Fast and Abstinence During Lent









From the Bishops of the United States:

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.

Fasting is obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.

Abstinence from meat is binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onward.


The distinction between fasting and abstaining is a little confusing, particularly because people have begun to talk about "fasting" from things like video games, television programs, etc. during Lent. Fasting was traditionally understood as voluntarily having an empty stomach for a while.

Abstinence, such as when one abstains from voting, means refraining from something. Abstaining from meat is refraining from eating meat, but not necessarily going with an empty stomach, since full meals may be eaten unless one is also fasting. Abstaining from alcohol, dessert, etc. is the typical "giving up" something for Lent tradition many Catholics still practice. These sacrifices typically have no relation to whether or not the person is also fasting.

Fasting is not enjoined on anyone whose age or medical condition makes it unwise. Abstinence is still a worthy practice during Lent. It strengthens our self-discipline as the opening prayer in today's mass acknowledges. In small matters, we experience victory over whims or passing pleasures strengthening our prudence and restraint. These virtues serve us well in everyday life and during times of temptation.




Ash Wednesday To Begin Our Lenten Observance

AshesToday we remember that we all are part of the natural cycle. We may hear "Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return," as the ashes are imposed on our foreheads.

The green, fresh, joyful palms of celebration on Palm Sunday have withered and been burned, nothing left but ash. 

We also remember that we have been baptized into an eternal cycle of life with Christ through his birth, death and resurrection. A supernatural cycle which supervenes the temporal one.

Let us resolve to observe this Lenten season with prayer, fasting and almsgiving to grow closer to Jesus who is our Hope.


Palm Burning For Ash Wednesday Ashes

High winds and inclement weather often postpone our outdoor palm burning and this year was no exception. Delayed due to the high winds of last week, we have rescheduled the ceremonial fire for Monday, February 12th at 1 PM so our school children can be present. Parishioners are also invited for this brief, 15 minute prayer service.


The Mainstream Media Get Right To The Heart of Catholicism: To Eat Meat On Saint Patrick's Day Or Not?


It's amazing, really. What bothers the Catholic conscience in America? Abortion, contraception, assisted-suicide, same sex-marriage, cohabitation before marriage, sexual promiscuity, dismal weekly mass attendance, attacks on Religious Liberty?  Nope. As the media would have it, troubled Catholic consciences only seek episcopal counsel for dispensation to eat meat whenever St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday in Lent. 

Corned beef (salted beef) is actually not a national dish of Ireland, but rather of the American Irish. Native Irish could not consume beef because of it high cost. The British confiscation of the best Irish pastureland to produce beef for export to England forced the Irish to turn to potato farming on the less productive land left for their use. This had tragic consequences for the Irish during the potato blight. Whatever beef not consumed by the British themselves was preserved as corned beef to help feed the vast numbers of slaves being captured and transported throughout the world by the colonial powers. On this side of the Atlantic, corned beef was cheap. When the Irish immigrants arrived they took to eating this luxury meat (of slaves)they couldn't afford in Ireland.


It would be a truly praiseworthy practice, for American Catholics to have a meatless St. Patrick's day when it falls on Friday in Lent, rather than appeal to their bishops for dispensations. Think about the courage of St. Patrick, an escaped slave who returned to face his pagan captors with no army or weapon save the power of the Cross of Christ. 

It doesn't look like a Friday Lenten St. Patrick's Day occurs again until 2023, so perhaps there's time to plan for our Meatless St. Patrick Day Celebrations then?





Thoughtful Reading for Lent - "Silence" by S. Endo and "Strangers in a Strange Land" by Archbishop Charles Chaput

Those interested in some serious reading for Lent can surely find much to read in the Christian Classics and classic Christian literature, even novels with a Christian theme. 

There are two interesting opportunities for spiritual reflection based on contemporary literature:

Silence, an historical novel by Shusaku Endo written in 1966 is the source for a recently released movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorcese. It details the fate of the Catholics in Japan during the severe persecutions of the 17th century through the eyes of two Jesuit missionaries who arrived in Japan to find their Jesuit mentor who had reportedly apostasized. It was first screened at the Vatican for a select group of Jesuit priests after a meeting between Scorcese and Pope Francis.

The film is R rated for violence and gore. At first the Japanese regime tortured the missionary priests who arrived in Japan; later, they tortured the innocent Christians to coerce the missionary priests into abandoning the faith. I'd recommend the novel over the screen adaptation. Critics think the novel better than the movie and the movie surely requires a strong stomach.

A pivotal image is the ritual of e-fumi in which suspected Catholics were required to trample upon an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Those reluctant to do so were labelled Christians and often tortured or executed unless they abandoned the faith. Some of these images survive: 


17th Century Artifact
Recreation of apostasy in the film adaptation


















A recent publication by Archbishop Charles Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post Christian World is his latest book dealing with American Catholicism. 

The book may serve as a wake-up call to some who might be surprised to hear a Catholic archbishop call the world, including America "post-Christian" but it will hardly be news to many faithful Catholics who have become more and more disheartened by the direction many of our Catholic educated children and grandchildren are trodding. The book gives encouragement to Catholics, not only because Chaput has the courage to describe our current situation truthfully, but calls on us to live the faith more authentically and prophetically.



Lent Begins

Today, Ash Wednesday, is the perfect day to reflect on God's mercy and not only our own need for forgiveness, but that of the church, our nation and the world. 

It's easier for us to come up with a list of others who need to seek forgiveness than it is for us to acknowledge our own sinfulness but we must not neglect this honest soul-searching during Lent. 

The sign of the cross on our foreheads with ashes tells us, among other things, that we are all in this together - fellow disciples of Christ following him to the best of our ability with His help and willing to get up from each fall with renewed zeal. 

Please take a Lenten Magnificat from the parish office or the church to help in daily Lenten prayer. Confessions will be heard after the Saturday morning 9:00 AM mass and after Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings. Stations begin at 7:00 PM and confessions at approximately 7:30 PM.

Palm Burning A Prelude To Ash Wednesday

Today we observed the annual burning of blessed palm in anticipation of Ash Wednesday. Our school children gathered around the firepot which was stuffed with last year's palm branches and prayed as the palms were lit. We thought about Lent and the cycle of the liturgical year, especially the Easter Mysteries.

After the fire died down, we shouted "Alleluia" three times, in anticipation of our fast from that glorious word during Lent.

Next Wednesday, these ashes will be imposed on those marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.






The Magnificat Lenten Companion Will Be Available

Once again this year, the parish will have copies of the Magnificat Lenten Companion available after all our masses beginning the Sunday before Ash Wednesday until the supply is depleted. If you would like to be sure to have one, they are also available for purchase from the Magnificat webpage and there is also an electronic version for Kindle, etc.

Many find the daily reflections helpful in cultivating a prayerful disposition during Lent.


Link for printed copy purchase

Link for Kindle edition at Amazon

Faure's Requiem - April 2nd at 3:00 PM At Holy Cross Church

Gabriel Faure c. 1900

Please note corrected date!

Take a musical retreat during Lent! On April 2d at 3:00 PM at Holy Cross Church we will host a performance of Fauré's Requiem.

The choral-orchestral setting of the shortened Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin, composed between 1887 - 1890, is the best-known of his large works. Its focus is on eternal rest and consolation.  The composer himself noted that

 Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest."

In place of the somber nature of many requiems that had gone before, Fauré’s is noted for its calm, serene and peaceful outlook. Anyone looking for morose themes is searching in the wrong place. Instead, here we find musical solace in a work that focuses not on the morbid, but on the supposedly restful and fear-free nature of death.(1) He described death as “a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than a painful experience”, and the Requiem encapsulates this feeling in a way that continues to hold audiences spellbound.(2)



The Sacred Triduum Begins Tonight


Join us in praying the Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7 PM tonight in the church as we close Lent and begin the most holy three days of the church's liturgical calendar.

At the beginning of mass, we will formally receive the sacred oils blessed by Bishop O'Connell and the priests of the diocese at the Chrism mass earlier in the week. The Oil of the Sick, The Oil of the Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism will be used throughout the year to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick. Last year, the Sacred Chrism was also used to consecrate our altar and our church building.

At tonight's mass, we will celebrate the foot washing in commemoration of Jesus' actions at the Last Supper.

At the conclusion of the mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be processed from the church to the chapel where it will be placed in the Altar of Repose for the night. The tabernacle in the church will be empty. 

We will pray night prayer in the chapel at 11 PM.

Passion Sunday and the Windy, Cold not sunny but at least not snowing day

A brave band of parishioners gathered in the windy cold of Passion Sunday in the parking lot at Sea Bright steps away from the Atlantic Ocean to bless palms and process with them from Sea Bright to Rumson for the 10:30 AM mass at Holy Cross Church.

Stepping off at 10:15 AM, we were only several minutes late for mass, but arrived with blood flowing and invigorated for the beginning of Holy Week. For the first time in several years, our procession entered not through the doors of the gym, but through the main doors of our new church.

Please join us for one or more of the liturgies of Holy Week! 

Walk With Jesus: Stations of the Cross and Palm Procession

Two opportunities to walk with Jesus during Lent are coming in the next few days:

Stations of the Cross Friday night in the church beginning a 7:00 PM. If you haven't gotten a chance to go to confession during Lent, there are also confessions immediately after Stations of the Cross at approximately 7:30 PM.

Procession of Palm on this coming Sunday from the easternmost part of our parish in Sea Bright to the 10:30 AM Mass at Holy Cross. We will gather in the public parking lot in Seabright and after a blessing of the palms, begin processing to Holy Cross at approximately 10:15 AM. Please join us to witness our faith and support each other in prayer as Holy Week begins.


Good Friday Veneration of the Cross

Yesterday workers modified the suspension of our Holy Cross, or Holy Rood as it is also called, so that it can be readily raised and lowered by its cable attachments.  This will enable us to venerate this very cross on Good Friday's afternoon service.

Since it is heavy and a bit unwieldy, it will be carried into the church by several adults and placed on a bier at the foot of the main altar where it will remain for the Veneration of the Cross on Friday and throughout the rest of the day, including Stations of the Cross on Good Friday evening.

Please join us at 2:30 PM on Good Friday to meditate with contemplative strings followed by the liturgy at 3:00 PM. Silence on Good Friday is traditional, but has proved to be quite a challenge in the modern age. We have found that the beautiful sounds of a string ensemble helps everyone settle in and helps quiet reflection.

Please join us in prayer for each or all of the three liturgies, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

The Holy Rood at Holy Cross

The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke

The books, The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, by Donald Senior have arrived at the Parish Office. They are also available from Amazon and from the publisher, The Liturgical Press.

Call the parish office to reserve a copy if you would like one of ours. The requested donation covers the cost of the book, $ 20. There is no Kindle or e-book version. 

We will discuss the book                         March 9         Preface, pp. 40-104

                                                                March 23       pp. 105-160