the rest of my Urquell way too fast. Bye, bye Fat Tuesday. Hello, Ash Wednesday.
38 posted on 03/04/2003 10:07:49 PM PST by sockmonkey
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To: Maximilian
All these traditions of men.

To what end?

39 posted on 03/04/2003 10:38:06 PM PST by PFKEY
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To: Maximilian
Why is it that all the traditionalists are sticking with the pope on this issue, while those who are usually "knee-jerk papal loyalists" feel free to ignore his guidance?

Yep. Sean Hannity comes to mind. I didn't even know he was Catholic until I heard him on the radio today. He said the pope was flat wrong on the war issue.

9-11 has turned our country (and world) into a very bizzare place. I found myself recently agreeing with (ugh) Alan Colmes on certain privacy issues pertaining to the "war on terror". I'll stop short at saying that I'm on "the liberals' side", because I suspect that their anti-war stance is purely political, while mine is moral.

Also, I just saw Gods and Generals last night, and I loved it. Ted Turner produced this movie, and also made a short cameo appearance in it. I still can't figure out how such a revolting man could make such a great movie...

40 posted on 03/05/2003 4:17:06 PM PST by Possenti
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To: Maximilian
Thanks, Maximilian, for a very informative reply. It's obvious how dedicated you are. I went through 8 years of Catholic school, and pretty much go by what I learned then.

I haven't, unlike you, done much investigation into all the changes through the years. Unless it was announced in church, I didn't know about things unless it was in the paper.

I think when you are raised a Catholic, it is IN you. Those who leave the church must feel continuous guilt. I admire your devotion.

41 posted on 03/05/2003 6:06:17 PM PST by potlatch (Just think of it as "choosing to abort Saddam"! Dennis Miller)
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To: Zviadist
...long for the bombing of innocent Iraqi Christians

And who does that? I long for freedom for the innocent Iraqui Christians (Chaldeans) of which there are very few left, or so I understand. And that does not mean that I have to buy French goods.

42 posted on 03/05/2003 7:49:38 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic
And who does that? I long for freedom for the innocent Iraqui Christians (Chaldeans) of which there are very few left, or so I understand

A whole new definition of "killing them with kindness."

43 posted on 03/06/2003 9:43:34 AM PST by Zviadist
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To: Maeve
ping
44 posted on 03/09/2003 10:54:13 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
Another Free Republic Lent-related article...The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence

- ConservativeStLouisGuy
45 posted on 02/20/2004 7:21:49 AM PST by ConservativeStLouisGuy (transplanted St Louisan living in Canada, eh!)
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To: nickcarraway
Here are some other links about Lent:

The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence

The Holy Season of Lent -- The Stations of the Cross

Lent and Fasting

Ash Wednesday

All About Lent

Kids and Holiness: Making Lent Meaningful to Children

46 posted on 02/20/2004 7:55:50 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway
 

Lenten Question
Q: Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?
A: Yes. The book of Daniel states: "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Daniel 10:1-3)  


47 posted on 02/14/2005 12:13:22 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway

BTTT! Lent, 2006, is fast approaching!


48 posted on 02/27/2006 7:42:57 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Maximilian

BFLR thank you.


49 posted on 02/27/2006 10:21:59 AM PST by cgk (I don't see myself as a conservative. I see myself as a religious, right-wing, wacko extremist.)
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