Shrove Tuesday in heaven: the Saints watch as Our Lady dishes out the Goulash and St Anne brings out her Tequila Pavlova
Today is Shrove Tuesday, or Carnevale! Or here in the cold north of Europe, Pancake Tuesday. I recently read an article somewhere that up here in the frozen lands of the north, we celebrate the day with unleavened bread and lemon juice, while in the balmy Catholic south of Europe and Latin countries, they do so with finer fare and more fun. Well, you know, it is as much a Catholic thing to feast as to fast, so perhaps we might adopt a few ideas from our southern brothers and sisters.
Now lest anyone think I am promoting frenzied parades with women clothed only in feathers (and few feathers at that!) gyrating on milk floats, I'm not. Leave the Samba records where they are! Nor am I suggesting that we all get blotto and start Lent with a headache to beat all hangovers. No, no, no, something more moderate, something that will not lead into sin, not "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we starve", no, no: but something which marks the transition into Lent. Forget the diet, have the meat and the dessert, and then offer it all to the Lord in thanksgiving for all his goodness, with the resolution that from midnight, "Fat Tuesday is over", and the holy period of prayer, fasting and alms giving has begun. With the feast over, and the house cleared of meat and sweeties, we take the ashes with humility and stick to our Lenten resolutions.
You see, many people think we Catholics are boring and dreary, and they do so because many of us are actually boring and dreary. We live our faith like martyrs, not joyful people offering all to the Lord, but with determined heavy hearts taking everything seriously. We can be orthodox, true and virtuous, and we can be joyful, funny and enjoy the good things in life, after all they are gifts from God. The important word is moderation. We can eat, drink and have a good time, but always in the presence of the Lord, and we must remember that all these things come from His bounty - the first and last glass must be raised to His honour and glory (and two glasses are enough, by the way!).
So, in that spirit, some reading for Lent. Father Director offers you some ideas for edification. Scripture and Lives of the Saints, first of all. Pope Benedict's life of Jesus; St Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, St Therese, Story of A Soul, and John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak's The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living. That should be a good mix and a balance.
Fiction? Michael O'Brien's Father Elijah or Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World to remind us all that it all end in a moment, and perhaps some Flannery O'Connor, that unique Catholic twist in her stories is refreshing and spicy - good Cajun!
History? Very important for us Catholics to know our Catholic history. You can't beat Warren Carroll's fine History of Christendom series.
That should keep you going. Enjoy the last feast! And by the way, re tomorrow....chicken is meat!