The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Back in the day

Canisius | 28 February, 2006 04:27

Some of us are tempted to feel that the Church has softened. The obligation for abstaining from meat on Friday has been lifted, the fast before communion has been reduced, penances have been reduced to a few Hail Mary's.

Already in Dom Gueranger's day, people felt that the Church had softened. Just read this account about the really tough Church of yesteryear:

"It is probable that, when this ceremony of the Wednesday in Quinquagesima week was first instituted, it was not intended for all the faithful, but only for such as had committed any of those crimes for which the Church inflicted a public penance. Before the Mass of the day began, they presented themselves at the church, where the people were all assembled. The priests received the confession of their sins, and then clothed them in sackcloth, and sprinkled ashes on their heads. After this ceremony, the clergy and the faithful prostrated, and recited aloud the seven Penitential Psalms. A procession, in which the penitents walked barefooted, then followed; and on its return, the bishop addressed these words to the penitents: 'Behold, we drive you from the doors of the church by reason of your sins and crimes, as Adam, the first man, was driven out of paradise because of his transgression.' The clergy then sang several responsories, taken from the Book of Genesis, in which mention was made of the sentence pronounced by God when He condemned man to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, for that the earth was cursed on account of sin. The doors were then shut, and the penitents were not to pass the threshold until Maundy Thursday, when they were to come and receive absolution."

Can you imagine the uproar if a parish tried to do that today? Wow. Still and all--I bet when Holy Thursday rolled around those penitents really felt that their sins were forgiven. If people today find it important to hear the words, "Your sins are forgiven", imagine the psychological impact of that elaborate ceremony! The penitents probably felt very connected to Adam, and hence all the more grateful and connected to Christ at Easter time.

[Disclaimer: I'm not saying that I wish I had gone through it!]


Comment Icon Fast on Fridays

Louis | 28/02/2006, 22:22

I guess this isn't too relevant to your point that it seems that the Church has softened many of Her regulations nowadays, but abstinence from meat is still required in the universal Church; it is only in America that there is a dispensation to abstain from some other food, or do some charitable work, instead. But contrary to the popular belief, there is still a grave obligation on the faithful to abstain from some type of food, or do some charitable work on Fridays.

Comment Icon Post Scriptum: Abstinence on Fridays

Louis | 28/02/2006, 22:34

Incidentally, Jimmy Akin thinks that there is no obligation to do penance on Fridays in the USA, but he is wrong.

If you read the Paenitemini of Paul VI, it is quite obvious that the faithful are obliged to do some sort of penance on Fridays. I've included the quote I think most relevant.

II. 1. The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation through out the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of "Grande Quaresima" (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely. (Paul VI, Paenitemini, 17 February, 1966)

Comment Icon Confused

Canisius | 28/02/2006, 23:48

The quotation you give speaks about Fridays during Lent. Jimmy Akin argues that eating meat on those days is a mortal sin, here:

His post about Fridays outside of Lent does argue that there is not obligation in the USA, but that is a different issue, over in this post:

I don't have time at the moment to look further in Paenitemini, so perhaps you can clarify for me what you meant.

Comment Icon Friday Penance

Louis | 01/03/2006, 18:39

Actually, I'm not sure why you are taking the quote from Paenitemini to refer to only Fridays during Lent. It seems to me the most natural reading is to take it to refer to all Fridays.

Regardless, Canon Law indicates that it is all Fridays throughout the year.

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

If you read the USCCB document, On Penance and Abstinence, the only clear thing one gets out of it is that abstinence from meat is no longer the only way for the faithful to observe Friday. One would have to twist the text to say that they were abrogating an obligation to do penance on Fridays.

Even if one claims, as Jimmy Akin does, that the text is ambiguous(which I personally don't think it is), and since Rome approved the document that an obligation no longer exists, this would only be true if the document came out clearly and abrogated it. The reason for this is that since Canon Law does not give them the authority to remove the obligation to do penance(in fact, faithful are obliged by Divine Law to do penance, and this obligation cannot be removed by anyone), that if the document is not clear, it would have to be presumed that they are remaining under the authority that they have been given.

Comment Icon What a mess

Canisius | 02/03/2006, 00:08

Now as I look at it, you're absolutely right about that Paininmytiminee text.

I've been yanking back and forth on the issue of the USCCB doc. I read it myself, and thought it said X; I read Akin's blog, and thought it said not-X; now I read your comment, and think maybe it doesn't matter what it said.

It's a good argument. I'll think more about it.

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