Yesterday I had an email exchange with a good friend who is also an ordained deacon â€” and a very good one! We had a short back and forth about the statement our Bishop released this week to remind Catholics in our diocese that the requirement to abstain from meat has been waived today. A quick look at the liturgical calendar tells us that today, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, a day we especially celebrate â€œMaryâ€™s yesâ€.
Catholicism 101: The Church celebrates today as a solemnity, and thus, in accordance with canon 1251, the requirement to observe the penitential practice of abstinence from meat is waived.
My comment to my friend: â€œIâ€™ll stick with my fasting.â€
His prompt response back: â€œIâ€™m having a steak! Because I can!â€
I didnâ€™t say it, but my initial reaction to his comment was, â€œWell, just because you can, doesnâ€™t mean you should.”
My friendâ€™s reaction, though, is very similar to how many Catholics are celebrating todayÂ . . . or at least the ones whose blogs I read or follow on Twitter. Many fellow Catholics seem to be a little over-consumed with joy because they can eat meat today. So what point am I missing?
I get that celebrating “Maryâ€™s yes” and Christâ€™s incarnation is a big deal. My favorite prayer is the Magnificat whose first words â€œMy soul proclaims the greatness of the Lordâ€ is a simple reminder that obeying Godâ€™s call can literally change the world. Of course, today should be celebrated in fine fashion!
I question, though, is the only way to celebrate todayâ€™s Solemnity by eating a steak . . . maybe some beef tips . . . or at long-last a special fast-free Friday version of a pork chop on a stick? How did we celebrate the feast last year, when it didnâ€™t fall on a Friday? Did it even really hit our radar given it fell on a Thursday?Â I can’t remember what I did, so that tells me I didn’t do anything particularly special.
Maybe the fact that the Annunciation has fallen on a Friday this Lent, when so many of us are talking about the fasting waiver, is a blessing. Beyond simply adding a meat dish to the dinner menu, I suspect many of the faithful and beyond have a greater awareness of the specialness of today and its importance to salvation history.
So I take back my gut reaction to my friend’s steak-eating plans. At least he has something special planned. When the day began, I hadn’t planned any celebratory events for my family.Â So Iâ€™ve been busy browsing my favorite Catholic websites and found some interesting ideas for how to celebrate the Annunciation. Here are two ideas from CatholicCulture.org:
- Celebrate Life! This feast is very important in the defense of the life of unborn children. Even with small children, this is a good day to begin teaching about the high value God places on human life.
My connection: The Iowa House is debating a bill that would ban abortions after 20-weeks of life. Iâ€™m going to call my state legislators and advocate for the bill’s passage out of the House so it can get to the Senate for debate.
- Waffles! â€œLady Day” or Annunciation, is the only feast of Mary that Sweden still celebrates since the Lutheran faith became the state religion in 1593. On the feast of the Annunciation in Sweden this is THE “Waffle Day.”
My connection: Breakfast for dinner! In honor of someone other than Catholics celebrating Mary, the waffle iron will be hot at Das Schmidt Haus tonight!
Finally, hereâ€™s something from the book Celebrating Saints and Seasons by Jeanne Hunt that resonated with me.
- Your Fiat? “What is God asking you to say yes to in your life? What quiet hope, impossible dream, do you keep deep within? Write the word YES on a piece of paper. On the other side write a statement of your dream. Now, spend some time with Mother Mary, and pray for her help in saying yes to your dream and God’s dream for you.â€
My connection: I pray often for the ability to say â€œYes!â€ with enthusiasm and â€œNo!â€ with conviction. This practice can only happen for me through prayerful discernment and frequent two-way communication with Jesus. Jeanneâ€™s suggestion is very specific and purposeful, and I can tape my prayer to the front cover of my journal as a tangible reminder to keep praying about the â€œyesâ€.
So there you have it, my Annunciation plans. Iâ€™m still planning on going meatless today, and not because Iâ€™m trying to be some super holy Catholic. Food is typically a near occasion of sin for me. So, I think it’ll be easier for me to continue my sacrifice and stay on the wagon with the Lenten practices Iâ€™ve incorporated into my routine for two weeks now.
How about you? What’s on your agenda today?