Posted by: fvbcdm | February 9, 2016

Feast of Saint Adrian (9 February 2016)

This day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, has gone by a number of names down through the centuries of Catholic history. In old England, it was either Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday.  Both of those titles have to do with its relationship with the holy season of Lent which begins tomorrow.

In old English, the verb “to shrive” meant “to forgive sins.” Shrove Tuesday was the day when devout Catholics went to have their sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance in preparation for the holy season of Lent. The name Pancake Tuesday came from the need to use up all the meat drippings which were not to be used during Lent because of the strict laws of fasting and abstinence from meat and meat derivatives.  So on the day before Lent, the housewives would use their accumulated bacon drippings and lard to make pancakes with which they celebrated the last of the non-fasting days. The French called it Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.  And generally it was called carnival, coming from the Latin words “carni vale” which mean “goodbye to meat.”

You can take the boy out of New Orleans, but you can’t totally take New Orleans out of the boy. On this day, all my life, wherever I have been, my thoughts

have always gone back to the days of my youth when I lived on Saint Charles Avenue, and we didn’t have to go to the Mardi Gras: it came to us. All the marching clubs playing dixieland jazz began passing our house quite early in the morning. Then the crowds from other parts of the city would begin lining the street, staking out for themselves good places from which to view the passing of Rex, the principal parade of carnival day, followed by the hundreds of decorated trucks that went on and on well in the afternoon. My mother was busy with hot dogs and hamburgers and lots of iced drinks for all those relatives and friends who would make our house their headquarters, since on Mardi Gras Day, one needs food, drink, and a bathroom.  I would usually wind up holding a small child on my shoulders so that he or she could see and catch beads thrown from the floats.  On many an Ash Wednesday, I felt like the hunchback of Notre Dame because of having carried a child on my shoulders the day before!

It is a pity that some of us are so irrational that we can’t simply have a good time without overdoing it and behaving at a level beneath human dignity. For us, Mardi Gras was a wonderful day. No one in our group got drunk, or dressed or acted in a vulgar, crude, or degraded way.  That is not always the case, as we all know. Carnival, which has its roots in a religious culture, is celebrated by some in a way anything but religious.

In any case, I urge you again today: decide now how you will observe Lent in terms of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving so that tomorrow you can begin to live this holy season seriously and in accord with the mind of the Church. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.


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