The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
ATHER James Jackson, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, recently wrote a book entitled “Nothing Superfluous.” In the book, Father explains the minutest details of the prayers and ceremonies of the Traditional Latin Mass, demonstrating there’s a reason for each and every prayer, gesture and rubric. In other words: nothing is superfluous. Other authors—especially the Benedictine Abbot Prosper Guéranger and Dr. Pius Parsch—have done much the same in regard to the Liturgical seasons of the Church. Most of the authors in the past had a reverential respect of what had gone on in the past. It was only the iconoclastic ‘destructionists’ of the post-conciliar era whose only goal seems to be destroying as much of the past as could possibly be done.
Among the unscathed: For whatever reason this second Sunday of Lent was spared the destroying angels. As far back as liturgical history allows us to go, this Sunday (the Second Sunday of Lent) was always reserved for our Lord’s apparition to his three apostles on Mount Tabor: what we know as THE TRANSFIGURATION.
The reason: Now the reason seems to be that our Lord wanted to prepare them for the ordeal that He would soon undergo—to strengthen their faith in Him, giving them courage not to desert Him. I don’t intend to dwell on this point, but it didn’t work too well with Peter (who denied Him), and we don’t hear of him being around when our Lord was actually condemned to death and crucified. In fact the only one who stood by the Cross was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
The focus: But I don’t really want to make that the focus of today’s topic. Stated quite briefly and bluntly, when Our Lord appeared to those apostles, they were for a brief period of time enjoying what we hopefully will be enjoying forever in heaven. Theologians call this the beatific vision. It is hard to describe, because it is trying to describe heaven to us here on earth, and we just have nothing to compare it to. And I will admit that it takes a lot of faith to believe in heaven and really want to go there. But we certainly don’t want the alternative. Often when people talk about heaven, they will speak about it in very human terms. Yes, we will see our relatives and loved ones. And if you need that pet dog or parakeet to make you happy, I’m sure God can provide it. But really, we’ll be so absorbed in God that other things won’t enter our radar.
Why at this time: Why are we reminded of heaven at this time of the year? Because it’s the best reason we can have for trying to live a really good Lent. I know there can be better and more spiritual reasons, also. But unfortunately it is also true: Few people would be interested in going to heaven if there were no hell. Lent is a good time to show what kind of Catholic we really are.
Fasting: Fasting—that is to say, usually not eating meat at all or restricting the use of meat and limiting the amount of food eaten—has always been part of this observance. In the past, the requirements were significantly more demanding, but now the Church has placed the “obligatory part” at a rather low minimum. My own opinion in this regard is that this is of little consequence: one is still free to fast and abstain as much as one wants. And I really think there is more merit and it is more pleasing to God when one fasts out of love for God (voluntarily), rather than when one does it only out of obligation. Again, I am not here to argue. I just think it is better to fast voluntarily, rather than just to avoid committing a grave sin. The same holds for going to Mass when one doesn’t have to.
Caution: I have two pieces of advice, though, when it comes to fasting and abstaining. First, if you do voluntarily fast and/or abstain from meat, don’t judge others who don’t: they might be doing some kind of penance that is way harder, something you don’t know about. Also, in regard to fasting, don’t go fasting if that is going to make you crabby and hard to live with. Other people should not have to suffer because you are fasting!
Conclusion: The Church and spiritual writings have long recommended that we do more of three things during Lent: First, there is prayer. What we do is up to us. It can be attending Vespers, which is a very God-centered form of praying. A wonderful thing is spending an hour of adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I’m not going through a Litany of all the ways you might do some extra praying. Second, there is fasting. This is now practically all voluntary, in other words, you don’t have to. But you still can. And your doing so indicates a greater love of God. The third is alms-giving. This too can take many shapes and forms. My suggestion is that you do something to help a person, especially an elderly person, who is living on a very fixed income…and maybe slip them an occasional ten or twenty. This would mean so much to them, and probably would not even seriously damage the financial situation of the giver. If you can do this anonymously, fine—if not, that’s alright, too. Of course you can contribute to other worthy causes, also. All of these are suggestions. I would not want a gift if it came from someone who thought he had to give it to me. I don’t think our good and generous God does either. +