The Lenten Life: Falling and Getting Back Up Again

The Lenten Life: Falling and Getting Back Up Again February 25, 2015

imagesA Catholic parish near our home features this on their home page, front and center:

Lenten and Triduum regulations 2015

These are the 2015 Lenten and Triduum regulations:


The holy season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

Masses on Ash Wednesday will be offered at 8 am 12:10 pm and 7 pm.

Both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, April 03, are days of abstinence from meat for all who are 14 years and older. They are also days of fast (one full meal and two small meals, with nothing eaten between the meals) for adults from 18 to 59 years of age.


All Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat for those 14 years and older.

Finally, if you have any questions, please contact the Parish Center Office.

Regulations?  One full meal and two small meals?  Stipulated ages?  Yikes.

I found myself wondering, what would happen if I called the Parish Office and said, “I have a question.  What happens if I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?”

I don’t think that this kind of instruction is necessarily characteristic of the Catholic Church.  I checked the websites of some other nearby Catholic parishes and I didn’t see the word regulation anywhere.  What I saw, instead, was the language of invitation.

Across the Christian tradition, the language of “regulation” has never completely slipped from view.  There will always be churches that rely on rules to insure righteousness.  But, it doesn’t of course.  It produces three kinds of people: those fearfully compliant; those who rebel; and those who are tormented by failure.

The path out of that experience is different for each group:  For the fearfully compliant, spiritual health can only be achieved by trusting God, rather than their performance.  For the rebellious, well being lies in discovering that a relationship with God need not be shaped by rules and that conforming to rules is not God’s goal.

For those who are tormented by failure, it’s the promise that you can always get back up:

A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes.  —Sayings of the Desert Fathers

If you find yourself struggling this Lent with the burden of regulations, let them go.  And when you fall, get back up again.  God will help.

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