Thursday, December 29, 2022
Abstinence Is Obligatory on Friday in the Octave of Christmas

As Catholics, we are still bound to abstain from meat each Friday of the entire year, not just in Lent. This is required during the season of Christmas - even on Friday in the Octave of Christmas.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law stipulated that the requirement to abstain from meat (i.e., Friday penance) was required each and every Friday of the year unless that particular Friday was a Holy Day of Obligation:

 "On [Sundays] or feasts of precept, the law of abstinence or of abstinence and fast or of fast only ceases, except during Lent, nor is the vigil anticipated; likewise it ceases on Holy [Saturday] afternoon" (1917 Code, Canon 1252 § 4). [Translation taken from THE 1917 OR PIO-BENEDICTINE CODE OF CANON LAW in English Translation by Dr. Edward Peters]

Friday in the Octave of Christmas is not a feast of precept (i.e., a Holy Day of Obligation), nor is any Friday in the Christmas Season. The 1917 Code of Canon Law outlined the rules of fasting and abstinence in Canons 1250-1254.

The 1983 Code and the myriad of weakening dispensations offered between 1917 and the present have led to a continual decline in penance and devotion. Due to the errors and ambiguities in the 1983 Code, it must be rejected, and the older Code must be used. One of these errors is the unprecedented novelty of solemnities like Easter Friday breaking the immemorial tradition of Friday abstinence. Yet even in the modernized 1983 Code, Friday in the Octave of Christmas is not a "Solemnity," and even by the 1983 standards, is thus still a required day of abstinence from meat.

Let us not be so keen to forget our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross. Pray and do penance on this and all Fridays.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.
2023 Patron Saint of the Year Devotion

Update (December 29, 2022): Still a few days left to participate!

SPONSOR: This Devotion is being sponsored again this year by  Whether you are looking for godparent preparation courses, Sacramental preparation for your children, or just to better learn the Faith as an adult, has courses for all ages and walks of life. Check out's affordable programs and make it a New Year's resolution to learn and live the Faith better than ever.

You can read about the past devotions in the following posts:
Again, I would like to take a few minutes to explain the devotion.

What is the Saint for the Year Devotion?  We pray that this year the Holy Ghost will again work so that all participants receive a saint that they will be able to pray to for aid throughout the entire year: St. Faustina wrote about it in her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. The excerpt is below.
“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year's Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn't read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 - the  Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”Excerpt from Divine Mercy in My Soul, the Diary of St. Faustina"

Over the years, I've heard from many people of the great connection they have to their special patrons. Here is one of those stories from the past: 

I have Saints Marcus and Marcellianus ... they are twin brothers who were sent to prison before their death. St. Sebastian visited them continually in prison and helped keep their faith alive. They are buried near St. Felix and are specifically honored in Spain. OK now ... here are a couple of immediate ironies in regard to these saints ... I have a SPECIAL place in my heart for twins! As a child, I LOVED reading the story about St. Sebastian. I had a children's book of saints and I think I wore out the pages on St. Sebastian! Felix is my grandfather's name! Silvia, our exchange student, is from Spain! I am so excited to have these two saints to walk through 2006 with me! I'm looking forward as to where and how they will intercede for me.
How do I enter?  I will pull names for everyone who is a Patreon of this blog. You may submit up to 10 names for each Patreon, allowing you to have names drawn for your family and friends. The drawing will happen automatically for all who are patrons at any level. Sign up on Patreon to support this blog, and you will be included. Unfortunately, due to the significant time investment I put into this devotion and many other responsibilities, I will only be able to do so for my Patreon supporters.

When will the saints be drawn?  This year I will start the drawing of saints on the morning of the Feast of the Circumcision and the Octave Day of Christmas (i.e., January 1st). Drawings will occur as the Litany of Saints is recited.  That means results will likely be emailed/messaged to Patreons by the late afternoon (US Central Time) on Thursday, January 1st. This will be the only drawing this year. 

Please pass this message on through your blogs and/or email distribution lists, letting all of the Catholic Blogsphere have the chance to participate.
Friday, December 23, 2022
The Eucharistic Fast & Midnight Mass

By the turn of the 20th century, the Eucharistic Fast, as practiced under the reign of Pope St. Pius X, remained one of complete abstinence from all “food or drink” as the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1910 testifies to:

“That Holy Communion may be received not only validly, but also fruitfully, certain dispositions both of body and of soul are required. For the former, a person must be fasting from the previous midnight from everything in the nature of food or drink. The general exception to this rule is the Viaticum, and, within certain limits, communion of the sick. In addition to the fast it is recommend with a view to greater worthiness, to observe bodily continence and exterior modesty in dress and appearance. The principal disposition of soul required is freedom from at least mortal sin and ecclesiastical censure. For those in a state of grievous sin confession is necessary. This is the proving oneself referred to by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11:28).” 

The traditional Eucharistic fast of abstinence from all food and water, with limited exceptions, was enshrined in the 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code in Canon 858. Such a fast applied to priests as well as anyone approaching Holy Communion:

“Those who have not kept the natural fast from midnight are not allowed to receive, except in danger of death, or in case it should become necessary to consume the Blessed Sacrament to safeguard it against irreverence.” 

Father Dominic Prummer, in his Handbook of Moral Theology, writes in a commentary on this law:

"The eucharistic fast, i.e. abstinence from all food and drink from midnight immediately preceding reception. This is a univeral and most ancient custom which has been confirmed by many Councils in the Code of Canon Law, cc. 808 and 858. The law of fasting admits of no parvity of matter either in the quantity of food and drink taken or in time. Three conditions are required in order that what is taken have the character of food or drink: a) it must be digestible, and accordingly such things as small bones, human nails or human hair do not violate the fast; b) it must be taken exteriorly, because what is taken interiorly is not eaten or drunk in the proper sense of the word. This it is not a violation of the fast to swallow saliva or blood from the teeth or nasal cavities; c) it must be taken by the action of eating or drinking. Therefore the fast is not violated by anything received into the stomach a) mixed with saliva, such as a few drops of water swallowed while cleaning the teeth, b) through the action of breathing, v.g. when a man smokes or inhales tobacco smoke, c) through the injection of a nutritive substance.” 

He adds how the fast should be calculated by noting concerning midnight:

“Midnight may be computed in accordance with solar or legal time (whether this be regional or otherwise).” 

And most importantly, he notes six exceptions from the Eucharistic Fast:

“1. In order to complete the sacrifice of the Mass (after the consecration of a least the bread or the wine) 2. In order to preserve the Blessed Sacrament from irreverence; 3. In order to avoid public scandal (when, for instance, ill-repute would be incurred if the priest did not celebrate Mass); 4. In order to receive Viaticum; 5. In order that Holy Communion may be given to the sick who have been confined to bed for a month without any certain hope of speedy recovery. These may receive Holy Communion twice a week though they have taken medicine or liquid food (c. 858, § 2). The words “liquid food” include anything that is drunk even though ti be nutritive food, such as raw eggs (but not cooked eggs); 6. In order that catechumens may receive Holy Communion after tasting salt during their Baptisms.” 

Hence, while the law requiring abstinence from all food and drink from midnight was one of universal law, there were several exceptions permitted in 1917, the most common of which was Viaticum. As a result, even in the centuries before the time of Pope Pius XII, the Church mandated a strict fast before the reception of the Holy Eucharist but did prudently permit various unique exceptions. 

Yet even beyond the letter of the law, the spirit of the law always shone. This is seen in particular by the counsel given in the 1946 book “Questions of Catholics Answers” by Father Windfrid Herbst on Holy Communion at Midnight Mass:

“There is no special universal law for the Christmas midnight Mass. If there were any good reason for it, one might take food or drink just before twelve o’clock and yet receive Communion during the Mass. No sin would thereby be committed. However, it is to be strongly recommended that those who receive Holy Communion during the midnight Mass be fasting from at least 8:00 PM out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. One should have enough spirit of sacrifice to offer the Eucharistic Savior this little tribute of respect.” 

Why 8 PM? Father Herbst explains:

“We say 8:00 PM because when permission was granted some years ago that a Mass beginning at midnight might be regularly said at a certain famous European shrine, at which Mass the faithful might also receive Holy Communion, it was expressly prescribed that they be fasting from 8:00 o’clock on. We here see the mind of the Church, legislating in a particular instance; and we say that this is at least the earnest wish of the Church in all instances, unless otherwise specified.” 

This Christmas, if you attend Midnight Mass, make it an effort to conclude your meatless meat on Christmas Eve by 8 PM so that you may have a sufficient fast before receiving the newborn King in Holy Communion. 

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022
2023 Traditional Catholic Fasting & Abstinence Calendar in Downloadable Calendar Format

Earlier this year, I produced the 2023 Traditional Catholic Fasting & Abstinence Calendar, based on the Church's ancient fasting discipline. You can find that calendar, along with detailed descriptions of the methodology behind it, by clicking here.

To aid those who want to integrate this calendar more deeply into their lives, I have turned that calendar into a downloadable format. Please order below to order a digital .ics file of the 2023 Traditional Catholic Fasting & Abstinence calendar that can be easily imported into your calendar application (e.g., Outlook, Google, etc.). 

The file is only $3.95. Please order it by clicking here.

Note that the file is a free benefit to all of my Patreon members. So, if you become a patron, you will get that and many other benefits for a low monthly subscription. 

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.
Thursday, December 15, 2022
The Clementine Vulgate Bible in Print (Beautifully Done)

I was very happy to get a copy in the mail a few days ago of Church Latin Publishing Co's Clementine Vulgate. 

I regularly refer to my copy of the Douay Rheims Bible, but until now, I did not have a copy of the Vulgate. The Vulgate is the official Latin version of the Holy Bible and largely the result of the labors of St Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 A.D. to make a revision of the old Latin translations.

The Clementine Vulgate (Vulgata Clementina) is the edition promulgated in 1592 by Pope Clement VIII of the Vulgate. It was the second edition of the Vulgate to be authorized by the Catholic Church, the first being the Sixtine Vulgate. The Sixto-Clementine Vulgate was used officially in the Catholic Church until 1979 when the Nova Vulgata was promulgated. As traditionalists, we keep the Clementine Vulgate; as such, it should be found in every serious Catholic home.

And this Vulgate is currently in stock and will arrive in time for Christmas! A softcover version of the beautiful Latin Vulgate Bible is also now available for $39.99 plus shipping. Use the Priority Mail option for guaranteed delivery of 3 to 5 days for domestic orders.

It really is a beautiful book and one I recommend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
The 3 Unique Styles to Depict St. Jerome in Art

While in Europe over the past few months, I came across dozens of depictions of St. Jerome. In fact, I started to make it a game of how many different depictions of St. Jerome I could find in museums. In the National Gallery in London, the Louve, and Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, I found many depictions of this saint. 

Interestingly, we have so few parishes named after him - only 29 out of more than 13,500 parishes in the United States - and so few children named after him. Yet the amount of art devoted to him in former times was considerable. 

I have found the depictions of St. Jerome tend to fall into three categories: St. Jerome the Cardinal, St. Jerome the Hermit, and St. Jerome the Translator of the Holy Scriptures. Some images combine all three elements, even if one is predominant. And in most, his companion, the lion, is seen. For a quick refresher on his holy life, click here.

St. Jerome the Cardinal

St. Jerome the Hermit

Notice the Cardinal Robe and Hat

Cardinal Hat again in view along with a lion to the left

Lion in view in the bottom right

St. Jerome, the Translator of the Holy Scriptures

Notice the Scriptures and the lion.

O God, Who in blessed Jerome, Thy Confessor, didst vouchsafe to provide for Thy Church a great teacher for expounding the Sacred Scripture: grant, we beseech Thee, that through his merits and prayers we may be able, by the help of Thy grace, to practice what he taught by both word and example. Through our Lord.

Friday, December 9, 2022
The Roman Catechism Explained for the Modern World

Known as the “Roman Catechism,” the “Catechism of St. Pius V,” and the “Catechism of the Council of Trent,” this book has fallen into extreme disuse. In fact, the word “catechism” today is often used only in reference to the post-conciliar Catechism of the Catholic Church, originally published by Pope John Paul II in 1992. Sadly, however, this modern catechism fails in many respects: its verbose language, its frequent references to the novelties of Vatican II as opposed to actual dogmatic works, and the recent errors promulgated by Pope Francis in regard to capital punishment. In fact, the number of religious education programs that feel they must teach children from this catechism is frightening – no young child could attempt to learn from a text that is best suited for an undergraduate or master’s course. So why do we either water down the Faith or teach children that the only true source of doctrine is the 1992 text?

Unbeknownst to many, the new catechism is far from the only catechism. St. Peter Canisius, who was instrumental in fighting Protestantism in Germany, wrote the first catechism in 1555, known as the Catechism of St. Peter Canisius. Less than a decade later in 1562, the Roman Catechism was commissioned by the Fathers of the Council of Trent, who saw the need for an authoritative explanation of the Faith for the universal Church. Prepared under St. Charles Borromeo’s supervision and issued by Pope St. Pius V in 1566, it remains the most authoritative catechism in print. 

The notion that the “Catechism” is the exclusive right to the 1992 text promulgated by Pope John Paul II is absurd. In fact, as the crisis in the Church deepened, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) commented on the failure of modern catechesis in the Church when he said in 2003, “It is evident that today religious ignorance is enormous; suffice it to speak with the new generations. Evidently, in the post-conciliar period the concrete transmission of the contents of the Christian faith was not achieved.”  This echoed his previous sentiments published before the New Catechism was written: “The catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious.”  The target audience is really any adult Catholic who wants to better learn aspects of the Faith which they may have never known, due to poor catechesis they received.

Why This Book?

The Roman Catechism is rather verbose and hard to read for many. To make the teaching of the Roman Catechism clearer to today’s readers, and especially regarding the many moral issues facing our world today, Mr. Plese has sought to present the teaching of the Roman Catechism augmented by the Catechism of St. Pius X, the Baltimore Catechism, the Sacred Scriptures, and the writings of the saints to make this forgotten catechism available, accessible, and understandable for the crisis we find ourselves in. This book is specifically written for today’s doctrinal crisis, thus addressing issues for the modern Catholic, which were never covered by Father Spirago in The Catechism Explained and which go beyond the basics covered in the Baltimore Catechism.


The Roman Catechism has been a trusted source of Catholic doctrine for centuries. Mr. Plese has done a great service in transmitting this classic catechism for the modern world.

- Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Our age is almost unique in its lack of sound catechesis.  Matthew Plese’s work fills an enormous need by making better known the clarity of the Roman Catechism.  Given that many people today lack a foundation in basic religious concepts, Plese’s explanation of the Roman Catechism will make this treasure more accessible and useful to a contemporary audience.  Mr. Plese has performed a great service to the Church by completing this detailed and deep explanation of this treasure of the Church.

- Dr. Brian McCall

The Roman Catechism, commonly known as The Catechism of Trent, is the most important catechism in the history of the Catholic Church. It was composed by order of an Ecumenical Council, at the height of the Protestant Revolution, to give pastors precise, succinct definitions of the dogmas of the Faith, and it became the gold standard for teaching and preaching the dogmas of the Faith for 350 years. It is still authoritative, and it is the only catechism quoted in the 1992 Catechism—it is quoted 20 times—because it gives such beautiful, clear definitions of the dogmas of the Faith. The Roman Catechism Explained for the Modern World gives an excellent introductory commentary on the Catechism of Trent, so that contemporary Catholic readers will hopefully be motivated to appreciate and make use of this great treasure.

- Hugh Owen, Director, Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation

Many Catholics today are confused about the teachings of their faith.” This is troubling and not something a faithful Catholic would expect to hear 20 centuries after Christ “dwelt among us.” It is probably more accurate to say “most prelates ordained and charged with teaching the Catholic faith are confused about it.” This little book on catechism aims to address this confusion with four simple implements of teaching whose beauty and simplicity I would be wrong to reveal; rather that you should take up this book and become immersed in them and turn that neon light out yourself. 

- Mike Church, Radio & TV Presenter on The CRUSADE Channel

How to Order

Kindle Version ($9.99):

Paperback Version ($17.95):

PDF Version ($9.99):

Patreon members at the $10 tier or above will get the book on PDF for free.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Upcoming Advent Ember Days

Ember Days this Advent: December 14, 16, and 17

If you are in good health, please at least fast during these three days and pray additional prayers. Remember the words from the Gospel: "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).  Ember Days are days of fasting and partial abstinence. Please click here for a special PDF Ember Day Manual, including reflections for the Advent Ember Days.

While most Missals call for Ember Wednesday and Ember Saturday to be a day of partial abstinence, this is a rather modern practice. Partial Abstinence refers to eating meat only at the principal meal of the day and do not permit meat to be eaten as part of the collation or the frustulum. Partial abstinence started only in 1741 under Pope Benedict XIV as a concession & as part of a gradual decline of fasting. It is better to keep all Ember Days as days of complete abstinence. Ember Fridays, of course, are in all Missals days of complete abstinence.

From Angelus Press Daily Missal:

At the beginning of the four seasons of the Ecclesiastical Year, the Ember Days have been instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season. Their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: after the First Sunday of Lent for spring, after Pentecost Sunday for summer, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14th September) for autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for winter. They are intended, too, to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who are about to be ordained. Ordinations generally take place on the Ember Days. The faithful ought to pray on these days for good priests. The Ember Days were until c. 1960 fastdays of obligation.

To-day the Church begins the fast of Quatuor Tempora, or, as we call it, of Ember days: it includes also the Friday and Saturday of this same week. This observance is not peculiar to the Advent liturgy; it is one which has been fixed for each of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year. We may consider it as one of those practices which the Church took from the Synagogue; for the prophet Zacharias speaks of the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months.[1] Its introduction into the Christian Church would seem to have been made in the apostolic times; such, at least, is the opinion of St. Leo, of St. Isidore of Seville, of Rabanus Maurus, and of several other ancient Christian writers. It is remarkable, on the other hand, that the orientals do not observe this fast.

From the first ages the Quatuor Tempora were kept, in the Roman Church, at the same time of the year as at present. As to the expression, which is not unfrequently used in the early writers, of the three times and not the four, we must remember that in the spring, these days always come in the first week of Lent, a period already consecrated to the most rigorous fasting and abstinence, and that consequently they could add nothing to the penitential exercises of that portion of the year.

The intentions, which the Church has in the fast of the Ember days, are the same as those of the Synagogue; namely, to consecrate to God by penance the four seasons of the year. The Ember days of Advent are known, in ecclesiastical antiquity, as the fast of the tenth month; and St. Leo, in one of his sermons on this fast, of which the Church has inserted a passage in the second nocturn of the third Sunday of Advent, tells us that a special fast was fixed for this time of the year, because the fruits of the earth had then all been gathered in, and that it behoved Christians to testify their gratitude to God by a sacrifice of abstinence, thus rendering themselves more worthy to approach to God, the more they were detached from the love of created things. 'For fasting,’ adds the holy doctor, 'has ever been the nourishment of virtue. Abstinence is the source of chaste thoughts, of wise resolutions, and of salutary counsel. By voluntary mortifications, the flesh dies to its concupiscences, and the spirit is renewed in virtue. But since fasting alone is not sufficient whereby to secure the soul’s salvation, let us add to it works of mercy towards the poor. Let us make that which we retrench from indulgence, serve unto the exercise of virtue. Let the abstinence of him that fasts, become the meal of the poor man.’

Let us, the children of the Church, practise what is in our power of these admonitions; and since the actual discipline of Advent is so very mild, let us be so much the more fervent in fulfilling the precept of the fast of the Ember days. By these few exercises which are now required of us, let us keep up within ourselves the zeal of our forefathers for this holy season of Advent. We must never forget that although the interior preparation is what is absolutely essential for our profiting by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet this preparation could scarcely be real unless it manifested itself by the exterior practices of religion and penance.

The fast of the Ember days has another object besides that of consecrating the four seasons of the year to God by an act of penance: it has also in view the ordination of the ministers of the Church, which takes place on the Saturday, and of which notice was formerly given to the people during the Mass of the Wednesday. In the Roman Church, the ordination held in the month of December was, for a long time, the most solemn of all; and it would appear, from the ancient chronicles of the Popes, that, excepting very extraordinary cases, the tenth month was, for several ages, the only time for conferring Holy Orders in Rome. The faithful should unite with the Church in this her intention, and offer to God their fasting and abstinence for the purpose of obtaining worthy ministers of the word and of the Sacraments, and true pastors of the people.

From New Advent:

Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class.

At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. 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. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week--these were formerly given only at Easter.

Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.

From Catholic Culture:

Since man is both a spiritual and physical being, the Church provides for the needs of man in his everyday life. The Church's liturgy and feasts in many areas reflect the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, fall and winter). The months of August, September, October and November are part of the harvest season, and as Christians we recall God's constant protection over his people and give thanksgiving for the year's harvest.

The September Ember Days were particularly focused on the end of the harvest season and thanksgiving to God for the season. Ember Days were three days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) set aside by the Church for prayer, fasting and almsgiving at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year. The ember days fell after December 13, the feast of St. Lucy (winter), after the First Sunday of Lent (spring), after Pentecost Sunday (summer), and after September 14 , the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (fall). These weeks are known as the quattor tempora, the "four seasons."

Since the late 5th century, the Ember Days were also the preferred dates for ordination of priests. So during these times the Church had a threefold focus: (1) sanctifying each new season by turning to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving; (2) giving thanks to God for the various harvests of each season; and (3) praying for the newly ordained and for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Monday, December 5, 2022
The Conventual Mass and the Traditional Eucharistic Fast

For those who are familiar with the traditional (pre-1953 rubrics forbidding even water before Holy Communion), a question arises on how this should be practiced in monasteries as well as when Mass should be offered.

The rubrics for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass call for Mass after None on vigils and Ember days. Historically would everyone receiving communion – priests and all the ministers – observe the complete fast from all food and water (i.e., the natural fast) until then? This was a recent research topic which I helped explore.

The rubric states that the Mass must begin after None, but it does not follow that None must be celebrated at a certain hour (e.g., 3 PM). In support of this view is Canon 821 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which states that Mass may commence “from one hour before dawn until one hour after midday.” It, therefore, follows that the rubric could not be interpreted as mandating that the hour of None be celebrated at 3 PM and Mass afterward, since Mass was not generally allowed at that hour. While debated, it is affirmed by Rev. Heribert Jone that Regulars such as the Benedictines have the privilege of celebrating Mass two hours before dawn, two hours after midnight, and as late as 2 hours after midday, but may with a just cause celebrate Holy Mass as late as three hours after midday (“Moral Theology: Englished and Adapted to the Laws and Customs of the United States of America" published in 2009 by Newman Press, p 285).

Likewise, Father Quigley, in his 1920 work, The Divine Office A Study of the Roman Breviary states: “In the recitation, the times fixed by the Church for each hour should be observed. But the non-recital at those fixed times is never a mortal sin and is rarely a venial sin unless their postponement or anticipation is without cause.” 

In the modern age, from around the time of the Council of Trent until today, the rubric regarding the conventual Mass on some penitential days is understood as one that is anticipated. The rationale for this practice is due to the abrogation of the obligation of postponing the meal until 3 PM – or at least 12 PM – on most vigils and ember days, if not by decree, at least by contrary custom, except in the places that have kept it. Saint Robert Bellarmine attesting to this fact, said, “The ancients offered the holy mysteries between the third hour and the ninth, because on fasting days the fast was not broken until the ninth hour. But ordinarily, now the mysteries are celebrated between the first hour, that is, dawn and midday.”  

Wednesdays, Fridays, the vigils of the apostles, and other minor vigils along with the ember days outside of Lent were semi-jejunia or half-fast days in the first millennium, meaning that the fast day meal was not allowed until 3 PM. This was almost universally practiced in both the East and the West. The Pedallion, the Didache, Tertullian, and St. Basil attest to this. By the time of Pope Gregory VII at the turn of the millennium, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays were reduced to abstinence days except in those places that kept the original discipline, such as in the East on Wednesdays and Fridays and in places such as Ireland which kept the Wednesday and Friday fast and in England which kept the Friday fast. 

By the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, most places did not keep the time for fast on the ember days due to the severe relaxation of fasting discipline and yet St. Thomas expresses a wide-ranging time for Mass: “But since our Lord's Passion was celebrated from the third to the ninth hour, therefore this sacrament is solemnly celebrated by the Church in that part of the day.” Here he expounds upon the principle more clearly when he writes: 

“As already observed, Christ wished to give this sacrament last of all, in order that it might make a deeper impression on the hearts of the disciples; and therefore it was after supper, at the close of day, that He consecrated this sacrament and gave it to His disciples. But we celebrate at the hour when our Lord suffered, i.e. either, as on feast-days, at the hour of Terce, when He was crucified by the tongues of the Jews (Mark 15:25), and when the Holy Ghost descended upon the disciples (Acts 2:15); or, as when no feast is kept, at the hour of Sext, when He was crucified at the hands of the soldiers (John 19:14), or, as on fasting days, at None, when crying out with a loud voice He gave up the ghost (Matthew 27:46-50)" (Summa Theologiae III, Q. 83, a. 2, reply to objection 3)

St. Thomas hence mentions the ancient and longstanding practice that at his time was beginning to diminish due to the acquiescence to an age that cannot fast wholeheartedly.

The rubric itself is an expression of an ancient practice that goes back to the time of the Apostles and was fully developed liturgically by the onset of the patristic era. It was understood that Wednesdays, Fridays, and some other penitential days of the year, such as most vigils, were days of fast and that the meal could not be had until after 3 PM. Tertullian mentions the conjoining of this discipline with the liturgy. He says that Wednesdays and Fridays and most vigils were called semi-jejunio and station-days, which were days of half-fast, referring to the time of the meal days. These days were also ones of particular devotion where the faithful were expected to fast until None, hear Mass, and receive Communion. Holy Communion at this point was not received until after None or 3 PM.

This was practiced in most places, including Rome, and it was also practiced by St. Basil in the East. It continued to be the practice until around the turn of the millennium when the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday fasts were reduced to simple abstinence for the Roman Church by Pope Gregory VII, the aforementioned exceptions withstanding.

As a result, should traditional Catholic monks who seek to restore tradition keep the Eucharistic Fast on vigils and ember days until 3 PM? Absolutely. Should they celebrate Mass at 3 PM on those days? Absolutely. This is the ancient and longest-standing practice of the Church, which was abrogated to acquiesce to the weakness of men only in very modern times. 

Should monks also celebrate Holy Mass and fast until 3 PM on all days of Advent from the day after St. Martin on November 11th until the day before Christmas Eve inclusively? Yes. Should monks fast from everything until sunset on the major vigils (i.e., Christmas, Pentecost, Assumption) and on every day in Lent? Yes. Can Mass be said at that hour? Yes, but generally only by way of a custom against the rubrics. 

In an era when so few keep the Traditions of the Faith, and so few hear Daily Mass or pray the Divine Office, it is a comfort to know that some Orders have adopted the traditional discipline of our forefathers to restore all things in Christ. May we keep them in our prayers as they, hidden from most eyes, truly restore Christendom through their actions.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.


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