Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Who is Exempt from the Law of Fasting or Abstinence?

While we have lost so much of our heritage with the collapse of Catholic fasting and abstinence, especially in Lent, which is the very "badge of Christian honor," there are still some who try to excuse themselves from the minimal amount required. And there are others who, in their zeal to restore the older discipline, do too great an injury to themselves. It is, therefore, a good question to ask who is rightfully dispensed from the law of fasting and abstinence. Do manual workers have to fast? Do pregnant women have to fast or abstain? The question is worth considering in light of the Church's clear teaching in past times.

The Law of Fasting is Distinct From the Law of Abstinence

To start, some basic definitions are in order. First and foremost, there are two laws affected by this question - namely, the law of fasting and the law of abstinence. These are distinct. You may be dispensed from one but not the other. 

Fasting refers to how much food we eat. It means taking only one meal during a calendar day. The meal should be an average-sized meal as overeating at the one meal is against the spirit of the fast. Fasting generally means that the meal is to be taken later in the day. Along with the one meal, up to two snacks (technically called either a collation or frustulum) are permitted. These are optional, not required. Added up together, they may not equal the size of the one meal. No other snacking throughout the day is permitted. Fasting does not affect liquids, aside from the traditional Eucharistic Fast, which is a separate matter. 

Abstinence in this context refers to not eating meat. Meat refers to the flesh meat of mammals or fowl. Beef, poultry, lamb, etc, are all forbidden on days of abstinence. Abstinence does not currently prohibit animal byproducts like dairy (e.g. cheese, butter, milk) or eggs, but in varying times past, they were prohibited. Fish is permitted along with shellfish and other cold-blooded animals like alligators, though there was a time these two were not permitted. In times past, days of fasting were always days of abstinence as well; however, not all days of abstinence were days of mandatory fasting. 

Partial Abstinence refers to eating meat only at the principal meal of the day. Days of partial abstinence 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 and as part of a gradual weakening of discipline. Beforehand, days of abstinence were days of complete abstinence. Partial abstinence ceased being part of Catholic practice when it was removed in the 1960s.

Hence, fasting refers to the quantity and frequency of eating. Abstinence refers to what may or may not be eaten.

Who is Exempt From Fasting?

While the earliest catechisms ever made (i.e. the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of St. Peter Canisius) do not mention fasting regulations, subsequent catechisms even centuries ago did.

The Catechism of Perseverance (1849)

Thus the Catechism of Perseverance notes the following are exempt from the law of fasting: the sick, those in "hard labor," and those in poverty. Likewise, the Catechism notes that the law of fasting binds starting at 21 years of age, so those under 21 were not bound to fast either.  

Yet for those classes of people who were dispensed from the law, the Catechism adds: "When we doubt as to the obligation of fasting, we must consult our confessor or a pious and experienced physician. When we cannot fast, we must perform some other good works, watch more carefully over our senses, and support our labor and sufferings with more resignation." Hence, those who were dispensed were not free to go about their day as usual. They were to spend sufficient time on other good works, and besides fasting, the other two chief good works are prayer and almsgiving. Hence, the poor were enjoined to pray to a much greater degree.

Fr. Stephen Keenan's Catechism (1846)

Father Keenan, in his catechism, notes those exempt from the law of fasting include those under age 21, the weak, pregnant women, nursing women, those in "heavy and laborious employments," and "the poor who are never certain of sufficient and regular food." In an era before refrigeration, due to the uncertainty that those in poverty would have enough food to live from day to day, the Church dispensed them from the strictness of the law, which at that time was stricter than on modern fasting days

Note that in this catechism, as in the Catechism of Perseverance, there is no exception to the law of abstinence. There are only exemptions to the law of fasting. As importantly stated at the beginning of this article, these are two distinct laws that become obligatory at two very different ages.

Bp. George Hay's Catechism (1781). 

Hay's Catechism from 1781 contains the oldest mention of the age of fasting in an English-language catechism. Bishop Hays mentions those exempt from the law of fasting include those under age 21, the old who "are able to take only a little at a time but require it frequently," both pregnant and nursing women, those who are subjected to hard labor such as "husbandmen and tradesmen," those who are obliged to travel on foot. 

Bishop Hay counsels for these classes of people: "But though these are exempted from the obligation of fasting, yet they are still obliged to observe the rules of abstinence unless some other particular reason require the contrary, as is often the case with people in sickness, where not only the quantity but also the quality of the food must be dispensed with, as their disease, according to the opinion of physicians, may require it."

He importantly concludes by reminding: "And when any such dispensation is given, it is sometimes enjoined, and always supposed, that they make up for this indulgence by other works of piety, such as more frequent prayer, and works of mercy towards their fellow creatures in distress." He then goes on in Question 41 to comment on how too many seek exemption from laws of abstinence on account of health where, to the contrary, abstinence would be good for their health. In context, abstinence laws in place in the late 1700s required abstinence much more often than nowadays, including even on Sundays in Lent, and mandated abstinence from eggs and dairy products (exceptions aside).

Pregnant and Nursing Women Are Exempt From Fasting, Not Abstinence

Based on these catechisms, both pregnant women and nursing women were exempt from the law of fasting but not the law of abstinence. Unfortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated the following in their Lenten regulation guides in recent years, showing that the editors have conflated the law of fasting and abstinence as too many people do:

Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women.

Unless a traditional Catholic priest and a competent physician - ideally one who understands the sacredness of Friday abstinence - advise her not to abstain, a pregnant woman should not excuse herself from the law of abstinence on Fridays. Such a practice is not part of the Church's tradition. The Church requires only one day a week to abstain from the flesh meat of mammals and birds. Meat is, after all, not medically necessary.


Therefore, the Church traditionally notes as exempt from fasting the following groups of people:
  1. Pregnant Women
  2. Nursing Women
  3. Manual Laborers who would be physically unable to work given the strictness of fasting
  4. Those who are seriously ill - not those with minor allergy symptoms or basic colds but those with true medical conditions (e.g., cancer, diabetes, the flu, etc.). It should also be noted that the poor diet of many in countries like the United States often falsely causes people to feel that they are ill with a blood sugar issue when it really is just a poor diet. Those who believe they are exempt from the law of fasting due to legitimate sickness should speak with a component physician and a priest.
  5. The elderly, which presently starts at age 60.
  6. Those under the age of fasting, which traditionally began at 21 but is now 18 (though in the Middle Ages, it began at age 10)
Even if someone is exempt from the law of fasting, such an individual is bound to make up for the dispensation with fitting acts of piety and other good works (e.g., prayer and almsgiving). And to prevent scandalizing others, they should not eat in a place where others may see and thus become scandalized.

As to abstinence, unless truly medically necessary (which is not medically the case), there is no exemption from the law. Those who are exempt above from fasting must still observe the law of abstinence. And since modern law mandates only abstinence on Fridays, there is no medical reason why a person can not refrain from meat one day a week when other nutritious and iron-rich foods like fish remain permissible. There are also iron supplements for those with anemia and vitamins and minerals that can serve as supplements for various needs, both those with legitimate health conditions and those who want protein-rich diets for sports or aesthetic reasons. 

As Dom Gueranger has counsels:

But it will be asked: “Are there, then, no lawful dispensations?” We answer that there are; and that they are more needed now than in former ages, owing to the general weakness of our constitutions. Still, there is great danger of our deceiving ourselves. If we have strength to go through great fatigues when our own self-love is gratified by them, how is it we are too weak to observe abstinence? If a slight inconvenience deters us from doing this penance, how shall we ever make expiation for our sins? For expiation is essential painful to nature. The opinion of our physician that fasting will weaken us, may be false, or it may be correct; but is not this mortification of the flesh the very object that the Church aims at, knowing that our soul will profit by the body being brought into subjection? 
But let us suppose the dispensation to be necessary: that our health would be impaired, and the duties of our state of life neglected, if we were to observe the law of Lent to the letter: do we, in such a case, endeavor, by other works of penance, to supply for those which our health does not allow us to observe? Are we grieved and humbled to find ourselves thus unable to join with the rest of the faithful children of the Church, in bearing the yoke of lenten discipline? Do we ask of our Lord to grant us the grace, next year, of sharing in the merits of our fellow Christians, and of observing those holy practices which give the soul an assurance of mercy and pardon? If we do, the dispensation will not be detrimental to our spiritual interests; and when the feast of Easter comes, inviting the faithful to partake in its grand joys, we may confidently take our place side by side with those who have fasted; for though our bodily weakness has not permitted us to keep pace with them exteriorly, our heart has been faithful to the spirit of Lent.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.
Sunday, February 26, 2023
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 2


In today’s episode, on this First Sunday of Lent, I would like to go over a few things:

  1. Each Feria in Lent Has Its Own Propers for Mass
  2. St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feastday is on Monday
  3. The Feast of the Sacred Lance and Nails kept on Friday after the First Sunday in Lent in some places

First and foremost, though, keep up the disciplines you have begun, especially prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And even though this is a Sunday and fasting is not done, I’ve written before how Sundays in Lent were still days of mandatory abstinence. For centuries, no meat or animal products were consumed during Lent – even on Sundays. Let’s bring this back. For a full treatment of the topic, see my article “Abstinence from Meat & Animal Products on Sundays in Lent,” published in 2021.

Above all, remember what Pope Benedict XIV famously lamented the following: "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."

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

Thursday, February 23, 2023
New: A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 1

I'm excited to announce the launch of the new A Catholic Life Podcast!

This Episode launched last Sunday on Quinquagesima. And a new episode will come out each week on Sunday (God willing) going forward. Those who are supporters of mine on Patreon will get early access to the episodes.

Quinquagesima Sunday is the final Sunday before the start of Lent. In this inaugural episode of the "A Catholic Life" Podcast, we consider how to prepare for the upcoming fast of Lent. We mention a comparison chart on how Lenten regulations have changed over time, and we mention the newest book on the topic: "The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting & Abstinence" by Matthew Plese, published by Our Lady of Victory Press. We conclude by mentioning ways to make reparation this week for sins of Mardi Gras in the Votive Feast of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ Deformed in the Passion.

You can listen to this and future episodes on Buzzsprout, Spotify, Amazon Music, Itunes, and many other Podcast services. Please note that it may take a few weeks for it to appear on all of these platforms, but it has been submitted. And in time, I hope to improve the quality of these episodes as I learn more about audio production, which is a new venture for me.

God grant all of you a most blessed Lent!

Sunday, February 19, 2023
The Importance of 40 Hours at the Beginning & End of Lent

 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7)

As we prepare to enter into the holy season of Lent, we should prepare to observe a strict routine of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Below are 13 articles worth reading at this time:

  1. Fasting and Abstinence Rules
  2. History of Lenten Fasting: How to Observe the Traditional Lenten Fast
  3. Why do we fast? St. Thomas Aquinas Explains
  4. Lenten Embertide Fast
  5. How the Traditional Latin Mass Reinforces Lent as a Fast
  6. Stational Churches for Each Day of Lent
  7. What is Ash Wednesday & what are the rules for this day?
  8. Read One Spiritual Book this Lent
  9. Book Recommendations for Lent
  10. 10 Traditional Catholic Charities: Almsgiving During Lent
  11. Each Feria Day in Lent has a Proper Mass
  12. Holy Communion in Lent: The Most Pleasing to God
  13. Printable Lent Preparation Guide

While it is important that we observe prayer, fasting (including abstinence from meat), and almsgiving throughout all of Lent, there should be a particular focus on beginning and ending Lent well. This can take the form of starting and ending with 40 intense hours.

Why 40 Hours?

40 hours is significant because Our Blessed Lord was dead for 40 hours before His Resurrection. 40 is also a number of completion as shown by His 40 day fast in the desert, the Great Flood which lasted 40 days, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert by the Chosen People after their deliverance from Egypt.

40 Hours is also connected with Mardi Gras immediately preceding Lent. As a result of the excesses of Fat Tuesday and the carnival season, the Church instituted the practice of observing the 40 Hours Devotion in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Weiser remarks:

In order to encourage the faithful to atone in prayer and penance for the many excesses and scandals committed at carnival time, Pope Benedict XIV, in 1748, instituted a special devotion for the three days preceding Lent, called ‘Forty Hours of Carnival,’ which is held in many churches of Europe and America, in places where carnival frolics are of general and long-standing tradition. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed all day Monday and Tuesday, and devotions are held in the evening, followed by the Eucharistic benediction.

The Church also instituted the Votive Feast of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ Deformed in the Passion for the Tuesday after Quinquagesima (i.e., Fat Tuesday) as a means of making reparation for the sins of Mardi Gras. In fact, our Blessed Lord Himself asked for such reparation to His Holy Face in apparition to Mother Pierina in 1938:

See how I suffer. Nevertheless, I am understood by so few. What gratitude on the part of those who say they love me. I have given My Heart as a sensible object of My great love for man and I give My Face as a sensible object of My Sorrow for the sins of man. I desire that it be honored by a special feast on Tuesday in Quinquagesima (Shrove Tuesday – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). The feast will be preceded by novena in which the faithful make reparation with Me uniting themselves with my sorrow.

Start And End Lent Well

Beyond making reparation this Tuesday for the sins of Mardi Gras and the mortal sins of those who will violate the laws of fast and abstinence, we can start Lent well by observing a 40 hour fast. In fact, as St. Thomas Aquinas relates, the Lenten Fast at his time was characterized by no food taken on either Ash Wendesday or Good Friday, if possible. This is a significant sacrifice, far beyond the "one meal and two smaller meals" statement which most Catholics associate with fasting days.

Beyond beginning our Lenten fast with a 40 hour fast from all solid food, which should open our minds to heavenly things and allow us to perform penance, we should conclude Lent with the same vigour. In honor of the 40 hours our Blessed Lord's soul was separated from His Body in death, let us offer an intense beginning and end of Lent this year for the honor of God, as far as our health permits us to do so.

May God grant us the strength to begin and end well so that, like St. Paul, we may say: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

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

Monday, February 13, 2023
Lenten Observance Over Time: A Comparison of Regulations Over the Centuries

Click for the Full Image

As we prepare for another holy season of Lent, I wish to share this chart developed by Tyler Gonzalez showing the changes over time to the Lenten fast. His contributions to this chart and the subsequent annotations were invaluable. I am not aware of any such comparison ever having been created. We would do well to see in this image the great discipline of our forefathers and to rekindle some of these practices this Lent in our fasting.

Key of Terms and Annotated Citations: 

A collation is a small repast allowed originally only in the evenings of fast days. 

A frustulum is a small repast allowed originally only in the mornings on fast days. 

Xerophagiae is a diet of simple, dry, uncooked food, such as raw nuts, bread, fruits and vegetables. Fish and oil are not part of it neither are flesh and animal products. It was a precept to fast on these only during Holy Week by custom and/or decree until the time of Gregory the Great who mentions nothing of it. It may still have been a custom at that time but no mention of it is made in the decretals. 

The Passion Fast is a term which refers to the fast which began for some as early as sunset on Holy Thursday and as late as 8am on Good Friday. No one was allowed to eat any food during that time until sunset on Holy Saturday, which since most fasted for Communion extended until morning on Easter Sunday. It was often called a “40hrs Fast” and represents the original Lenten fast. For those who were to weak to follow this fast the minimum fast at this time was that of xerophagiae. 

1. Water is not allowed during the day outside of sunset repast. (Butler, Moveable Feasts, Fasts…, 1839, p.155) (C.f. AP. S. Prudentius, hymn, vi, p.188) 

2. On the Sunset Repast. (Butler, p.149) (Tertullian, De Jejun, c.x., p.549); (Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs…, 1958, p.170)

3. When the collation was allowed by indult. (Butler, p. 149) 

4. When the collation was allowed to the laity. (Butler, p. 152) 

5. The original size of the collation. (Butler, p.152) 

6. When the collation became ¼ of a meal/8 ounces. It became ¼ of a meal in the 16th century. (Laymann, Theologia Moralis, Lib. IV, Tract. VIII, Ch. I, pp.186-187, 1630) 

7. The origin of the frustulum originated around the time of St. Alphonsus Liguori c. 18th century (The Jurist, 1952, p.188) The more common opinion is that St. Alphonsus speaks of electuaries and not a frustulum which were popular in his time. That the origins of the frustulum can be traced to his time is true as a kind of proto-frustulum. However, the greater proof lies in the claim that the frustulum was not explicitly allowed until the end of the 19th century. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent) 

8. Fish in Lent permitted in its simple “less dainty” form in the 7th Century. The allowance of shellfish permitted around the 10th century (Butler, Moveable Feasts, Fasts…, 1839, p.146)

9. That animal products were not had on days of abstinence. (Weiser, p.170) (Cf. Decretals of Gratian, Letter of Pope St. Gregory the Great to Saint Augustine of Canterbury, 604 AD).

10. That Sundays were days of abstinence. (Thurston, Herbert. "Lent." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9, 1910.) 

11. The Passion Fast. (Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs…, 1958, p.201) (Cf. The writings of Saint Irenaeus in 202 AD as quoted in The Church History of Eusebius V 24, 12; PG, 20, 502f)

12. Xerophagiae in Lent. (Butler, p.203-204) 

13. On wine in Lent. (Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year: Lent, 1887, p. 5) (Cf. St. Cyril of Jerusalem [Catech. iv]) 

14. On when liquids other than wine and water allowed. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae,qu.cxlvii,art.vi,ad eum.) (Rev. Antoine Villien, "A History of the Commandments of the Church", p. 315). Since liquids do not break the fast the kind of liquid and/or when it can be taken is now a non-matter. This discourse by St. Thomas was the beginning of this radical change which would not become a general custom until around the 15th century when food became allowed at the collation. Until then liquid was strictly speaking only allowed twice a day.

15. When the time of the meal changed to 3pm. (Butler, p.149) (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, q.147, a.7) 

16. When the time of the meal changed to 12pm. (Butler, p.150) (Durandus a S. Porciano, in 4 dist., 15 quaest., 9., art. 7) 

17. When the time of the meal became a defunct matter. (CIC/17, c.1252) 

18. Not less than a second meal for collation size. (Jone, p. 263) (McHugh and Callan, pp. 3118-3119). As of 1951 the United States Conference of Bishops adopted the relative norm as the law for the US and as such now allows the collation to be more than 8 ounces. 

19. The quality of food at the collation-Fish, warm fish, animal products. (Butler, p. 153) (Metropolitan Catholic Almanac and Laity’s Directory, 1839, Baltimore.) (Villien, p. 312)

20. The consumption of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal. (Butler, p.163) 

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

Monday, February 6, 2023
The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting & Abstinence (Paperback & Ebook)

Fasting is one of the chief means of penance we can perform to make satisfaction for sin, as our Lady of Fatima repeatedly called for. However, in a modern Church that legislates fasting only two days a year, we find a woefully lacking answer to Heaven’s incessant calls for penance and reparation. Understanding the decline of fasting over time in the Church should inspire us to observe these older customs and to encourage other Catholics to do so for the purpose of making satisfaction for sin.

While the purpose of fasting has remained the same, how fasting is observed has changed. As more Catholics seek to rediscover the traditions of earlier centuries and piously observe these traditions, they are often confused by the changing disciplines and exceptions for certain times, places, and circumstances. St. Francis de Sales remarked, “If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church.”

This book explains fasting and how it has changed over the centuries in one of the most complete compilations yet written. Unfortunately, most summaries of fasting are either inaccurate or incomplete. However, rather than being a mere academic exercise, the purpose of studying the history of fasting is ultimately to help us rediscover these more ancient practices in an attempt to better observe our Lord and our Blessed Mother’s call for penance and reparation for sins.

As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once remarked, "It is a long-established principle of the Church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship." The same may be said for matters concerning either Holy Days of Obligation or fast days. What our forefathers held sacred should remain sacred to us in an effort to preserve our catholicity not only with ourselves but with our ancestors who see God now in Heaven.

It is available in English, Spanish (La Guía Completa del Ayuno y Abstinencia en el Catolicismo), and Polish (Wszechstronny przewodnik katolickiego postu i wstrzemięzliwośći)!

Ordering Options:

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PDF Version of Any of those Languages ($9.99): https://meaningofcatholic.com/shop/

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
February: Month of the Holy Family

In the Church, each of the twelve months of the year is dedicated to a particular facet of the Catholic Faith. However, the particular focus assigned to each month is not a dogmatic matter which has been defined by the Church’s solemn authority. Rather, these devotions have been practiced by the faithful and grown as popular piety. February is devoted to the Holy Family, the Purification of Our Lady, and our Lord's Passion.

On the Holy Family by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

In Mary we praise that which places her above all others, that is, fruitfulness of offspring together with virginity. For never has it been known in this world that anyone was at the same time mother and virgin. And see of Whom she is mother. Where does your astonishment at this so wondrous dignity lead you? Is it not to this, that you may gaze in wonder yet never sufficiently revere? Is she not in your veneration, nay, in the esteem of Truth itself, raised above choirs of angels? Does not Mary address the Lord and God of all the angels as Son, saying: Son, why hast thou done so to us?

Who among the angels may thus presume? It is enough for them, and for them their greatest honour, that while they are spirits by nature they have become and are called angels, as David testifies: Who makest thy angels spirits. Mary, knowing herself mother, with confidence calls that Majesty Son Whom the angels in reverence serve. Nor does God disdain to be called that which He disdained not to be. For the Evangelist adds a little later: He was subject to them.

Who was subject to whom? A God to men. God, I repeat, to Whom the angels are subject: Whom principalities and powers obey: was subject to Mary; and not alone to Mary, but to Joseph also, because of Mary. Admire and revere both the one and the other, and choose which you admire the more: the most sweet condescension of the Son, or the sublime dignity of the Mother. For either am I at a loss for words: for both are wondrous. For that God should obey a woman is humility without compare; and that a woman should have rule over God dignity without equal. In praise of virgins is it joyfully proclaimed: that they follow the lamb withersoever he goeth. Of what praise shall you esteem her worthy who also goeth before Him?

Learn, O Man, to obey. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O Dust, to submit. The Evangelist in speaking of thy Maker says: He was subject to them; that is, without doubt, to Mary and to Joseph. Be you ashamed, vain ashes that you are. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt yourself? God becomes subject to men, and will you, eager to lord it over men, place yourself above your Maker? O would that God might deign to make me, thinking such thoughts at times in my own mind, such answer as He made, reproving him, to His apostle: Go behind Me, Satan: because thou savorest not the things that are of God.

For as often as I desire to be foremost among men, so often do I seek to take precedence of God; and so do I not truly savour the things that are of God. For of Him was it said: And he was subject to them. If you disdain, O Man, to follow the example of a Man, at least it will not lower thee to imitate thy Maker. If perhaps you cannot follow Him wheresoever He goeth, at least follow in that wherein He has come down to you.

If you are unable to follow Him on the sublime way of virginity, then follow God by that most sure way of humility; from whose straitness should some even from among the virgins go aside, then must I say what is true, that neither do they follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. He that is humble, even though he be stained, he follows the Lamb; so too does the proud virgin; but neither of the two whithersoever He goeth: because the one cannot ascend to the purity of the Lamb that is without stain, nor will the other deign to come down to the meekness of the Lamb, Who stood silent, not merely before the shearer, but before the one that put Him to death. Yet the sinner who makes after Him in humility, has chosen a wholesomer part than the one that is proud in his virtue; since the humble repentance of the one washes away uncleanness, but the pride of the other contaminates his own virtue.

Truly blessed was Mary who possessed both humility and virginity. And truly wondrous the virginity whose fruitfulness stained not, but adorned her; and truly singular the humility, which this fruitful virginity has not troubled, but rather exalted; and wholly incomparable the fruitfulness which goes hand in hand with her humility and her virginity. Which of these things is not wondrous? Which is not beyond all comparison? Which that is not wholly singular? It would be strange if you did not hesitate to decide which you regard as most worthy of praise: whether the wonder of fruitfulness of offspring in virginity, or of virginal integrity in a mother: sublimity of Offspring, or humility joined to such dignity: unless it be that we place both together above each one singly: and it is truly beyond any doubt more excellent and more joyful to have beheld these perfections united in her, than to see but one part of them.

And can we wonder that God, of Whom it is written that He is wonderful in his saints, shows Himself in His own Mother yet more wondrous still. Venerate then, Ye spouses, this integrity of flesh in our corruptible flesh. Revere likewise, Ye virgins, fruitfulness in virginity. Let all men imitate the humility of God's Mother. Honour, Ye angels, the Mother of your King, you who adore the Offspring of our Virgin; Who is your King and our King, the Healer of our race, the Restorer of our fatherland: Who among you is so sublime, yet among us was so lowly: to Whose Majesty as well from you as from us let there be adoration and reverence: to whose Perfection be there honour and glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

From a sermon of Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) on the Nobility of the Holy Family:

Firstly, let us consider the nobility of the bride, that is, the Most Holy Virgin. The Blessed Virgin was more noble than any other creature that had been born in human form, that could be or could have been begotten. For Saint Matthew in his first chapter, thrice enumerating fourteen generations from Abraham to Jesus Christ inclusive, shows that she descends from fourteen Patriarchs, fourteen Kings, and fourteen Princes… Saint Luke also, writing on her nobility in his third chapter, proceeds in his genealogy from Adam and Eve until Christ God…

Secondly, let us consider the nobility of the bridegroom, that is, Saint Joseph. He was born of Patriarchal, Royal, and Princely stock in a direct line as has been said. For Saint Matthew in his first chapter established a direct line with all the aforementioned fathers from Abraham to the spouse of the Virgin, clearly demonstrating that all patriarchal, royal, and princely dignity come together in him…

Thirdly, let us examine the nobility of Christ. He was, as follows from what has been said, a Patriarch, King, and Prince, for He received just as much from His mother as others from father and mother… From what has been said above, it is clear that the nobility of the Virgin and of Joseph is described by the aforementioned Evangelists so that the nobility of Christ be manifest. For Joseph, therefore, was of such nobility that, in a certain way, if it be permitted to say, he gave temporal nobility to God in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Observe Candlemas on February 2nd

The Feast of Candlemas, exactly 40 days after Christmas, commemorates Mary's obedience to the Mosaic law by submitting herself to the Temple for the ritual purification, as commanded in Leviticus. This day is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.

The Feast of the Purification is called Candlemas for the traditional blessing and distribution of candles on that day. It is customary to bring candles from home to be blessed -- at least 51% beeswax candles that one uses for devotional purposes (candles for the family altar, Advent candles, etc.) -- so they can be lit after dusk on All Saints' Day (1 November), during the Sacrament of Unction, and during storms and times of trouble. Nowadays, though, for those few parishes continuing this ancient observance, the parish will often provide the candles.

Mass on Candlemas is typically preceded by a procession with lighted candles and the singing of anthems. The lighted candles are held during the reading of the Gospel and from the beginning of the Canon of the Mass to Communion. Learn more by clicking here.

Also, the Catholic Church has adopted this ancient custom in what is known as the “Churching of Women,” by which women are given special prayers after the birth of a child. Learn more on this ancient custom of our Faith by clicking here.


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