Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
As we persevere through the Holy Season of Lent, it is worth recalling once again that, like so many of the practices of our religion, Lenten fasting and abstinence draw much of their meaning from the sacred history of Genesis. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics of the Roman Rite receive ashes on their foreheads while they are reminded, in Latin or in a vernacular language, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” (Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.) This is hardly compatible with theistic evolution which would have the body of Adam conceived in the womb of an evolved chimpanzee!
In the Byzantine Tradition, the strict fast and abstinence of Great Lent (which began on the Monday before Ash Wednesday) is a special reminder of the original goodness and harmony of the first created world. Melkite Greek Catholic priest Fr. Philaret Littlefield explains that abstinence from all foods that come from animals is directly related to the Christian vocation to cooperate with God’s grace in restoring the original harmony of Paradise:
Fasting is depriving the body of food from midnight till noon. For the Christian the hunger that results is a real call to be mindful of our thirst for God. It is a call to identify with the poor, whom God loves especially. It is a way for us, as mature men and women to take charge of our body and of our needs, rather than to allow the body, its needs and passions to rule over our life.
Fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. There are many deeply moving stories of our brothers and sisters who observed the periods of fasting during harsh famines and wars. Imagine the power and the grace that is filling the world during this time of darkness and cold, as men, women and children, rich and poor, virtuous and sinful alike, together offer up penance for the sins of the world and in anticipation of the Coming of Christ!
Abstinence refers to the practice of foregoing all foods that come from animals (meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs).
From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great Flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth.
Thus, we fast to experience hunger and, realizing our emptiness and dependence, to seek the One who alone satisfies our needs.
We abstain in order to strive for peace, to cleanse ourselves body and soul to worthily receive Our Lord (emphasis added).
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) saw the unspeakable beauty of the first-created world, and bore witness to the immaculate state of nature before the Original Sin:
Creation was not then as it is now. Plants and flowers and trees had other forms. They are wild and misshapen now compared with what they were, for all things are now thoroughly degenerate . . . Vegetation was luxuriant, perfectly green, of a species pure, sound, and exempt from decay. Nothing appeared to receive or to need the attention of an earthly gardener. I thought: How is it that all is so beautiful, since as yet there are no human beings! Ah! Sin has not yet entered. There has been no destruction, no rending asunder. All is sound, all is holy. As yet there has been no healing, no repairing. All is pure, nothing has needed purification . . .
Our Lord showed St. Bridget of Sweden, Doctor of the Church, that man’s dominion over the original creation was so complete that his fall brought misery not only to his human descendants but to the lower animals. In answer to a question about animal suffering, He told her:
You ask why animals suffer infirmities. This is because there exists a disorder in them as in the rest of creation. I am the Maker of every nature and have given to each its own temperament and order in which each one moves and lives. However, after man, for whose sake all things were made, set himself against his lover, that is, against Me his God, then disorder entered all the rest of creation, and all the things that should have been afraid of man began to set themselves against him and oppose him. Because of this defective disorder many troubles and difficulties befall humankind as well as animals.
Besides, sometimes animals also suffer because of their own natural immoderation or as a curb to their ferocity, or as a cleansing of nature itself, or sometimes because of human sins in order that human beings, who have a greater use of reason, might consider how much punishment they deserve, when the creatures they love are plagued and taken away. But if human sins did not demand it, animals, which are under human charge, would not suffer in so singular a manner.
But not even they suffer without great justice. Their suffering occurs either to put a quicker end to their lives and lessen their wretched toils that consume their strength or on account of a change in seasons or out of human carelessness during the process of work. People should therefore fear me, their God, above all things, and treat my creatures and animals more mildly, having mercy on them for the sake of me, their Creator. I, God, accordingly decreed the Sabbath rest, because I care for all My creation.
. . . As to why everything is born in pain, I answer: When humankind rejected the fairest pleasure, they immediately incurred a life of toil. And because the disorder began in and through humankind, My justice causes there to be some bitterness even for other creatures, which exist for the sake of humans, so as to temper their pleasure and foster their means of nourishment. For this reason, people are born with pain and make toilsome progress in order to render them eager to hurry to their true rest. They die naked and poor in order to make them restrain their disorderly behavior and fear the coming examination.
Likewise animals, too, give birth in pain in order for bitterness to temper their excesses, and so that they may be participants in human toil and sorrow. For this reason, insofar as humankind is so much nobler than are animals, people should love Me, the Lord God, their Creator, all that much more fervently.
May God grant to each of us this Lent to live as a “new creation” in Christ, walking in freedom from all sinful attachments, united in love for God and for each other, as good stewards of the creation that He has entrusted to our care.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Our eighth annual leadership retreat will almost certainly take place at the Apostolate for Family Consecration headquarters in Bloomingdale, Ohio, from August 22-28, 2021. The retreat is open to all Catholics (and their families) who are committed to advancing the mission of the Kolbe Center in their spheres of influence. If you would like more information about the schedule, facilities, and suggested donations for the retreat, please email me as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S. Today is a First Saturday. In an apparition of December 10, 1925, in Tuy, Spain, Our Lady told Sister Lucy of Fatima:
I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.
The purpose of this practice was to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to make reparation for:
- Attacks upon the reality of Mary's Immaculate Conception
- Attacks against the reality of Mary's Perpetual Virginity
- Attacks upon Mary's Divine Maternity and the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all mankind
- Those who try to publicly implant in children's hearts indifference, contempt and hatred for Immaculate Mary
- For those who insult Mary directly in her sacred images
The devotion involves the following practices on five consecutive first Saturdays with the specific intention of making reparation for the offenses (above) against the Blessed Virgin:
- Go to Confession (within 8 days before or after the first Saturday)
- Receive Holy Communion
- Recite five decades of the Rosary*
"Keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on fifteen mysteries of the Rosary" (separate from the Rosary itself)*