Monday, December 30, 2013

US Bishops Propose New Year's Resolution

You might have missed this, but at their November meeting the United States Bishops approved a concept that probably ought to be recommended to every Catholic as a New Year's Resolution.

This recommended resolution is a call to a weekly day of fasting, along with a commitment to prayer on a regular basis (daily Rosary, monthly Holy Hour) for special intentions related to life, families and religious liberty.

Every week a different special intention is announced, and an information bulletin offers additional information, suggested prayers and more, so the prayer and fasting can be informed, focused and ongoing, and not just a vague, easily forgotten resolution. This is part of a movement, so Catholics can find support, encouragement and motivation in the larger community of those who are taking part.

Last year, the bishops of England and Wales reinstated the common Friday penance of abstinence from meat, inviting Catholics to take up this practice together. I remember when this was mandatory--and for many, it must have been rather perfunctory. In the 1960's the bishops thought it would be more spiritually fruitful for people to choose a personal penitential practice to honor our Lord's death every Friday. Instead, the weekly remembrance of the Cross went out with the fish sticks and tuna casseroles. I think the US bishops are taking a good approach, inviting us to reclaim something from our tradition--a unifying identity marker, to be sure, but by intensifying it (fasting and abstinence--that's what we are only "obliged" to do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and making it a weekly, conscious intention and not a blanket mandate, the bishops are really calling us to the "grown-up" approach their predecessors had expected to see 40 years ago.

What is your take on this recommendation? Will you include it among your resolutions for 2014?


Dennis Babson said...

I think it's a great idea. However, as a vegetarian I have a suggestion to others of my kind: Abstain from something you enjoy. For example, I dearly love toast for breakfast, and have a sweet tooth. So, basically I give up flour and sugar for Fridays.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Great, Dennis! That's the spirit!