Wednesday, September 23, 2020
What is Better: Shared Days of Penance or Private Acts of Penance?

As mentioned in my articles on the catastrophic decline in fasting in the lives of Catholics, the notion of shared days of communal penance (e.g. abstinence on Fridays and shared days of fasting for Lent, Ember Days, and Vigils) has all but vanished. What is even more concerning than losing these traditions and connections with the Faith as it has been practised for centuries is that the Church has taught that days of communal penance are more efficacious than mere private penances. The trend to encourage private fasting and penances and reduce Church-wide fasting to only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is deplorable.

As Dom Gueranger writes in his article on Ember Wednesday for September:

We have already spoken of the necessity of private penance for the Christian who is at all desirous to make progress in the path of salvation. But in this, as in all spiritual exercises, a private work of devotion has neither the merit nor the efficacy of one that is done in company with the Church, and in communion with her public act; for the Church, as bride of Christ, communicates an exceptional worth and power to works of penance done, in her name, in the unity of the social body.

He continues by quoting the following passage from Pope St. Leo the Great:

God has sanctioned this privilege, that what is celebrated in virtue of a public law is more sacred than that which depends on a private regulation. The exercise of self-restraint which an individual Christian practises by his own will is for the advantage of that single member; but a fast undertaken by the Church at large includes everyone in the general purification. God’s people never is so powerful as when the hearts of all the faithful join together in the unity of holy obedience, and when, in the Christian camp, one and the same preparation is made by all, and one and the same bulwark protects all...

Let us not only keep the traditional days of fasting as were known and practiced long before the 1900s but also work to restore their observance to the Universal Church. Then we can reap even greater merits.

Saturday, September 19, 2020
Vigil of St. Matthew

Commemoration (1954 Calendar): September 20

In addition to the Feast of St. Eustace, September 20th is also the Vigil of Saint Matthew. If this Mass is celebrated, the vestments are violet. Otherwise, the Vigil is commemorated at the Mass of St. Eustace.

Traditionally the feasts of all the apostles, which were Holy Days of Obligation in previous times, were preceded with a vigil. It has been kept in the Church from ancient times and is mentioned in the Martyrology of St. Jerome.

Today is a worthwhile day, in years when the Vigil does not fall on a Sunday, for us to fast and abstain from meat as we prepare to celebrate St. Matthew's feastday. In years when the Vigil falls on a Sunday, before the advent of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the fast would be anticipated on Saturday, the day prior.

Luke 5: 27-32 (the Proper Last Gospel today at the Mass of St. Eustace if a second Mass for the Vigil is not offered):

At that time, Jesus saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom; and He said to him, "Follow Me." And, leaving all things, he rose up, and followed Him. And Levi made Him a great feast in his own house; and there was a great company of publicans, and of others, that were at table with them. But the pharisees and scribes murmured, saying to His disciples, Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering, said to them, "They that are whole need not the physician: but they that are sick. I came not to call the just, but sinners, to penance."


Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that the august solemnity of blessed Matthew, Thine apostle and Evangelist, to which we look forward, may increase both our devotion and our salvation. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God.

Image Source: Tridentine Mass Society of Madison

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Within the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We are currently in the midst of another octave - the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, another casualty in 1955 that few people know of or spiritually celebrate anymore. This was previously a Common Octave. In 1913, with the Divino Aflatu reforms, the Octave was downgraded to a simple octave, and the Octave Day itself, September 15th, was replaced by the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

By the 20th century, the Octave of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother had all but vanished as higher-ranking feasts were added to the calendar. The entire octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was impeded, but The Most Holy Name of Mary was celebrated during the octave and The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated on the former octave day.

Brief History of Octaves:

By the 8th century, Rome had developed liturgical octaves not only for Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas but also for the Epiphany and the feast of the dedication of a church.

After 1568, when Pope Pius V reduced the number of octaves (since by then they had grown considerably), the number of Octaves was still plentiful.  Octaves were classified into several types. Easter and Pentecost had "specially privileged" octaves, during which no other feast whatsoever could be celebrated. Christmas, Epiphany, and Corpus Christi had "privileged" octaves, during which certain highly ranked feasts might be celebrated. The octaves of other feasts allowed even more feasts to be celebrated.

To reduce the repetition of the same liturgy for several days, Pope Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X made further distinctions, classifying octaves into three primary types: privileged octaves, common octaves, and simple octaves. Privileged octaves were arranged in a hierarchy of first, second, and third orders. For the first half of the 20th century, octaves were ranked in the following manner, which affected holding other celebrations within their timeframes:
  • Privileged Octaves
    • Privileged Octaves of the First Order
      • Octave of Easter
      • Octave of Pentecost
    • Privileged Octaves of the Second Order
      • Octave of Epiphany
      • Octave of Corpus Christi
    • Privileged Octaves of the Third Order
      • Octave of Christmas
      • Octave of the Ascension
      • Octave of the Sacred Heart
  • Common Octaves
    • Octave of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM
    • Octave of the Solemnity of St. Joseph
    • Octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
    • Octave of Saints Peter and Paul
    • Octave of All Saints
    • Octave of the Assumption of the BVM
  • Simple Octaves
    • Octave of St. Stephen
    • Octave of St. John the Apostle
    • Octave of the Holy Innocents 
    • Octave of St. Lawrence
    • Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Crown of Twelve Stars

All praise and thanksgiving; be to the ever-blessed Trinity, Who hath shown unto us Mary, ever-Virgin, clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a mystic crown of twelve stars.
R. For ever and ever. Amen.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Father, Who elected her for his daughter.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Father, Who predestined her to be the Mother of His Son.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Father, Who preserved her from all stain in her conception.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Father, Who on her birthday adorned her with His choicest gifts.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Father, Who gave her Joseph for her pure spouse and companion.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Son, Who chose her for His Mother.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Son, Who became Incarnate in her womb, and abode there nine months.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Son, Who was born of her and was nourished at her breast.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Son, Who in His childhood willed that Mary should teach Him.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise is to God the Son, Who revealed to her the mysteries of the redemption of the world.
R. Amen. Ave Maria and Gloria Patri.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Holy Ghost who made her His spouse.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, Who revealed to her first His name of Holy Ghost.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, through whose operation she became at once Virgin and Mother.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, through whom she became the living temple of the Most Holy Trinity.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, by whom she was exalted in Heaven high above all creatures.
R. Amen. Ave Maria and Gloria Patri.

For the Holy Catholic Church, for the propagation of the faith, for peace among Christian princes, and for the uprooting of heresies, let us say Salve Regina.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Make me worthy to praise thee, O Holy Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.

V. Blessed be God in his saints.
R. Amen

(100 days Indulgence)
Friday, September 4, 2020
Book Review - Oremus: A Treasury of Latin Prayers

I recently had the chance to review Oremus: A Treasury of Latin Prayers with English Translations (Latin and English Edition) after receiving a copy from the publisher. As a promoter of the Church's sacred language, I was happy to take a look.

The Positives:

  • Oremus features more than just standard prayers. This is not just a paperback with the Rosary prayers in Latin. The book has sections for morning prayers, evening prayers, Rosary prayers, prayers during Eucharistic Adoration, Prayers used in True Devotion by St. Louis de Montfort, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Marian prayers, Liturgical Sequences, and many other various prayers.
  • The back of the book ends with a number of Psalms in both English and Latin.
  • They have kept the Gallican Psalter and the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate, which many Latinist and liturgists substantially prefer to the Nova Vulgata which was commissioned in 1907.
The Negatives:
Areas of Future Improvement:
  • When it comes to prayer books, I prefer hard copy that is durable and will last a long time. Think of the Raccolta, the Douay Rheims Bible, or other Catholic treasures that stand the passage of time. While the paperback is fine, it just does not have that traditional feel that I'd expect in a book. I don't think it would hold up if put to daily use without the spine and pages showing noticeable wear after only a few weeks.
  • I wish the prayers that carried indulgences were marked as such, especially if they referred to the Raccolta's listing.
Regardless if you choose to obtain this book, make it an effort to learn at least the basic prayers of our Faith in the Church's unifying and universal language. And after you master those, expand from there. While God of course hears us in any language, nothing can replace Latin as the unifying language - the counter to the Tower of Babel - which unites peoples from distance lands and various cultures into the one same expression of the Faith. The introduction to the book did give a nice explanation of why pray in Latin before starting on the prayers.

Thursday, September 3, 2020
Confraternity of Our Lady of Fatima

I received a very interesting email from a kind reader regarding a new Confraternity which is promoting the message and requests of our Lady of Fatima. The message said in part:

I received information on the Confraternity of Our Lady of Fatima and think you might want to spread this on your blog.  It was started by Bishop A. Schneider and the membership requirements are things traditional Catholics already do: Confession once a month; daily rosary of 5 decades; one daily act of simple penance and the wearing of the Brown Scapular plus praying the Prayer for the Holy Father to Consecrate Russia!  Hope you will consider including this. 

The Requirements (which are already what many of us already do):

The Prayer for the Holy Father to Consecrate Russia:

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, you are the holy Mother of God and our tender Mother. 

Look upon the distress in which the Church and the whole of humanity are living because of the spread of materialism and the persecution of the Church. 

In Fatima, you warned against these errors, as you spoke about the errors of Russia. 

You are the Mediatrix of all graces. Implore your Divine Son to grant this special grace for the Pope: that he might consecrate Russia to your Immaculate Heart, so that Russia will be converted, a period of peace will be granted to the world, and your Immaculate Heart will triumph, through an authentic renewal of the Church in the splendor of the purity of the Catholic Faith, of the sacredness of Divine worship and of the holiness of the Christian life. 

O Queen of the Holy Rosary and our sweet Mother, turn your merciful eyes to us and graciously hear this our trusting prayer.        

Tuesday, September 1, 2020
A Meditation on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the self-same Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is one and the same Sacrifice. It is not the Sacrifice of Jesus recreated. It is not reenacted. It is not repeated. It is the same Sacrifice that takes place out of time.

This video is a powerful and beautiful illustration of this reality. This symbolism is shown below from "The Catholic Church Alone: The One True Church of Christ" by the Catholic Education Company, New York, page 551:

  • "When the priest kisses the altar, he is kissing Christ, *faithfully,* in contradiction to the kiss of betrayal by Judas." In a sense, the priest is making atonement for the betrayal of Judas.
  • "The priest reading the Introit represents Christ being falsely accused by Annas and blasphemed."
  • "The priest going to the middle of the altar and saying the Kyrie Eleison represents Christ being brought to Caiphas and these three times denied by Peter."
  • "The priest saying the 'Dominus vobiscum' represents Christ looking at Peter and converting him."
  • "The priest saying the 'Orate Fratres' represents Christ being shown by Pilate to the people with the words 'Ecce Homo.'"
  • "The priest praying in a low voice represents Christ being mocked and spit upon."
  • "The priest blessing the bread and wine represents Christ being nailed to the cross."
  • "The priest elevating the host represents Christ being raised on the cross."
  • "The priest goes to the Epistle side and prays signifying how Jesus was led before Pilate and falsely accused."
  • "The priest goes to the Gospel-side, where he reads the Gospel, signifying how Christ was sent from Pilate to Herod, and was mocked and derided by the latter."
  • "The priest goes from the Gospel side again to the middle of the altar - this signifies how Jesus was sent back from Herod to Pilate."
  • "The priest uncovers the chalice, recalling how Christ was stripped for the scourging."
  • "The priest offers bread and wine, signifying how Jesus was bound to the pillar and scourged."
  • "The priest washes his hands, signifying how Pilate declared Jesus innocent by washing his hands."
  • "The priest covers the chalice after the Offertory recalling how Jesus was crowned with thorns."
  • "The priest breaking and separating the host represents Christ giving up His spirit."

Share this symbolism with others! Click here for a PDF put together by the Fatima Center and share!

Saturday, August 22, 2020
My Total Consecration to Mary: True Devotion to Mary

Last Saturday, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven, I at last made the total consecration to Jesus through Mary using the method of St. Louis de Montfort. As part of my preparation, I read "True Devotion," which I happily recommend to anyone looking to better understand the necessity of devotion to Mary.

Some of the parts that resonated with me as I read it are quoted below. These are just the tip of the iceberg though. I highly encourage you to read this truly significant work.
  • "It was also Pius X who granted the Apostolic Benediction to all those who would read the True Devotion; and the same Pope raised the Confraternity of Mary, Queen of Hearts, to the dignity of an Archconfraternity...on the occasion of his golden jubilee in the priesthood, he wished to be inscribed as a member of the Association of Priests of Mary." This Confraternity still exists and there are indulgences attached to it.
  • "The more we reflect, the more we realize that the mission of Christianity is to take possession of man in his entirety in order to transform him into a soul worthy of heaven. Hence, Pius XI, in speaking of Christian Education, says that its 'proper and immediate end is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism.' In this work of transformation, a definite part has been assigned by God to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that of leading souls to Jesus Christ, and of keeping them in His love."
  • "Let us make ourselves, and call ourselves, slaves of Jesus Christ; for that is being the slave of the holy Virgin, inasmuch as Jesus is the fruit and glory of Mary; and it is this very thing which we do perfectly by the Devotion of which we are hereafter to speak."
  • "Our Lord is our advocate and Mediator of redemption with God the Father. It is through Him that we ought to pray, in union with the whole Church, Triumphant and Militant. It is through Him that we have access to the Majesty of the Father, before Whom we ought need to appear except sustained and clothed with the merits of His Son; just as the young Jacob came before his father Isaac in the skins of the kids to receive his blessing. But have we not need of a mediator with the Mediator Himself? Is our purity great enough to unite us directly to him, and by ourselves? If He not God, in all things equal to His Father, and consequently the Holy of Holies, as worthy of respect as His Father? If t through His infinite charity He has made Himself our bail and our Mediator with God His Father, in order to appease Him, and to pay Him what we owed Him, are we, on that account, to have less respect and less fear for His Majesty and His Sanctity?" [See more]
  • "This devotion is a secure means of going to JEsus Christ, because it is the very characteristic of our Blessed Lady to conduct us surely to Jesus, just as it is the very characteristic of Jesus to conduct us surely to the Eternal Father."
  • "Spiritual persons, therefore, must not fall into the false belief that Mary can be a hindrance to them in attaining divine union; for is it possible that she who has found grace before God for the whole world in general and for each one in particular, should be a hindrance to a soul in finding the great grace of union with Him? Can it be possible that she who has been full and superabounding with graces, so united and transformed...that it has been a kind of necessity that He should be incarnate in her, should be a stumbling-block in the way of a soul's perfect union with God?"
  • "Another consideration which may bring us to embrace this practice is the great good which our neighbour receives from it. For by it we show love for our neighbour in an outstanding way, since we give him through Mary's hands all that we prize most highly - that is, the satisfactory and prayer value of all our good works, down to the least good thought and the least little suffering. We give our consent that all we have already acquired or will acquire until death should be used in accordance with our Lady's will for the conversion of sinners or the deliverance of souls from purgatory."

Already made the Total Consecration?

As a reminder, members of the Archconfraternity of Mary, Queen of Hearts, gain an indulgence of 300 days each time they renew their consecration with these words: "I am all Thine and all that I have is Thine, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, Thy most holy Mother."
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
The Traditional Fasting Days Kept in Rome

As a follow up to my article "A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics," I wanted to summarize at a high level the change in fasting as seen even in the Eternal City. While the Church has always granted dispensations and allowed for discipline to vary from region to region - albeit far too much in the past few centuries - the Diocese of Rome had previously kept much stricter fasts. 

Fasting Originated in the Early Church

In the Early Church, fasting, which included abstinence as part of it, was widely observed each week on Wednesday and Friday. Some places added Saturday fasting as well, as noted by St. Francis de Sales who writes, "The early Christians selected Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as days of abstinence." One of those places that observed Saturday fasting year-round was Rome. St. Ambrose famously remarked in a letter to St. Augustine: “When I visit Rome, I fast on Saturday; when I am here [in Milan], I do not fast. On the same principle, observe the custom prevailing in whatever Church you come to, if you desire neither to give offense by your conduct, nor to find cause of offense in anothers.”

In addition to the weekly fasting, a special fast on Holy Week was also observed in the Early Church. While not as ancient as the Holy Week fast, the Advent fast likewise originated in the Early Church by at least the fourth century. The Catechism of the Liturgy describes the fast leading up to Christmas: “In a passage of St. Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks we find that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors in the See, had decreed in 480 AD that the faithful should fast three times a week from the feast of St. Martin (November 11th) [up] to Christmas… This period was called St. Martin's Lent and his feast was kept with the same kind of rejoicing as Carnival.” In historical records, Advent was originally called Quadragesimal Sancti Martini (Forty Days Fast of St. Martin).

The Catechism of the Liturgy notes that this observance of fasting likely lasted until the 12th century. Remnants of this fast remained in the Roman Rite in the Diocese of Rome in some respect in the form of fasting two days a week during Advent until the 1900s.

The observance of a fast leading up to the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul also originated in the Early Church under Pope St. Leo the Great around the year 461. At the time of St. Jerome, it was known as “Summer Lent,” though it was not practiced under obligation like the fast of Lent itself. While it subsequently fell out of observance in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic Church still observes this fast to some extent. The Roman Catholic Church though maintained the summer Ember Days, which fell during the ancient Apostles Fast, in addition to the traditional fast on the Vigil of Sts. Peter and Paul, until modern times. As a result, only a fragment of the fasting that was originally practiced persisted. 

Finally, the Lenten fast began under the Apostles themselves. The Lenten fast was kept in Rome and elsewhere. St. Augustine in the fourth century remarked, “Our fast at any other time is voluntary; but during Lent, we sin if we do not fast.” At the time of St. Gregory the Great at the beginning of the 7th century, the fast was universally established to begin on what we know as Ash Wednesday. While the name "Ash Wednesday" was not given to the day until Pope Urban II in 1099, the day was known as the “Beginning of the Fast.” 

Historical records further indicate that Lent was not a merely regional practice observed only in Rome. It was part of the universality of the Church. Lenten fasting began in England, for instance, sometime during the reign of Earconberht, the king of Kent, who was converted by the missionary work of St. Augustine of Canterbury in England. During the Middle Ages, fasting in England, and many other then-Catholic nations, was required both by Church law and civil law. Catholic missionaries brought fasting, which is an integral part of the Faith, to every land they visited.

In 604, in a letter to St. Augustine of Canterbury, Pope St. Gregory the Great announced the form that abstinence would take on fast days. This form would last for almost a thousand years: "We abstain from flesh meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs."  When fasting was observed, abstinence was likewise always observed.

The Minor Rogation and Ember Days

Concerning the Major Rogation, Dom Gueranger, writing in the late 1800s, mentions the ancient custom of abstinence but not fasting for the Major Rogation in Rome:
Abstinence from flesh meat has always been observed on this day at Rome; and when the Roman Liturgy was established in France by Pepin and Charlemagne, the Great Litany of April 25 was, of course, celebrated, and the abstinence kept by the faithful of that country. A Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 836, enjoined the additional obligation of resting from servile work on this day: the same enactment is found in the Capitularia of Charles the Bald. As regards fasting, properly so called, being contrary to the spirit of Paschal Time, it would seem never to have been observed on this day, at least not generally. Amalarius, who lived in the ninth century, asserts that it was not then practiced even in Rome.
Dom Gueranger likewise continues with an account of how fasting and abstinence were kept on the Minor Rogation Days in Rome:
Their observance is now similar in format to the Greater Litanies of April 25th, but these three days have a different origin, having been instituted in Gaul in the fifth century as days of fasting, abstinence and abstention from servile work in which all took part in an extensive penitential procession, often barefoot. The whole western Church soon adopted the Rogation days. They were introduced into England at an early period; as likewise into Spain and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by herself observing them; this she did in the eighth century, during the pontificate of St. Leo III. With regard to the fast which the Churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our risen Jesus grants to His disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation days. 
While Rome never adopted fasting on Rogation days since these days always fall during Pascaltide, fasting can certainly be done by the Faithful. The Church did though require abstinence from meat, illustrating that even during Pascaltide it is appropriate that we perform some penance.

Like Rogation Days, Ember Days developed early in these times, taking the form that would continue for centuries. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution.
By the time of Pope Gregory I, who died in 601 AD, they were observed for all four seasons though the date of each of them could vary. In the Roman Synod of 1078 under Pope Gregory VII, they were uniformly established for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (St. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after September 14th (Exaltation of the Cross)

Advent Fast Drastically Wanes

The Advent Fast which began in the Early Church developed over these centuries. The fast which began in 480 began to adopt the same rigor of Lent by the end of the 6th century when the fast was extended to the whole Church and priests were instructed to offer Mass during St. Martin’s Lent, as it was then called, according to the Lenten rite. 

By the 700s, the Lenten observance was shortened in the Roman Rite to four weeks, though other Rites maintained the longer observance. By the 1100s, the fast had begun to be replaced by simple abstinence. In 1281, the Council of Salisbury held that only monks were expected to keep the fast; however, in a revival of the older practice, Pope Urban V in 1362 required abstinence for all members of the papal court during Advent.   However, the custom of fasting in Advent continued to decline.

Fasting As A Whole Rapidly Declines In the Post-Enlightenment Period

Some of the most significant changes to fsating in Rome, and elsewhere, occurred starting in the mid 1700s. On May 31, 1741, Pope Benedict XIV issued Non Ambiginius which granted permission to eat meat on fasting days while explicitly forbidden the consumption of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal on all fasting days during the year in addition to the Sundays during Lent. Beforehand, the forty days of Lent were held as days of complete abstinence from meat. The concept of partial abstinence was born even though the term would not appear until the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Yet even with these changes, Pope Benedict XIV implored the faithful to return to the devotion of earlier eras:

"The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God's glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe."  

The Vigils of the Apostles and various feasts were also held as fasting days for centuries, though which vigils were days of fasting changed over time. By 1893, the only fasting days kept in Rome were the forty days of Lent, the Ember Days, and the Vigils of the Purification, of Pentecost, of St. John the Baptist, of Ss. Peter and Paul, of the Assumption, of All Saints, and of Christmas. This is summarized from the Handbook to Christian and Ecclesiastical Rome   In just a few years, Rome would abrogate the fast on the Vigil of the Purification and on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist. 

Fasting in Rome in the 1900s

Fast forward to 1917. While often held as an archetype for Tradition, the 1917 Code largely took the concessions granted to America and other nations and reduced fasting practices that were widely practiced elsewhere in the world. With the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, we see a change in the rules of fasting and abstinence for the Universal Church, including the Diocese of Rome. 

The days of obligatory fasting as listed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law were the forty days of Lent (including Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday until noon); the Ember Days; and the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, and Christmas. Partial abstinence, the eating of meat only at the principal meal, was obligatory on all weeks of Lent (Monday through Thursday). And of course, complete abstinence was required on all Fridays, including Fridays of Lent, except when a holy day of obligation fell on a Friday outside of Lent. Saturdays in Lent were likewise days of complete abstinence.

The number of fasting vigils (not liturgically observed vigils) was reduced to four. And the requirement of fasting in Advent was also abolished, following the trend of its abolition in places like the United States. Strangely, even the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul, the primary patrons of Rome, ceased being a day of fasting even though the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul remained a Holy Day of Obligation in Rome.

Per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, fasting and complete abstinence are required only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The notion of "partial abstinence," introduced under Pope Benedict XIV in 1741, was also removed. By this point, the days of obligatory fast had been reduced to merely two days which are observed in Rome and elsewhere.


Alas, the fasting practices were drastically reduced in the 1900s even before Vatican II. Recovering Catholic Tradition is not about setting the clock back to 1962. It must entail re-discovering customs and practices like fasting, which saw significant reductions in the decades leading up to the changes to the Liturgy.
Monday, August 17, 2020
Octave Day of Saint Lawrence

This painting is in the parish church of Montreal in southern France. Taken by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP

Today is the Octave Day of St. Lawrence, the illustrious martyr. For a history of Octaves including the history of the Octave Day of St. Lawrence, which is a simple octave, please see Zephrinus.

Like all of the most important feasts, that of St. Lawrence was traditionally celebrated with an octave; the octave day has a proper Mass, like the octave of Ss. Peter and Paul, sharing only the Epistle and Gospel with the feast day. The introit of this Mass is taken from Psalm 16, which is also said at Matins of St. Lawrence: “Thou hast proved my heart, and visited it by night, thou hast tried me by fire: and iniquity hath not been found in me.” The words “visited (my heart) by night” refer to the Emperor’s threat to torture Lawrence for the length of the night, to which the great Levite answered, “My night hath no darkness, but in it, all things shine brightly in the light.”


Grant us, we beseech Thee O almighty God, to extinguish the flames of our evil dispositions, as Thou didst grant blessed Lawrence to overcome the fires of his torments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
St. Roch, Patron Saint Against Sickness

August 16th is kept in some places as the Feast of St. Roch, the patron saint against sickness and epidemics. Today is also the Feast of St. Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Roch was a citizen of Montpellier in the South of France, who devoted his life to the serving of the plague-stricken. On their behalf, God enabled His servant to work many miracles. He died in 1337 AD and has since been venerated as the special advocate of the sick.

Numerous brotherhoods have been instituted in his honor. He is usually represented in the garb of a pilgrim, often lifting his tunic to demonstrate the plague sore, or bubo, in his thigh, and accompanied by a dog carrying a loaf in its mouth. The Third Order of Saint Francis, by tradition, claims him as a member and includes his feast on its own calendar of saints, observing it on August 17.

The following is taken from

Born at Montpellier towards 1295, he died in 1327. His father was governor of that city and at his birth St. Roch is said to have been found miraculously marked on the breast with a red cross. Deprived of his parents when about twenty years old, he distributed his fortune among the poor, handed over to his uncle the government of Montpellier, and in the disguise of a mendicant pilgrim, set out for Italy, but stopped at Aquapendente, which was stricken by the plague, and devoted himself to the plague-stricken, curing them with the Sign of the Cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighbouring cities and then Rome. Everywhere the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power. He visited Mantua, Modena, Parma, and other cities with the same results. At Piacenza, he himself was stricken with the plague. He withdrew to a hut in the neighbouring forest, where his wants were supplied by a gentleman named Gothard, who by a miracle learned the place of his retreat. After his recovery Roch returned to France. Arriving at Montpellier and refusing to disclose his identity, he was taken for a spy in the disguise of a pilgrim, and cast into prison by order of the governor, where five years later he died. The miraculous cross on his breast as well as a document found in his possession now served for his identification. He was accordingly given a public funeral, and numerous miracles attested his sanctity.

In 1414, during the Council of Constance, the plague having broken out in that city, the Fathers of the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honour of the Saint, and immediately the plague ceased. His relics, according to Wadding, were carried furtively to Venice in 1485, where they are still venerated. It is commonly held that he belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis; but it cannot be proved. Urban VIII approved the ecclesiastical office to be recited on his Feast. Paul III instituted a confraternity, under the invocation of the Saint, to have charge of the church and hospital erected during the pontificate of Alexander VI. The confraternity increased so rapidly that Paul IV raised it to an archconfraternity, with powers to aggregate similar confraternities of St. Roch. It was given a cardinal-protector, and a prelate of high rank was to be its immediate superior. Various favours have been bestowed on it by Pius IV [C. Regimini, March 7, 1561], by Gregory XIII [C. dated January 5, 1577], by Gregory XIV [C. Paternar. pont., March 7, 1591], and by other pontiffs. It still flourishes.


O God, who are glorious in the glory of the Saints, and to all those that flee unto their protection, grantest the salutary effect of their petition; by the intercession of Thy blessed Confessor Roch, grant to Thy people, who hold forth their devotion in his festivity, that they may be delivered from the sickness of that plague which he suffered in his body for the glory of Thy name, to which may they ever be devoted.

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