Annual Lent Fight!

In my previous post I said we’d look more closely at Pope Benedict’s statement in his new book concerning Jewish people and how they are not collectively responsible for the death of Christ. We will get to that, but in view of the fact that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, I decided to use today’s post as an occasion to provide information about Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, which follows it.

Over on my personal blog ( I have hosted for many years a collection of posts on this subject. Together, they are known as the Annual Lent Fight—because many of these questions have been disputed (at times harshly).

This is because there are a lot of popular ideas (read: legends) out there about Lent, often based on attempts to summarize the Church’s law in a popular manner that ends up slightly misstating it.

If you want a careful reading of what the Church’s documents actually saw, check out the material in the Annual Lent Fight.

Is Lent really 40 days long—or is that a traditional and biblically resonant number that is attached to the days of Lent, though current documents indicate a different literal period of time?

How much food can be eaten on days of abstinence? Do you have to measure the size of the “two smaller meals” you often hear about to make sure they don’t add up to a full meal? And how would you measure that anyway? Calories? Volume? Mass? Something else?

Do caloric beverages count toward this total?

What can be eaten on days of abstinence? Do you have to avoid animal fat? Why don’t eggs and fish count as meat? Is it true that the pope was trying to protect the Italian fishing industry by allowing fish? What about eating mammals like capybaras?

Do you have to give something up for Lent? And if you do, can you have it on Sundays?

Of course, keeping the spirit of Lent means going beyond what the letter of the law mandates. A minimalistic observation of Lent focused on the least one can get away with is contrary to the orientation toward spiritual growth that the season is meant to provide.

But that’s no excuse for getting the law wrong—or for failing to grapple with the questions people have about it.

And so, let the Annual Lent Fight begin!

To prepare yourself for the Annual Lent Fight, please check out the following links:









What do you think?