Fridays in Lent: Party Time?

Alligator OK to eat on Lenten Fridays, archbishop clarifies – you have to live in the South to not ask yourself if these people are serious.  Alligator is on most menus down here.

Euphemism of the day: “terminal sedation.”  No, really, kids…Dad is just singing his favorite Ramones’ song.

 Of the myriad of things I gave up for Lent (like Facebook), the one that is hardest for me is not getting on the scale every day.  I’ve considered simply moving it to an out-of-sight location, but there’s no challenge in that.  It’s all about impulse control.

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Someone writes:

I have to ask: what’s your stance on the parish Lenten fish fry?

My husband and I struggle with this one; on the one hand, it’s a major fundraiser for our parish and a way to have fellowship with our parish community.

On the other hand: it just seems a wee little bit like too much fun, lol. I’m off the hook for making dinner! Pierogies, huge fish sandwiches, beer, dessert, chinese auctions and 50/50 raffles. These are certainly not bad things in and of themselves, but I’m starting to find that my kids LOVE Fridays in Lent because it means fun.

Does anyone else struggle with this a bit? Maybe I am over-thinking it…I don’t mean to sound more Catholic than the Pope, for lack of better words.

I’d love to hear other opinions on this.  My own thoughts are a work in progress.  Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

 Each of the last 5 parishes where I attended Mass had Stations of the Cross on Friday nights.  Three of these parishes also had some sort of meal prior to it.  Of the two that did not, I did not attend Stations at one because of little children.  At the other, I only attended a few times because my daughters had dance class on Friday evenings.  This church did not have a large turnout for stations (at most 30 people in a parish of over 800 families).

At the 3 parishes that did have meals, including my current parish, both the meal and the Stations were well attended.

Two parishes were at military chapels: small, close-knit communities.  At both, the event was billed as “Soup and Stations,” and the meal was a potluck soup and bread/rolls.  At one, the event was very family-focused and many people brought cheese pizza, mac and cheese, and other meatless dishes in addition to soup.  The kids played and had a great time; the adults kibbitzed; it was fun! At the other, PB&J was made available “for children only” and a dim view was taken if you weren’t on board with the sacrificial nature of the event.  The kids still played and adults talked, but it was a bit less rowdy, in part due to the demographics of fewer families with little children and in part due to the “Friday-penance” attitude.

At both of these parishes, just about everybody who attended the meal also attended the Stations.  The chapel was filled – not uncomfortably filled like Sunday morning Mass, but certainly not empty.  Compared to the parish that did not have a meal, and had very few attendees, I have to believe that a shared meal and social hour – whether it is fun or more sober – increases participation in the Stations.  Note that the Stations themselves were as reverent as can be expected due to the age of the participants in every parish I attended.

Briefly, I will note that the one parish where I did not participate in the Stations and which did not have a Friday meal, instead, if I recall correctly, had a soup dinner on Wednesdays during Lent.  I believe the idea there was to keep Friday Stations as quiet, reverent, and introspective (how can I personally love Christ better?) and to use our love of fun and community to add a joyful sacrifice on Wednesdays by eating a small, meatless meal on an extra day when it is not required.  I do not know how well either of those events was attended, but I suspect that many people did go.  It’s just how the parish was. 

Last night was my first experience with a fish fry.  I can see how it is a tremendous fund-raiser for a parish: two adult and four kid dinners cost me nearly $40.  They had a line out the door most of the time, and they even had a drive-thru for take-home fried deliciousness.  Because this was the first Friday in Lent, my parish also had activities for the kids, all seasonally appropriate, as a Lenten “kick-off”.  I did raise an eyebrow at the face-painting.  I have no idea of the profit margin, but I imagine, assuming you have the right people running things, that it is quite good, and multiplied out by 6 Fridays, makes the venture quite lucrative.

And it’s not like they take the money and buy BMW’s with it.  It goes to the ministries and other charities or church overhead.  And the church was full for Stations, too; not everybody stayed, of course, but many did.  So, people gave up money they might not have otherwise and they prayed at a time they might not have otherwise…I have a hard time saying it’s wholly wrong.

However, what is the purpose of Lent?  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church we have this:  

1438    The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). 

and from the Gospel of Matthew:

9:14-15  Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Penance, self-denial, fasting…these are not words that go along with fun.  And the imagery of a wedding feast ended and the guests in mourning for the bridegroom certainly bolsters the idea that we should not party our way through Lent.

How does your parish do Fridays in Lent and how do you feel about it?

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This blog post took me ALL DAY to write.  This is why:

Instead of blogging, I should have been lowering his crib mattress:

But that’s tomorrow’s all day project.

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Friday Obedience

Over and over, I hear good Catholics who say that not eating meat on Fridays is too easy, and therefore, they feel they should pick something different.

If on Fridays you substitute shrimp and lobster for spaghetti and meatballs, I almost might agree.  Consider eating like a poor person and have a bowl of plain rice.

For those of us seeking a good retort to those who don’t want to follow the Church’s law on abstaining from meat on Fridays, I offer the following:

But Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the Lord’s command?  Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams.”  1Samuel 15:22

Obedience is better, because obedience, for most of us, is harder.