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The best thing a Catholic can do for Lent is to go to Mass every day

This year I will go through the Passion narrative of St Mark line by line

By on Monday, 20 February 2012

The Scala brings to mind the knowledge that Christ suffered and died at a certain place and a certain time

The Scala brings to mind the knowledge that Christ suffered and died at a certain place and a certain time

It is that time of year again; Lent is just round the corner, taking us by surprise, still recovering as many of us are from the Christmas season.

Once more, before Ash Wednesday, I need to think of what to give up for Lent, and what to take up for the penitential season.

On the giving up front, as last year, I aim to cut down on meat consumption. I think this is a useful discipline, for the simple reason that we eat far too much meat in England, and meat is a wasteful form of nourishment compared to pulses, vegetables and fruit. Moreover, not eating meat is a traditional Christian expression of penance. The bishops have recently reintroduced the Friday days of abstinence and it seems a useful idea to go meatless for longer periods too.

There is a further advantage: if one keeps away from the meat counter in one’s local supermarket, one can perhaps explore other aisles and perhaps extend one’s repertoire in the kitchen. I find that I constantly cook the same things: going without meat might help me to be more adventurous.

But then there is a question of what to take up for Lent. If someone were to ask me, the single best thing a lay Catholic could do is to go to daily Mass. This is a wonderful habit and one that deserves every encouragement. Most Catholics do not live so very far from a church where Mass is celebrated daily. This is an opportunity to seize.

But for those who go to Mass every day as it is, or for priests, I suppose the main thing to take up would be a greater commitment to mental prayer. This year I am going to do something I have not done for some time, namely take the Passion narrative of St Mark and go through it line by line; and if I run out some time during Lent, then I shall take up the Passion narrative of St John. Thus the whole of Lent can become a preparation for the two readings of the Passion, that of St Mark on Palm Sunday and that of St John on Good Friday.

When I lived in Rome, I used to make a point of visiting the Scala Santa in Lent. It used to get quite crowded on Fridays, but on other days it was very peaceful. If one went early in the morning the only noise was that of the thunderous traffic in the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano outside. Even so, there was always an air of a spiritual oasis about the stairs; and always, whatever the time of day, someone ascending devoutly on their knees.

The Scala is not as revered as it once was, one feels, but I like it a great deal. It is a pity that we do not have anything similar here; the Scala brings to mind the knowledge that Christ suffered and died at a certain place and a certain time, to which place and time we too can be connected. But I suppose that connection can be felt every time we open the Scriptures and every time we go to Mass, where the connection, thanks to the one eternal sacrifice offered on the altar, is made real.

  • Dlflanagan

    Meat eating is a form of penance. Give me fish and fruit and vegetables any time

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal

    “It is that time of year again; Lent is just round the corner, taking us
    by surprise, still recovering as many of us are from the Christmas
    season.”

    “RECOVERING……..FROM THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.” LIKE  THE ONE FROM A DEADLY

    BED-RIDDEN CONDITION!

    KNOWINGLY OR UNKNOWINGLY YOU HAVE EXPRESSED A GREAT TRUTH, THAT RELIGION,

    ORGANISED RELIGION, HERE OF COURSE CATHOLICISM IS AN UNBEARABLE BURDEN WITH

    ALL ITS DEAD RITUALS AND THE REST OF IT ALL. NO WONDER MANY YOUNG PEOPLE KEEP

    AWAY.

    MASS OR BETTER THE HOLY SACRIFICE, STILL BETTER, “DIVYA BELI” MEANING “THE

    SACRIFICE OF GOD”,  OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IS MORE THAN MEANINGFULL PROVIDED

    ONE IS WELL ESTABLISHED IN GOD’S WORD; OTHERWISE, IT IS JUST A RITUAL ADDICTION.

    THE SACRAMENTS ARE SACRAMENTS BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF GOD.  EVEN SO IT IS SO

    VERY EMINENTLY WITH  THE HOLY EUCHARIST. REALISING THIS IF THE OFFICIAL CHURCH

    REORIENT ITS STRESS ON THE FOUNDATIONAL ASPECT OF GOD’S WORD, LIFE WILL BE

    INFUSED INTO THE PEOPLE OF GOD. AND WHERE-EVER THE CHURCH IS PRACTICALLY

    DYING AND DECAYING LIKE IN EUROPE RESURRECTION WILL CERTAINLY TAKE PLACE.

    Thomas Poovathinkal

  • Anonymous

    Father forgive my being a little forthright but your ‘observation’ that  “Most Catholics do not live so very far from a church where Mass is celebrated daily” is frankly obtuse and indicative of the metropolitan mentality…

    Some people actually work for a living you know?

    And with the majority of ‘daily’…

    i.e. forget saturday mornings, and the priest’s ‘day off’, or when there’s a mass at a local convent or prison or hospital or at a local Catholic school where [due to child-abuse guidelines] non-parents are refused admission]

    …masses are between the hours of 9a.m. & midday – how is anyone apart from the elderly, the unemployed, maybe some self-employed, or mothers of pre-school children able to attend?

    Even Sunday attendance is nigh-on impossible for people [especially women] working in retail [where the weekends are busy mandatory working hours; or in factories where their four day continental-shift patterns coincide with Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.

    This has become an even more endemic crisis given that well over 90% of non-metropolitan national Sunday masses
    occur solely between the hours of 9 and 12!

    Why?

    Perhaps we should ask the Priests?

    Could it be they misunderstand the concept of Sunday being a day of rest? [i.e. they're not supposed to be the ones doing most of the resting!]

    Over hundreds of square miles of the Midlands and East Anglia there are no parish priests anyway – they are now mission Churches so weekday [for some even weekly!!] mass attendance is a halcyonic dream.

    A few days ago I overheard a Catholic commentator bewailing how difficult it was to find an Extraordinary Form mass in Central England – I regret now not retorting ‘it’s easier to find an Old Mass than a Sunday Mass said after Midday!”

    Here’s a suggestion:

    Instead of pushing the Laity to do that little something extra [most for whom it's an impossibility anyway] why don’t we actually coerce our Clergy to make this impossibility – possible!?

    For Lent : How about PRIESTS actually switching off Emmerdale or the Archers, dragging themselves away from their kindles and plate of chocolate hobnobs and saying an Evening Mass every day?

    How about every Diocesan Bishop giving a Canonical Lenten dispensation for Sunday Trination and an afternoon/evening mass said every Sunday during Lent for say – the pro-Life Cause?

    Or is the Antiques Roadshow too important to be missed by our presbyterate?

    Isn’t it bitterly ironic that we’re handwringing over the lapsation pandemic while simultaneously making it increasingly more difficult for an ordinary working parishioner to attend mass!!!!??

  • Anonymous

    I would love to.  There are 5 Catholic Churches in my town. All the Masses are in the morning. So its impossible, unless you live in a city.

  • Ikedi

    The intrinsic value of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass far exceeds the secular work life. People’s lives should be scheduled around Mass. Not people trying to fit Mass into their schedule. Those who have the proper reverence towards what has been given to us from the hand of the Father will find a way to “fit” Mass in. If it truly is literally impossible because they have made all attempts to accomplish the impossible then our Heavenly Father who sees will provide another way. Do these people who want to attend daily mass but can’t at the very least make a daily spiritual communion and pray the daily Holy Rosary? If not then they clearly don’t care as much as the think they do.

  • http://twitter.com/socmed_superman Carla Kendall

    How about helping the victims of Catholic priest child rape instead?

  • Wickedw one

    Only victims of the Catholic ones?  Time to remove your harness winkers and see just how guilty of that heinous crime so many other organisations are … Bless the troll :)

    I would love to go every day only the timing is impossible unless you live in a big city.

  • Anonymous

     Ikedi – wonderful idealism but it’s contradicted by reality.

    …and it’s scandalous that when I was a child I could attend Sunday Mass at 5a.m. 6.30, 8, 9,10,11.15,12.15,16.30 & 19.00 – a 14hr timeframe…with the majority of our youth [regularly!] attending the latter three masses; and during the week even into the 90s there was always a mass at either 7.30a.m. or 7p.m. for those who worked office hours and were unable to attend the regular midday mass.

    Now in general there are two Sunday Morning Masses throughout the land – and that’s it!

    For how many is it not a question of won’t attend – but can’t attend?

    …and I’m sorry but frankly in days like these with the introduction of Sunday trading trying to keep a roof over one’s head and food on the table does become a priority – and YES – most assuredly Mass SHOULD always be the THE priority…

    ..it’s a fine state of affairs when our so-called ‘socially aware’ ‘pastorally sensitive’ clergy are the first to make the window of opportunity to attend Mass for these people so miniscule as to be deemed obscene!!!

  • theroadmaster

    Lent is not unlike the ‘road’ training that a athlete does in preparation for this chosen event at the Olympics and other championships.  But in this case, the preparations that one goes through, is as much an internal work-out as  an external one and is on the spiritual plane. Daily Mass is an ideal way of strengthening one’s inner resources to cope with the journey that characterizes Lent.  As PaulPriest rightly points out, despite the sagacity of this advice, many people may not be able to attend Holy Mass on such a regular basis over the Lenten season, due to work commitments and other similar factors.  But whenever it is possible, the Faithful should try and attend a Mass at a Church that is convenient to them.  The special sustenance derived from the Holy Eucharist and the pertinence of the daily readings are indispensable spiritual aides that can help prepare one for the Climax of the Holy Calender which is the Season of Easter, when Christ triumphed over the oppression of death and sin.

  • James

     Oh dear it is uncharitable to criticise priests like that.  Whatever your disagreements with the article written by Father, it is better to be less arrogant.  Who do you think you are, anyway?  Always criticising the priests and Bishops of England, you better go and elevate yourself to be a Cardinal in Rome then if you don’t like things here that much.

  • Anonymous

    I think the Vigil Masses did for the early sunday masses. Many Churches also discontinued sunday evening masses, a big mistake, as thats when young people go, if they go at all.
     Interestingly though, no sunday evening masses were allowed until the late sixties.

  • Sue Sims

    Indeed. When I became a Catholic (in 1998), our parish church had a 7.15 and a 10 am Mass every morning. Now it’s only the 10 am which remains, which makes it impossible for those of us who work and who can’t change their hours (I’m a teacher). There are no churches in the whole of the area now which offer a daily Mass before work. Our church is laying on a 7 pm Mass on the Wednesday and Fridays of Lent, which I’ll be going to, but I so miss the early Mass which started off one’s day with the Lord.

  • Alan

    There is an outdoor version of the Scala Sancta at the Carmelite Monastery in Munster, Indiana, USA (50 minutes drive south of Chicago.)  At the top of the stairway is a giant crucifix.  

    People of the United Kingdom – I exhort you to build one!

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I think there is one as part of the Stations of the Cross in Lourdes too. It would be very nice to have one here in the UK.

  • Katerina Ambrose

     The problem is tha Priest shortage, all the local parishes in the Poole area have had the Masses cut. Weekday Masses are not everyday, and mainly all during ‘work hours’. Although with a toddler at home it makes it possible for me sometimes.
    But I think it’s good to have an optimistic outlook, although the situation will get worse, as more priests retire. This is where the personal piety practices come in, n’es pas?
    ps. I remember you Sue, hope the family is well? We have six now.

  • Bob Hayes

    For the practical reasons stated by many here, I am unable to combine daily Mass with my employment. However, I will attend Mass more than once a week. 

    In regard to other forms of abstinence / self-denial, I am going to give up social networking sites and discussion forums for Lent:  they are rather self-indulgent activities. See you next month.

  • Bob Hayes

    That should, of course, have ended, ‘See you in April’!