In my mind I have been dividing time into periods before and after October 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Not in a systematic way, of course, but it just feels to me that every day since then, the consecration of Russia not having been done, is a day of God’s mercy tinged with a foreboding of the justice to come. This feeling of mine grows, and as last November was the 100th anniversary of the final death of Christendom, another sad marker is passed.

And so, as the Church’s liturgical year rolls on, this year has felt, to me, like a great big unearned bonus. Bonus Christmas. And now, Bonus Lent. I thoroughly enjoyed the celebration of the bonus Christmas, and I intend to thoroughly make good use of this bonus Lent. After all, no man can say when it will be his last, nor even if he will outlive it.

Some thoughts by smarter and holier men:

The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.

–Pope Benedict XIV, Constitution Non Ambigimus, 1745

More than a hundred years have elapsed since this solemn warning of the Vicar of Christ was given to the world; and during that time, the relaxation he inveighed against has gone on gradually increasing. How few Christians do we meet who are strict observers of Lent, even in the present mild form!

And must there not result from this ever-growing spirit of immortification, a general effeminacy of character, which will lead, at last, to frightful social disorders? The sad predictions of Pope Benedict XIV are but too truly verified. Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges– civil discord, or conquest.

–Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, c.1850

The modern fast, of course, is nothing compared to the fast Dom Gueranger calls ‘mild’ in the mid-19th Century. That is the decision of the Church, who, out of concern for the weakness of her children, has over the ages allowed for relaxation of the Lenten fast (which is of Apostolic institution), and given freely of dispensations in various times and places. It is the decision of the Church what must be obligatory, for she speaks for Christ.  She has allowed such latitude that our present obligatory penitential requirements for Lent (fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on all Fridays during Lent) ought to be easily and eagerly accomplished.

Yet even this seems too much. Again, Gueranger:

The word of God is unmistakable: unless we do penance, we shall perish (Luke 13:3). But if our ease-loving and sensual generation were to return, like the Ninivites, to the long-neglected way of penance and expiation, who knows but that the arm of God, which is already raised to strike us, may give us blessing and not chastisement? 

A good point, and one reinforced by today’s Lesson from Joel 2: 12-19:

[12] Now therefore saith the Lord: Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. [13] And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. [14] Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? [15] Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, 

[16] Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride chamber. [17]Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord’s ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? [18] The Lord hath been zealous for his land, and hath spared his people. [19] And the Lord answered and said to his people: Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them: and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.