Lent – Part 2

Fasting and Abstinence

Fasting during Lent was more prominent in ancient times than today. Socrates Scholastic reports that in some places, all animal products were strictly forbidden, while various others permitted fish, or fish and fowl, others prohibited fruit and eggs, and still others permitted only bread. In many places, the observant abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which was often known as the Black Fast.[ In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.[

For Catholics before 1966, the theoretical obligation of the penitential fast throughout Lent except on Sundays was to take only one full meal a day. In addition, a smaller meal, called a collation, was allowed in the evening, and a cup of some beverage, accompanied by a little bread, in the morning. In practice, this obligation, which was a matter of custom rather than of written law, was not observed strictly.[ The 1917 Code of Canon Law allowed the full meal on a fasting day to be taken at any hour and to be supplemented by two collations, with the quantity and the quality of the food to be determined by local custom. Abstinence from meat was to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent. The Lenten fast ended on Holy Saturday at noon. Only those aged 21 to 59 were obliged to fast. As with all ecclesiastical laws, particular difficulties, such as strenuous work or illness, excused one from observance, and a dispensation from the law could be granted by a bishop or parish priest. A rule of thumb is that the two collations should not add up to the equivalent of another full meal. Rather portions were to be: “sufficient to sustain strength, but not sufficient to satisfy hunger”.[

In 1966, Pope Paul VI reduced the obligatory fasting days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstinence days to Fridays and Ash Wednesday, and allowed episcopal conferences to replace abstinence and fasting with other forms of penitence such charity and piety, as declared and established in his apostolic constitution Paenitemini. This was done so that those in countries where the standard of living is lower can replace fasting with prayer, but “…where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given…” This was made part of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which made obligatory fasting for those aged between 18 and 59, and abstinence for those aged 14 and upward. The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided to allow other forms of Friday penance to replace that of abstinence from meat, whether in Lent or outside Lent, suggesting alternatives such as abstaining from some other food, or from alcohol or smoking; making a special effort at participating in family prayer or in Mass; making the Stations of the Cross; or helping the poor, sick, old, or lonely.[ The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made a similar ruling in 1985[ but decided in 2011 to restore the traditional year-round Friday abstinence from meat. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has maintained the rule of abstention from meat on Friday only during Lent.

Many Lutheran Churches advocate fasting during designated times such as Lent, especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The historic Methodist homilies regarding the Sermon on the Mount stress the importance of the Lenten fast, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

(Information from
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Lent – Part 1

Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, alms giving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.[

The last week of Lent is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday. Following the New Testament story, Jesus’ crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday, and at the beginning of the next week the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday recalls the accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days; this is known as one’s Lenten sacrifice. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches remove flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event. Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. Depending on the Christian denomination and local custom, Lent ends on the evening of Thursday with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday, on the morning of Easter Sunday, or at the midnight between them.

Associated customs

There are traditionally 40 days in Lent; these are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and alms giving (justice towards neighbors).

However, in modern times, observers give up partaking in vices and often invest the time or money saved in charitable purposes or organizations.[

In addition, some believers add a regular spiritual discipline, to bring them closer to God, such as reading a Lenten daily devotional.[ Another practice commonly added is the singing of the Stabat Mater hymn in designated groups. Among Filipino Catholics, the recitation of Jesus Christ’ passion, called Pasiong Mahal, is also observed. In some Christian countries, grand religious processions and cultural customs are observed, and the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.[c

In many liturgical Christian denominations, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday form the Easter Triduum. Lent is a season of grief that necessarily ends with a great celebration of Easter. Thus, it is known in Eastern Orthodox circles as the season of “Bright Sadness”. It is a season of sorrowful reflection which is punctuated by breaks in the fast on Sundays.

(Information from
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Saint Joseph’s Day

Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph is in Western Christianity the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus Christ. It has the rank of a solemnity in the Catholic Church. It is a feast or commemoration in the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and a feast or festival in the Lutheran Church. Saint Joseph’s Day is the Patronal Feast day for Poland as well as for Canada, persons named Joseph, Josephine, etc., for religious institutes, schools and parishes bearing his name, and for carpenters. It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, and Italy. It is a holiday of obligation for Catholics, unless the particular Episcopal Conference has waived the obligation.

Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635.jpg

Popular customs among Christians of various liturgical traditions observing Saint Joseph’s Day are attending Mass, wearing red-coloured clothing, carrying dried fava beans that have been blessed, and assembling home altars dedicated to Saint Joseph.

March 19 always falls during Lent, and traditionally it is a day of abstinence. This explains the custom of Saint Joseph tables being covered with meatless dishes.

ST. JOSEPH’S DAY TRADITIONS

Altars

St. Joseph altars, representing the Holy Trinity, are divided into three sections with a statue of St. Joseph at the head. The devout place candles, figurines, flowers, medals and other items around the alter creating a beautiful, lush and overflowing effect. Because the altars thank St. Joseph for relieving hunger, offerings of food are added to the cornucopia that anyone is welcome to feast on during the holiday.

Food

Cookies, cakes and breads, often in the form of shell fish, are common decorations for altars. Fava beans, or “lucky beans” are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine. Pick some up for good luck! As tradition has it, the altar is broken up on St. Joseph’s Day with a ceremony of costumed children, pretending to look for shelter, finding sustenance at the altar. Food and donations are then distributed to the public with leftovers going to the poor.

(Information obtained from
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

Saint Patrick’s Day – Part 5

Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States

Saint Patrick’s Day, although a legal holiday only in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (where it is recognized alongside Evacuation Day) and Savannah, Georgia,[ is nonetheless widely recognized and celebrated throughout the United States. It is primarily celebrated as a recognition of Irish and Irish American culture; celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and numerous parades. The holiday has been celebrated on the North American continent since the late 18th century.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers in the United States spent $4.4 billion on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016. This amount is down from the $4.8 billion spent in 2014.

Early Celebrations

The world’s first recorded St Patrick’s Day celebration was in St. Augustine, Florida, in the year 1600 according to Dr. Michael Franicis’s 2017 research in the Spanish Archives of the Indies. Franicis discovered the first St. Patrick Day Parade was also in St. Augustine in 1601. Both were organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur (Richard Arthur).

The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the first observance of Saint Patrick’s Day in the Thirteen Colonies in 1737. Surprisingly, the celebration was not Catholic in nature, Irish immigration to the colonies having been dominated by Protestants. The society’s purpose in gathering was simply to honor its homeland, and although they continued to meet annually to coordinate charitable works for the Irish community in Boston, they did not meet on 16 March again until 1794. During the observance of the day, individuals attended a service of worship and a special dinner.

New York’s first Saint Patrick’s Day observance was similar to that of Boston. It was held on 16 March 1762 in the home of John Marshall, an Irish Protestant, and over the next few years informal gatherings by Irish immigrants were the norm. The first recorded parade in New York was by Irish soldiers in the British Army in 1766. The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Philadelphia was held in 1771. Philadelphia’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick was found to honor St. Patrick and to provide relief to Irish immigrants in the city. Irish Americans have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia since their arrival in America. General George Washington, a member of Philadelphia’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, actively encouraged Irish American patriots to join the Continental Army. In 1780, while camped in Morristown, NJ, General Washington allowed his troops a holiday on March 17 “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.” This event became known as The Saint Patrick’s Day Encampment of 1780.[

George Washington’s General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops

George Washington’s General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops, page 2

Irish patriotism in New York City continued to soar, and the parade in New York City continued to grow. Irish aid societies like Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society were created and marched in the parades. Finally when many of these aid societies joined forces in 1848, the parade became not only the largest parade in the United States but one of the largest in the world.[

The City of Savannah, Georgia, has hosted Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations since 1824. It boasts a celebration rivaling that of New York City in size and fervor. Unlike any other cities, Savannah’s historic parade is always held on March 17, not on the neighboring weekend. Festivities begin more than a week in advance with communal rituals and commemorative ceremonies, such as the St. Patrick’s Parade. Such events were, in fact, the main factors in shaping Irish-American identity as recognized today. In fact, leading up to the 1870s, Irish-American identity in the United States was reworked through the shifting character of the Saint Patrick’s Day rituals and features under three separate occasions: initially, in 1853 when it undertook a “spiritual rhetoric” notion, then when it became known as a “reformulated memory of an Irish past couched in terms of vengeance against Britain” to, finally, adopting a “sectarian catholic nationalism” attitude in the 1870s and 1880s.

Customs today

In every year since 1991, March has been proclaimed Irish-American Heritage Monthby the US Congress or President due to the date of Saint Patrick’s Day. Christian denominations in the United States observing this feast day include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaProtestant Episcopal Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. Today, Saint Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike. For most Irish-Americans, this holiday is both religious and festive. It is one of the leading days for consumption of alcohol in the United States, as individuals are allowed to break their Lenten sacrifices for the day in order to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The consumption of artificially colored green beer is a common celebration.

Many people choose to wear green colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched “affectionately”.

Many parades throughout various US cities are held to celebrate the holiday.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Saint Patrick’s Day – Part 4

Celebrations by Region

England

In England, the British Royals traditionally present bowls of shamrock to members of the Irish Guards, a regiment in the British Army, following Queen Alexandra introducing the tradition in 1901.  Since 2012 the Duchess of Cambridge has presented the bowls of shamrock to the Irish Guards. While female royals are often tasked with presenting the bowls of shamrock, male royals have also undertaking the role, such as King George VI in 1950 to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Irish Guards, and in 2016 the Duke of Cambridge in place of his wife.  Fresh Shamrocks are presented to the Irish Guards, regardless of where they are stationed, and are flown in from Ireland.

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While some St Patrick’s Day celebrations could be conducted openly in Britain pre 1960s, this would change following the commencement by the IRA’s bombing campaign on mainland Britain and as a consequence this resulted in a suspicion of all things Irish and those who supported them which led to people of Irish descent wearing a sprig of shamrock on St Patrick’s day in private or attending specific events. Today after many years following the Good Friday Agreement, people of Irish descent openly wear a sprig of shamrock to celebrate their Irishness.[

Christian denominations in Great Britain observing his feast day include The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.[

Birmingham holds the largest St Patrick’s Day parade in Britain with a city center parade over a two-mile (3 km) route through the city center. The organizers describe it as the third biggest parade in the world after Dublin and New York.[

London, since 2002, has had an annual St Patrick’s Day parade which takes place on weekends around the 17th, usually in Trafalgar Square. In 2008 the water in the Trafalgar Square fountains was dyed green.

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Liverpool has the highest proportion of residents with Irish ancestry of any English city.[ This has led to a long-standing celebration on St Patrick’s Day in terms of music, cultural events and the parade.

Manchester hosts a two-week Irish festival in the weeks prior to St Patrick’s Day. The festival includes an Irish Market based at the city’s town hall which flies the Irish tricolour opposite the Union Flag, a large parade as well as a large number of cultural and learning events throughout the two-week period.

Scotland

The Scottish town of Coatbridge, where the majority of the town’s population are of Irish descent, also has a Saint Patrick’s Day Festival which includes celebrations and parades in the town center.

Glasgow has a considerably large Irish population; due, for the most part, to the Irish immigration during the 19th century. This immigration was the main cause in raising the population of Glasgow by over 100,000 people. Due to this large Irish population, there are many Irish-themed pubs and Irish interest groups who hold yearly celebrations on St Patrick’s day in Glasgow. Glasgow has held a yearly St Patrick’s Day parade and festival since 2007.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

St. Patrick’s Day – Part 3

Celebrations by Region

Ireland

Saint Patrick’s feast day, as a kind of national day, was already being celebrated by the Irish in Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. In later times, he became more and more widely seen as the patron of Ireland. Saint Patrick’s feast day was finally placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church due to the influence of Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding[ in the early 1600s. Saint Patrick’s Day thus became a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. It is also a feast day in the Church of Ireland, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church calendar avoids the observance of saints’ feasts during certain solemnities, moving the saint’s day to a time outside those periods. St Patrick’s Day is occasionally affected by this requirement, when March 17 falls during Holy Week. This happened in 1940, when Saint Patrick’s Day was observed on April 3 to avoid it coinciding with Palm Sunday, and again in 2008, where it was officially observed on March 15. St Patrick’s Day will not fall within Holy Week again until 2160. However, the popular festivities may still be held on March 17 or on a weekend near to the feast day.

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In 1903, St Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland. This was thanks to the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act 1903, an act of the United Kingdom Parliament introduced by Irish Member of Parliament James O’Mara. O’Mara later introduced the law which required that public houses be shut on March 17 after drinking got out of hand, a provision that was repealed in the 1970s.

The first St Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland was held in Waterford in 1903. The week of St. Patrick’s Day 1903 had been declared Irish Language Week by the Gaelic League and in Waterford they opted to have a procession on Sunday, March 15. The procession comprised the Mayor and members of Waterford Corporation, the Trades Hall, the various trade unions and bands who included the ‘Barrack St Band’ and the ‘Thomas Francis Meagher Band’. The parade began at the premises of the Gaelic League in George’s St and finished in the Peoples Park, where the public were addressed by the Mayor and other dignitaries. On Tuesday March 17, most Waterford businesses—including public houses—were closed and marching bands paraded like they had two days previously. The Waterford Trades Hall had been emphatic that the National Holiday be observed.

In the mid-1990s the government of the Republic of Ireland began a campaign to use St Patrick’s Day to showcase Ireland and its culture. The government set up a group called St Patrick’s Festival, with the aims:

  • To offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world
  • To create energy and excitement throughout Ireland via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity
  • To provide the opportunity and motivation for people of Irish descent (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations
  • To project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal.
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The first St Patrick’s Festival was held on March 17, 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long; more than 675,000 people attended the 2009 parade. Overall 2009’s five-day festival saw almost 1 million visitors, who took part in festivities that included concerts, outdoor theatre performances, and fireworks. The Skyfest which ran from 2006 to 2012 formed the centerpiece of the St Patrick’s festival.[

The topic of the 2004 St Patrick’s Symposium was “Talking Irish”, during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success, and the future were discussed. Since 1996, there has been a greater emphasis on celebrating and projecting a fluid and inclusive notion of “Irishness” rather than an identity based around traditional religious or ethnic allegiance. The week around St Patrick’s Day usually involves Irish language speakers using more Irish during Seachtain na Gaeilge (“Irish Language Week”).

(Information
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

Saint Patrick’s Day – Part 2

Celebration and Traditions

Today’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations have been greatly influenced by those that developed among the Irish diaspora, especially in North America. Until the late 20th century, St Patrick’s Day was often a bigger celebration among the diaspora than it was in Ireland.[

Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, Irish traditional music sessions (céilithe), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. There are also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances, although these were more common in the past. St Patrick’s Day parades began in North America in the 18th century but did not spread to Ireland until the 20th century. The participants generally include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organisations, charitable organisations, voluntary associationsyouth groupsfraternities, and so on. However, over time, many of the parades have become more akin to a carnival. More effort is made to use the Irish language, especially in Ireland, where the week of St Patrick’s Day is “Irish language week“.

Since 2010, famous landmarks have been lit up in green on St Patrick’s Day as part of Tourism Ireland’s “Global Greening Initiative” or “Going Green for St Patrick´s Day”. The Sydney Opera House and the Sky Tower in Auckland were the first landmarks to participate and since then over 300 landmarks in fifty countries across the globe have gone green for St Patricks Day.

Christians may also attend church services, and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day. Perhaps because of this, drinking alcohol – particularly Irish whiskey, beer, or cider – has become an integral part of the celebrations. The St Patrick’s Day custom of “drowning the shamrock” or “wetting the shamrock” was historically popular, especially in Ireland. At the end of the celebrations, a shamrock is put into the bottom of a cup, which is then filled with whiskey, beer, or cider. It is then drunk as a toast to St Patrick, Ireland, or those present. The shamrock would either be swallowed with the drink or taken out and tossed over the shoulder for good luck.

Wearing green

On St Patrick’s Day, it is customary to wear shamrocks, green clothing or green accessories. St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinityto the pagan Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided St Patrick in his evangelisation efforts.  Patricia Monaghan says there is no evidence that the shamrock was sacred to the pagan Irish. However, Jack Santino speculates that it may have represented the regenerative powers of nature, and was recast in a Christian context‍—‌icons of St Patrick often depict the saint “with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other”. Roger Homan writes, “We can perhaps see St Patrick drawing upon the visual concept of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the Trinity”.[

The first association of the colour green with Ireland is from the 11th century pseudo-historical book Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), which forms part of the Mythological Cycle in Irish Mythology and describes the story of Goídel Glas who is credited as the eponymous ancestor of the Gaels and creator of the Goidelic languages (IrishScottish GaelicManx). In the story Goídel Glas, who was the son of Scota and Niul, was bitten by a snake and was saved from death by Moses placing his staff on the snakebite. As a reminder of the incident he would retain a green mark that would stay with him and he would lead his people to a land that would be free of snakes.  The colour green was further associated with Ireland from the 1640s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick’s Day since at least the 1680s.

The phrase “wearing of the green” comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have seen the re-emergence of Irish cultural symbols, such as the Irish LanguageIrish mythology, and the colour green, through the Gaelic Revival and the Irish Literary Revival which served to stir Irish nationalist sentiment. The influence of green was more prominently observable in the flags of the 1916 Easter Rising such as the Sunburst Flag, the Starry Plough Banner, and the Proclamation Flag of the Irish Republic which was flown over the General Post Office, Dublin together with the Irish Tricolour. Throughout these centuries, the colour green and its association with St Patrick’s Day grew.[

The wearing of the ‘St Patrick’s Day Cross’ was also a popular custom in Ireland until the early 20th century. These were a Celtic Christian cross made of paper that was “covered with silk or ribbon of different colors, and a bunch or rosette of green silk in the center”.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Saint Patrick’s Day – Part 1

Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (IrishLá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.[ Christians who belong to liturgical denominations also attend church services and historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of IrelandNorthern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (for provincial government employees), and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora around the world, especially in the United KingdomCanadaUnited StatesBrazilArgentinaAustralia and New Zealand. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Modern celebrations have been greatly influenced by those of the Irish diaspora, particularly those that developed in North America. In recent years, there has been criticism of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations for having become too commercialized and for fostering negative stereotypes of the Irish people.

Saint Patrick

Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Much of what is known about Saint Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. According to the Declaration, at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. It says that he spent six years there working as a shepherd and that during this time he “found God”. The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.

According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted “thousands”. Patrick’s efforts against the druids were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove “snakes” out of Ireland (Ireland never had any snakes).

Tradition holds that he died on March 17 and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

ASH WEDNESDAY

Ash Wednesday is marked 46 days before Easter Sunday. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent – which is the period of self-restraint and abstention for Christians prior to Easter. It marks the first day of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control.

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayerfasting, and repentance. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, EpiscopaliansLutheransOld CatholicsMethodistsPresbyteriansRoman Catholics, and some Baptists.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. “The ashes may be prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

Because it is the first day of Lent, many Christians, on Ash Wednesday, often begin marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Easter arrives.

Fasting and Abstinence

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Many Christian denominations emphasize fasting, as well as abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular, on its first day, Ash Wednesday. The First Council of Nicæa spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. In many places, Christians historically abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which is often known as the Black Fast.  In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fastingabstinence from meat, and repentance – a day of contemplating one’s transgressions. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)