Fidelity to the Word
Our Lord and His Holy Apostles at the Last Supper


A blog dedicated to Christ Jesus our Lord and His True Presence in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist


Graciously grant to us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful: that we, who cannot exist without Thee, may be enabled to live according to Thy will.

Friday, March 23, 2007

To Fast Again

The ritual observance of dietary rules — fasting and abstinence from meat in Lent, and abstinence from meat and meat products every Friday, as well as the Eucharistic fast from midnight before the reception of Communion — were as much defining marks of Catholicism before the council as abstention from pork is a defining characteristic of Judaism. The Friday abstinence in particular was a focus of Catholic identity which transcended class and educational barriers, uniting “good” and “bad” Catholics in a single eloquent observance. Here was a universally recognized expression of Catholicism which was nothing to do with priests or authority.

But instead of seeing this as one of its greatest strengths, ...

[Read the rest of Eamon Duffy's article here.]

The article concludes:

The authoritarian narrowing of the tradition to, in essence, a body of doctrines to be believed and orders from above to be obeyed, was a decisive factor in desensitizing ordinary Catholics, clerical as well as lay, to the beauty and independent value of their inherited observances — matters over which no authority has or ought to have absolute control. The ordinary members of the Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches have a far less authoritarian mentality than Catholics, a far more widespread and lively sense of the richness of their traditions of prayer and practice, and a far more secure sense of ownership by the people of the symbols which provide continuity with the Christian past and guidance to its future.

The realization that perhaps too much was carelessly abandoned in the years after the council is now widespread — it is even something of an official view in the later years of the present pontificate — and has helped fuel sometimes scary projects for a restoration of “real Catholicism,” programs in which the vigorous exercise of authority from above looms very large. Such programs are at least as bad as the ills they seek to remedy. There are no quick fixes: tradition cannot be rebuilt to a neat program and by orders from Rome. Our shared past can only be excavated by shared endeavor, by a painful and constant process of reeducation and rediscovery; in that process, we start from where we are, not where we wish we had stayed. The Church cannot afford the pleasures and false securities of reaction. But that is not to say that in our march into the needs and opportunities of the twenty-first century we should not try once more to summon up some of the deeper resources of our own tradition, and try to rediscover within it once more some of the supports which helped our fathers and mothers to live the gospel. We could do worse than rededicate ourselves to the observance of fasting and abstinence.

~~~

I wonder which scary programs, "at least as bad as the ills they seek to remedy", Professor Duffy had in mind? Still, not a bad article.

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