Preparing for Lent, praying for life

Fr. Patrick Allen of CCCCC (Corpus Christi Catholic Community, Charleston) writes:

Today we begin the little season of Pre-Lent, or “Shrovetide,” because it culminates in Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday (10 February this year) and the beginning of Lent proper. Pre-Lent is a kind of warm-up for Lent, in which we prepare ourselves – mentally, emotionally, liturgically – to keep a holy Lent, so that we may then enter fully into our annual remembrance of those mighty works whereby God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself.

Pre-Lent is marked by the succession of the three Sundays leading to Lent, named for the number of days (roughly counting) until Easter: Septuagesima (70 – this Sunday), Sexagesimas (60), and Quinquagesima (50). Pre-Lent was part of the calendar of the Roman Rite until the post-Conciliar reforms of 1970, and in the traditional Anglican Prayer Book tradition as well (see, for instance, 1662 Church of England BCP or the 1928 American BCP). Pre-Lent has been restored in the Roman Rite in the calendar of the Ordinariates, and while fasting waits for Lent, it is marked by a penitential, supplicatory tone in the prayers and minor propers (the chants) of the Mass, and most noticeably by a change to purple vesture, the omission of the Gloria from Mass, and the replacement of the Alleluia and verse with a “Tract” at the Gospel. The Collect for Septuagesima captures the tone and themes of Pre-Lent well:

O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people: that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

If you’d like to know more about the history and character of Pre-Lent, Fr. Bradley has written a customarily thorough and informative article on the subject here, with special reference to its place in the devotion of the Ordinariates.

Again, Pre-Lent presupposes a serious and holy Lent. So I urge you to take advantage of this gift to our devotion in the Ordinariates, and to begin to think and pray about your Lenten fasting, additional devotions and disciplines and works of charity you might take on, and to enter in to Lent with seriousness and intentionality. Of course, the best way to do this is to prepare for Mass with seriousness and intentionality – and joy!

22 January is the anniversary of the tragic Roe v Wade decision and Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, and also the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. (significantly curtailed this year due to the severe winter storm). To assist your prayers and meditation, and to spur all of us to works of love and mercy on behalf of the unborn and women who find themselves in difficult and seemingly hopeless situations, I’m pasting in below a short piece by Amy Welborn, “Teach Your Children Well,” that speaks to the heart-breaking truth of abortion and its devastating effect on all children.

God bless you!
Fr. Allen

I once spoke at a Catholic parish on behalf of the cause – the pro-life cause, that is. I chose my words carefully, as I always do: Uncompromising and compassionate was the tone I strove for, because that’s the way I feel.

After Mass, a woman approached me, balancing a toddler astride one hip and holding a slightly older child by the hand.

“I really like your talk,” she began, and as her voice trailed off, I could sense a “but” hanging in the air.

Sure enough.

“But, ” she continued, glancing at her children, “I just don’t like my kids hearing about abortion. I try to protect them from things like that, and I’d hope that when I brought them to Mass, I wouldn’t be put in this situation.”

Before I could answer, she rushed on: “See, we’re expecting another baby, and they’re so excited. It upsets them to know that some people don’t want their babies.”

I understood this woman’s concern, because I’ve lived with it myself for many years. I protected my children from knowledge about that horrific thing called abortion for as long as possible, but you know, when my oldest finally asked me about it directly, it turns out he was just looking for confirmation of information he’d heard elsewhere. Although legal abortion is a quarter-century old and is performed with horrifying frequency, it’s still something we feel children shouldn’t know about.

Doesn’t that tell us something?

The reason we protect them from knowledge about abortion is not only because of what it is, but also from how we sense this reality will affect children and their self-understanding. After all, remember how we teach children about pregnancy and childbirth? When small children ask “Where did I come from?” we usually answer something like:

“Mommy and Daddy made you with God’s first you were very smalll and you lived in Mommy’s stomach. For mine months you grew and grew. You didn’t look like a baby at the very first, but it was still you….Mommy could feel you kick and move and so metimes we’d even talk to you through Mom’s tummy! Finally you came out so we could hold you in our arms and love you right here and right now.”

Notice who the center of that conversation is? Not “a pregnancy.” Not “a fetus,” and not even just any old baby, but a very special “YOU!”

When we tell children about the beginnings of life, we make it clear that their lives began long before they were born. Their identities as a unique “you” were established from the very beginning.

So, when children hear about what abortion is, they are horrified, not just by the thought of babies being killed- and what other way is there to explain it- but also by fears about the solidity of their own existence. One can only imagine the toll of that nagging, subconscious understanding that a generation buries deep within when it knows its first home was a very dangerous place, no longer a place where they were first accepted, loved and rejoiced over, but a place that those more powerful than they studied, weighing whether or not they deserved to continue living.

Yes, abortion is disturbing to children, and perhaps we should get the message and learn something from our little ones.

When we explain anything to children, we have to put it in simple terms, accessible to them through their own experience of the world. So when we answer the question, “What’s abortion?” we are forced to say it like it is, because none of the euphemisms would make any sense to them.

We have to pronounce horrifying words and describe unimaginable acts.

And then we have to tell them why it happens.

And then we have to tell them why we’re not stopping it, why babies are being killed next Saturday morning at that building we pass on our way to the grocery store.

And all the while, we have to look into their eyes.

And we have to explain.

Amy Welborn

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