What Does Lent Mean to You?

[A previous post didn’t get the attention I’d hoped for, so I’m republishing it. – Funky]

"The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma), meaning the ‘forty days’, or more literally the ‘fortieth day’. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times. This etymology, as we shall see, is of some little importance in explaining the early developments of the Easter fast." – Catholic Encyclopedia

Lent starts early this year. Ash Wednesday is February 9. That’s less than a week away. Are you planning on performing any acts of penance? Being a Catholic convert from fairly high-church Lutheranism, I don’t know much about "low-church" Protestant observances of Lent or lack thereof. I’d like very much to know how non-Catholics, particularly Evangelicals and liberals/progressives, observe Lent.

If you are a Protestant (of any flavor), I have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it (queue Mission Impossible music). I’d like to know how you, your church, and/or your denomination observe (or don’t observe) Ash Wednesday and Lent. If you don’t have a blog, please consider leaving a comment to tell me what Lent means to you. If you do have a blog, please consider writing a post about what Lent means to you. Trackback this post and I’ll write a carnival-like post to tie the entries together. Also, please promote this meme on your blog. Thanks in advance. 🙂

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

21 thoughts on “What Does Lent Mean to You?

  1. Steve N

    If you came to appreciate the Church’s teachings on 1 and 2, do you suppose you could overlook 3? It seems like an awfully small thing.

    Well, 3 is a thing that I should be (and in principle am) willing to give up… but it’s deeper than just behavior. And, BTW, it is no small thing to the Church… contraception is (by my understanding) a grave sin. The problem is that NFP (its allowance in principle) makes it (i.e., contraception) a very difficult sin to detect, since NFP can be used for contraception and that would be a sin. The church’s teaching (by my understanding) is to have as many children as you can rightly raise and afford. NFP is supposed to be practiced ONLY (this is my understanding) for “natural spacing” of children or for cases of serious medical conditions or for serious poverty. This is just too open ended. Either the faithful are “free to choose” (gawd, that phrase grates on me somef’n bad…) when and how many children they should have (with obviously a strong bias in favor of many… say 3 or more) or they aren’t. WE’VE GOT 5 KIDS FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE… we’re open for more, but just not quite yet. Our youngest is 2, so we’ve more than passed natural spacing… Could we afford more? Probably. I’m a firm believer in NOT providing everything for the little darlings (future hard working adults). We have an 1800 ft^2 house, so yeah we could fit 2-3 more I s’pect… just take 2 cars everywhere. Of course, we’re homeschooling so that would make the daily insanity ’round here a bit more hectic. Would the church allow NFP for homeschooling reasons? Hmm???… And I’m just not willing to lay aside the “unitive aspect” for “certain epochs” until we’re “ready” for more. And, this is really the point, even if I WAS willing and did do so (i.e., practice NFP), I’d have no assurance, according to RCC teaching, that I was doing so for the “right reasons” and might very well be sinning anyway…

    But this supposed to be about Lent…


  2. Amy

    all right, all right, I’ll blog about Lent… 😉 but you’ll have to give me until Sunday because tonight is TV NIGHT and I leave for my pre-lent retreat tomorrow right after work.

  3. Jerry Nora

    BTW, Humanae Vitae is the very unpopular encyclical that Paul VI published confirming the Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. Ergo, “prudence” is not some whitewash that we threw onto a controversial doctrine to make it purtier for the Protestants. (And Orthodox, these days…alas.)

  4. Steve N

    Emily, that is a very good (and perceptive) question. No it’s not too personal. Basically, I cannot bring myself into agreement with the RCC’s teaching on the following issues:

    1) assumption of Mary
    2) supremacy of Rome, papal infallibility (in cathedra)
    3) barrier contraception and “related” issues

    I guess basically at heart I really am an Evangelical… i.e., constant theological/practical reinvention. It just so happens that I’ve somehow managed to reinvented myself into an almost Roman Catholic (ARC) 🙂

    Go figger’

  5. Amy

    I think the first time you posted this stuff I thought you were talking to the protestants. Since they weren’t stepping up I figured I’d try to get something started.
    How ’bout if my husband blogs about it? He’s not protestant, but he’s not exactly Catholic (yet) either.

  6. Jerry

    In addition to cutting back on the Internet, I’m trying to get back to the alms-giving aspect of Lent. I’ve reckoned that if I kick my habit of using coffeeshops in lieu of 8 hrs. of sleep a night, the money I’d save could buy a pregnancy center an ultrasound machine…

    Just kidding about the ultrasound machine, but I could probably donate a decent chunk to Birthright or CareNet, and help some needy mothers out.

  7. The Gray Monk

    Like some of your other commentators, I would fit as an Anglo-Catholic as a High Church member of the Church of England. That disqualifies me to comment on the Protestant observance of Lent I guess, but I try to give up something and take up something I do not usually do, such as reading new theological books or studying a particular book of the Bible. My fast tends to be a simple reduction of the non-essentials such as desert after dinner or snacks between meals.

    We tend to forget do we not, that the Lenten Fast was often a necessity to our forebears as the food stocks would be getting really low at this time of year!

    As the Jews say – I wish you all “Well over the fast”.

  8. Tom Smith

    Not a Protestant either, but I wanted to let people know I’m doing this so I’m held to it.

    I’ve decided to do the full traditional Eastern-rite fast. Since last Sunday, the Sunday of Meatfare, I have abstained from meat (I said *fare*well to meat, hence the name). From this coming Sunday (the Sunday of Cheesefare), I will abstain from dairy, eggs, olive oil, and alcohol*. In addition to the Eastern fast, I will be observing the Roman-rite traditions of eating only one large and two small meals daily, not eating between meals, and fasting completely on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

    *it’s interesting to note that most of these things were once part of the Roman Lenten tradition, but were dropped.

  9. Emily T

    Steve –

    I had a couple of friends over last night and we got into a discussion about NFP. I’m not married, so my knowledge of it is fairly limited (and I’m sorry that I turned the topic so far off of Lent). However, my one married friend who was here last night said that each and every month it is supposed to be discerned prayerfully between the spouses if they will try to have a child that month, or if there are serious and grave reasons (which, admittedly, the Church does not explain fully, to my knowledge) to avoid pregnancy. I know that this doesn’t help your arguments, however, if you haven’t before, I’d encourage you to read “Good News About Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West.

    And thank you for answering my question. I am a convert like Funky. Actually, we went through RCIA together and are coming up on our five year anniversary of being welcomed into the Church. So I am always curious to know people’s reasons for not coming into the Church, particularly when it seems they are so closely aligned with the teachings of the Church.


  10. Emily T

    Steve N –

    After reading a number of your posts on Funky’s web site, I’m curious to know why your aren’t Catholic? I hope that’s not too personal a question to ask. But just in response to the Lent question, you are doing more than most Catholics I know, and engaging in a lot of Lenten observances that Catholics should. So, I was just wondering!

  11. Jerry Nora

    Steve, Humanae Vitae said that prudence should judge how many children you raise–it is not some mathematical excerise in optimization or maximization, as it were. Some, like Kimberly Hahn, tend to veer in the direction that we should pop ’em out like mad, but I think they’re tending in that extreme to emphasize that we, as married couples, should always be open to a new child, whether or not the child was “planned”.

  12. Steve N

    Yeah, I know about prudence, and I agree it should be a governing principle, just like there should a high cultural value placed on fecundity–a practically Luddite position in modernity’s fecal zeitgeist. The problem is defining what it should be in every unique situation, and at once placing my mortal soul in jeopardy if I don’t get it right. (Honey, are we FMP-ing for prudence or FMP-ing to contracept?) You’ll find no greater defender of the “unplanned” than me. Heck, I’ll even admit to a certain holy recklessness as pertains to taking a chance on making a baby… I’ve even started on a song about it!! But the problem is taking and turning good principles (e.g., like St. Paul’s principled but nebulous “It’s better for a man not to marry, but still okay if he does”) into dogma.


    PS. sorry ’bout the Eagles… we were rootin’

  13. Steve N

    You realize, Funky, that announcing our “good deeds” before “men” wastes any heavenly reward we might gain. That being said, few people here actually know who I am, so maybe I’ll get off the hook. At any rate, I’m not looking for rewards… Failing that, I s’pose the general discussion might be edifying… so here are my plans, some of which I’ve alluded to before. (God forgive me)

    On Ash Wed, I will not consume any calorie-bearing sustenance and will attend noon svc at our local Whippany (Our Lacy of Mercy) RC church (across the street from where I work) to receive the sign of ash. This is my one RCC service per year and I will not (in deference to the Church’s laws) receive the host.

    From Ash Wed thru Holy Sat (save for Sundays), neither I nor my family members will watch TV or eat mammalian tissue that required animal’s death (e.g. milk/cheese allowed, jell-o and hamburgers not). I, myself, will further abstain from any internet browsing, save for that required by work, e.g., Lucent intranet, doc management, etc. Email will be allowed, however. Again Sundays will be excepted. Others in my family may choose to give up other things. E.g., my wife plans to give up chocolate and desserts. My eldest son (13) has not yet stated his plans for this year, but has in the past given up video games (gameboy, sega).

    Since our church doesn’t have Maundy Thurs services, we may go to a local LCMS church for such. We’ve thought about but never done this in the past.

    After dinner (or communion if applicable) Maundy Thursday, it is my normal practice not to consume any caloric sustenance (i.e., black coffee and water diet) until Easter morning. This makes for a rather joyous Easter morning!

    Note none of this is the practice of my church, and if they found out, they’d think I was crazy. Such is the sad state of American evangelicalism. Last year I suggested a Maundy Thurs communion service and they thot I was absolutely crazy–too traditional they said. “What?” they exclaimed, “We already have a Good Fri Svc?!” I say it’s the most counter-cultural (i.e., NON traditional) thing we could possibly do! [What was it Chesterton said? Defense of cardinal virtues today has all the exhilaration of a vice!] Modern Evangelicalism utterly refuses to see Christian life bundled together with Church; and utterly refuses to see Church bundled together with salvation/sanctification. Such poverty, thorough-going compartmentalization, is perhaps the best evidence of modernity’s corrosive effects on the Church… (and I’m told the RCC is not immune from such effects) So anyway… rather oddly, I and my family practice such “obscene” rituals outside of our community of faith. This is quite sad, but I hold out hope (perhaps in vain) for a better future.


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