Wednesday 5 March 2014

Record of the Week: Regulations for Lent, 1855

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Catholics are called to do penance – fasting, prayer, and alms-giving - as they prepare for the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter.

Our Record of the Week focuses on fasting and abstinence. In the Latin Rite, fasting is the limitation of food and drink to one main meal and two smaller meals a day, with no solid foods in between. Abstinence refers to not eating certain kinds of food or drink, typically meat.

Although the general guidelines for fasting and abstaining remain consistent, specific rules have changed over time to reflect socioeconomic circumstances and local tradition. For example, these Lenten regulations were issued in 1855 by the second Bishop of Toronto, Armand François Marie de Charbonnel P.S.S. 
Rule No. 5 states:
"An approved custom has introduced a small collation in the morning consisting of a cup of tea, coffee or chocolate, with about an ounce of bread."
Rule No. 7 also advises:
"Catholic boarding house keepers will remember that they are obligated in conscience to present to their Catholic boarders such food as Catholics are permitted to use at these meals and on those days when they are bound to observe the law of abstinence."
Although "the use of flesh meat" is restricted to certain days, rule No. 4 allows that "Lard may be used in preparing fasting food."

Current regulations for Lent allow one to substitute works of charity for fasting.

Worth repeating is Bishop de Charbonnel's final sentiment:
"Let this holy time be for all days of retirement and prayer, days of penance and alms-giving, days of grace, fervour and salvation."

These lenten Regulations are noted in a letterbook, which served as a duplicate record of the bishops' outgoing communications in the days before photocopying!
This entry is dated February 21st, 1855.
LB 02.407

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