Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Shrove Tuesday

It is Shrove Tuesday, and there will be pancakes in the Historical House. More importantly there will be bacon because the Latin Catholic McLeans are not giving up eggs and milk for Lent. The whole point to eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was to use up any milk and eggs in the house, for apparently once upon a time Catholics went vegan at Lent. Eastern Catholics still sort of do.

It is also, of course, Mardi Gras, and the Catholic Encyclopedia is indulgent on the topic: "It is intelligible enough that before a long period of deprivations human natures should allow itself some exceptional licence in the way of frolic and good cheer."

Frolic! Hooray! Still, it said "frolic" not "license." Healthy frolic probably includes eating three Polish doughnuts on Fat Thursday, but not the sexual hi-jinks traditional in, say, nineteenth century Germany.

Interestingly, Carnival (literally, "Good-bye to meat") has stretched from Fat Thursday to Ash Wednesday in many countries, so we ought to participate in frolic and good cheer for six whole days. Indeed, I think this is a tradition Roman Catholics should take up again although naturally without the gross excesses of what the C.E. calls "southern climes." (Surely those "southern climes" should be understood to include Bavaria.) The C.E. says English celebrations of carnival involved football, so perhaps the boisterous Celtic fans shouting in the streets of Edinburgh on Sunday were within their rights after all.

Naturally, the Catholic Encyclopedia, like Father Z, mentions this as time in which people were told to go to confession and--interestingly--consult with their confessor about their Lenten penances. Even small children in my Catholic elementary school were encouraged to chose their own penances--asceticism had not yet gone out of fashion. (Nowadays asceticism is all too often declared useless in itself, and the only point of it in the mind of many a western priest is to save the money usually spent on luxuries to give to the poor.) Generally we said we would give up sweets or television, and pint-sized comedians declared that they would give up going to church.

Priests taking it upon themselves to advise on what to give up are not always popular. My mother once reported that one of the priests visited upon her parish instructed the women to give up all beauty products and give the money saved to the poor. My mother did not report what he suggested to the men although one hopes he told them not to tell their wives how haggy they look and how smelly they smell during Lent. Still, traddy points to the priest for his old school attitude towards cosmetics.

Incidentally, Saint Thomas Aquinas felt cosmetics should be used only to disguise deformity, and since we would all be supremely beautiful were it not for the Fall, surely that is what we are doing when we use the stuff, yes?

1 comment:

  1. I once gave up cosmetics for Lent, and - what was even worse - gave up colouring my hair for it, too. I was working at home and didn't have to go out much, so the no-makeup issue wasn't that much of a problem. I didn't give the money that I saved to the poor; my point in choosing my penance was to make myself less preoccupied with my appearance. I'm not sure that it quite worked, at that. But it was certainly a mortification of the flesh to see my ruddy cheeks, broken capillaries and under-eye shadows for weeks on end, not to mention my grey roots.

    I confess that I probably would not appreciate a priest telling me to do such a thing, though, unless he were my spiritual director.

    Alias Clio