At the end of this week we shall be entering into “Shrovetide” in anticipation of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten fast. Shrovetide is the older English term for what is known in most of southern Europe (and Latin America) as “Carnival”. Shrovetide is taken from the verb “to shrive”, which means to hear or to make confession. A “shrift” is a confession. The colloquial expression “to give someone short shrift”, meaning you got treated dismissively by someone, derives from the unpleasant experience of people being hastily and rudely dispatched by a priest in confession.
According to Anglo-Saxon custom: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]. (Theodolphus, “Ecclesiastical Institutes”)
Thus people would carry out their canonical penance as part of their Lenten exercises. “Carnival” is taken from the Latin words carnem levare, literally, the taking-away-offlesh [meats]. Before the prescribed time of fasting, it was not out of place to enjoy some last days of feasting and merriment.
Carnival in continental Europe extended to the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, known in French as Jeudi Gras (“Fat Thursday”). The first of Bernadette’s Apparitions on February 11th, 1858 was on Jeudi Gras. The second Apparition on February 14th fell on Quinquagesima Sunday, “Shrove Sunday” in English usage.
Because of the excesses of Carnival among the people, the Church had introduced a special “Forty Hours” of Eucharistic Adoration since the 16th Century in an effort to instill more piety among the faithful and to atone for the sins committed by those who were engaging in, shall we say, more than light-hearted recreation for Carnival.
|CURRENT DISCIPLINE||OLDER DISCIPLINE|
|Days of Abstinence||Days of Abstinence|
|Begins on one's 14th birthday.
Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
Obliges abstention from flesh meat.
Days of Penance
Applies to all the Faithful.
Lent and Fridays outside of Lent.
Days of Fast
Everyone aged 18-59.
1 full meal permitted, two other meals may be taken which, when combined, are less than a full meal.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
(The obligation to do penance is lifted on Fridays which are also celebrated sa a solemnity: e.g., Christmas Day).
|Applies on one's 7th birthday.
Complete Abstinence on all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, and the Vigil of Christmas.
Partial Abstinence (meat and soup, or gray made from permitted once a day at principal meal.)
Lent, Ember Days of Wednesday & Saturday, Vigils of Pentecost & Assumption.
Abstinence dispensed on Holy Days of Obligation.
Days of Fast
Everyone aged 21-59.
Days of Lent from Ash Wednesday on, Ember Days, Vigils of Christmas, Pentecost and the Assumption.
One full meal permitted, with 2 smaller meals.