The final days march past: Was there any news in Lent 2014?

Let’s face it folks. There is a very real possibility that this posts exists as a rather flimsy excuse to post this wonderfully ironic Baton Rouge, La., photograph sent by a witty priest to Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher.

Now Lent is almost over, so it’s now or never.

Actually, this photo does symbolize a question — a journalistic question, actually — that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit during Great Lent this year: Do mainstream journalists realize that there is more to Lent than food?

I mean, the U.S. Catholic bishops have in recent years put quite a bit of effort into a public campaign to promote — following ages and ages of tradition — the importance of believers going to Confession during the season of Lent. I kind of expected that this the “light is still on” effort might get more press attention this time around, especially after the media-storm called Pope Francis did a daring thing the other day by choosing to go to Confession in clear view of the world.

So take a look at a Google News search for “Catholics,” “Lent,” “Confession” and “light on.”

Not much, right?

So we’re back to food.

In recent years, that has been some interesting coverage of fast-food places (apparently Hooters among them) making an attempt to beef up the supposedly Lent-friendly part of their menus, which seems to mean lots of fish. Some of the results have been rather mixed, spiritually speaking, or that has been my personal experience. Let me tell you that it’s hard to eat your popcorn shrimp in a fast-food joint that is dedicated to fried chicken.

All in all, it’s the fish-on-Fridays image that gets the ink, since very few journalists seem to realize that there are some people out there whose Lenten disciples are even more rigorous than the decision not to eat meat on Fridays.

When things are done pretty well, the result looks like the top of this rather nice Mississippi Press feature:

PASCAGOULA, Mississippi – If you are in the mood for seafood on a Friday over the next couple of weeks, you will probably have to stand in line at just about anywhere in town that has seafood on the menu.

Bozo’s Seafood on Ingalls Avenue in Pascagoula is no exception. The long line wrapped around the check-out counter is proof that it’s Lent season.

“It’s controlled chaos,” said Keith Delcambri, owner of Bozo’s Seafood. “From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Oh my God, it’s crazy, standing room only.”

Lent is a period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, to Easter. These days are symbolic in Christian faith because they represent the 40 days before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus went out into the desert and fasted for 40 days before he began his great journey to Calvary,” said Rev. Michael Kelleher of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. “It’s because of what he did, that we fast for 40 days and have our own desert experience.”

Rev. Kelleher said many years ago that the church spelled out what an appropriate fast would be, which was to abstain from meat, “the blood of animals, flesh meat.” As an alternative, fish was allowed. Catholics set aside every Friday during Lent to recognize this teaching.

Actually, Associated Press style says that this would be “the Rev. Michael Kelleher,” but nevermind.

So did I miss something this year? Did anyone out there in GetReligion reader-land see some mainstream-media Lenten coverage that dug deeper than a fish fry?

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • FW Ken

    Did Jesus not go into the desert after his baptism? Not before the Passion?

    Edited for coherence (although I might still be wrong).

    • tmatt

      Huh?

    • ucfengr

      Que?

    • Rick Connor

      In the Catholic Church the gospel reading on the First Sunday of Lent is the temptation in the desert. Through most of the season we read about the delivery of the Jews from Egypt. It is only the last two or three weeks that focus on the journey to Calvary. The earlier parts of the season emphasize the desert, repentance,prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

  • Julia B

    The reporter must have deleted some of the good fathers comments. A fast for 40 days also includes not eating as much – the lunch and dinner should not equal an whole meal. But only for peole who don’t have physical requirements necessitating the regular-size meals – children, the elderly and those who perform heavy labor.

    • CRS

      And don’t forget the pregnant! Limiting food intake during pregnancy isn’t wise.

  • KyPerson

    Where I live, we get the obligatory Ash Wednesday and Good Friday stories, but nothing much else. Our priest has extra confession time and there are always people, but the newspaper doesn’t say anything about it.

  • Charles Lewis

    As a former mainstream journalist I can say I cared. But whether my editors cared… that’s another story. To many editors stories about Lent just don’t seem very interesting. And maybe they’re right. Lent is such a personal matter it may not translate into interesting copy. So where I wrote close to 1,000 stories on religion that covered the gamut I never thought of a story about Lent. However I did do stories about the Resurrection and hope and redemption as well as religion news. This blog is an example. I was thrilled to let a mainstream paper to write in such a way. The issue is not really lent but how seriously religion is displayed.

    http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/04/19/charles-lewis-easter-is-the-craziest-time-of-them-all/

  • Michael Newhouse

    Jesus didn’t fast for 40 days before Calvary. That was after his baptism, before he began his public ministry.
    And Lent isn’t “symbolic”…it’s the actual 40 days before the Easter Triduum (including our commemoration of Christ’s death on Good Friday).
    And no mention that it is a penitential season of preparation…of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
    Sheesh.

    • FW Ken

      Thank you. That is what I was trying to say above. Unfortunately, unlike you, I can’t write my way out of a paper bag.

  • Charles Cosimano

    one minor detail. Associate Press style does not matter if you are not writing for Associated Press.

    • Brett

      In J-school and at all three of the papers where I worked, we used the AP Stylebook. It’s pretty widespread.

  • blindjoedeath

    “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they ate popcorn shrimp at a fried chicken place, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—-of whom the world was not worthy”

    You, sir are a holy martyr!


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