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Ordinary Time: February 12th
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
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Other Titles: Mardi Gras; Plentone; Carnival; Fastelaven; Collup Monday; Carnevale; Shrove Tuesday; Fat Tuesday
Today is the day before Ash Wednesday, called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Traditionally, it is the last day for Christians to indulge before the sober weeks of fasting that come with Lent. Formally known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras has long been a time of extravagant fun for European Christians. In many southern states of the USA Mardi Gras is a traditional holiday. The most famous celebration takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. It has been celebrated there on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since French settlers arrived in the early 1700s.
On April 17th, 1958, His Holiness Pope Pius XII confirmed the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus on Shrove Tuesday (Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all the dioceses and religious orders who would ask for the Indult from Rome in order to celebrate it. You can learn more about this devotion at Holy Face Devotion
and at the Holy Face Association
According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of Seven Founders of the Servite Order. Their feast in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is celebrated on February 17th. Historically today is the feast of St. Eulalia the most celebrated virgin martyr of Spain. She was a native of Merida, thirteen years of age, and was burnt at the stake in her native city under Diocletian.
Prudentius has celebrated the triumph of this holy virgin who was a native of Merida, then the capital city of Lusitania in Spain now a declining town in Estremadura, the archiepiscopal dignity having been translated to Compostella. Eulalia, descended from one of the best families in Spain, was educated in the Christian religion, and in sentiments of perfect piety, from her infancy distinguished herself by an admirable sweetness of temper, modesty, and devotion, showed a great love of the holy state of virginity, and by her seriousness and her contempt of dress, ornaments diversions, and worldly company, gave early proofs of her sincere desire to lead on earth a heavenly life. Her heart was raised above the world before she was thought capable of knowing it, so that its amusements, which usually fill the minds of young persons, had no charms for her, and every day of her life made an addition to her virtues.
She was but twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Dioclesian were issued, by which it was ordered that all persons, without exception of age, sex, or profession, should be compelled to offer sacrifice to the gods of the empire. Eulalia, young as she was, took the publication of this order for the signal of battle; but her mother, observing her impatient ardor for martyrdom, carried her into the country. The saint found means to make her escape by night, and after much fatigue arrived at Merida before break of day. As soon as the court sat, the same morning, she presented herself before the cruel judge, whose name was Dacianus, and reproached him with impiety in attempting to destroy souls, by compelling them to renounce the only true God. The governor commanded her to be seized, and first employing caresses, represented to her the advantages which her birth, youth and fortune gave her in the world, and the grief which her disobedience would bring to her parents. Then he had recourse to threats, and caused the most dreadful instruments of torture to be placed before her eyes, saying to her, "All this you shall escape if you will but touch a little salt and frankincense with the tip of your finger."
Provoked at these seducing flatteries, she threw down the idol, trampled upon the cake which was laid for the sacrifice, and, as Prudentius relates, spat at the judge; an action only to be excused by her youth and inattention under the influence of a warm zeal, and fear of the snares which were laid for her. At the judge's order two executioners began to tear her tender sides with iron hooks, so as to leave the very bones bare. In the mean time she called the strokes so many trophies of Christ. Next, lighted torches were applied to her breasts and sides: under which torment, instead of groans, nothing was heard from her mouth but thanksgivings. The fire at length catching her hair, surrounded her head and face, and the saint was stifled by the smoke and flame. Prudentius tells us, that a white dove seemed to come out of her mouth, and to wing its way upward when the holy martyr expired: at which prodigy the executioners were so much terrified that they fled and left the body.
A great snow that fell covered it and the whole forum where it lay; which circumstance shows that the holy martyr suffered in winter. The treasure of her relics was carefully entombed by the Christians near the place of her martyrdom: afterwards a stately church was erected on the spot, and the relics were covered by the altar which was raised over them, before Prudentius wrote his hymn on the holy martyr in the fourth century He assures us that "pilgrims came to venerate her bones; and that she, near the throne of God, beholds them, and, being made propitious by hymns, protects her clients. Her relics are kept with great veneration at Oviedo, do, where she is honored as patroness. The Roman Martyrology mentions her name on the 10th of December.
Excerpted from Butler's Lives of the SaintsPatron:
Merida, Spain; Oviedo, Spain, runaways; torture victims; widowsSymbols:
Maiden with a cross, stake, and dove; naked maiden lying in the snow
Preparing for Lent
No Lent is worthy of the name without a personal effort of self-reformation, of leading a life more in accordance with God's commands and an attempt by some kind of voluntary self-denial to make reparation for past negligence. But the Church, together with the personal effort which she requires of all of us, her children, sets up in the sight of God the cross of Christ, the Lamb of God who took upon Himself the sins of man and who is the price of our redemption. As Holy Week approaches the thought of the passion becomes increasingly predominant until it occupies our whole attention, but from the very beginning of Lent it is present, for it is in union with the sufferings of Christ that the whole army of Christians begins on the holy "forty days", setting out for Easter with the glad certitude of sharing in His resurrection.
"Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation." The Church puts Lent before us in the very same terms that formerly she put it before the catechumens and public penitents who were preparing for the Easter graces of baptism and sacramental reconciliation. For us, as it was for them, Lent should be a long retreat, one in which under the guidance of the Church we are led to the practice of a more perfect Christian life. She shows us the example of Christ and by fasting and penance associates us with his sufferings that we may have a share in His redemption.
We should remember that Lent is not an isolated personal affair of our own. The Church avails herself of the whole of the mystery of redemption. We belong to an immense concourse, a great body in which we are united to the whole of humanity which has been redeemed by Christ. The liturgy of this season does not fail to remind us of it.
This, then, is the meaning of Lent for us: a season of deepening spirituality in union with the whole Church which thus prepares to celebrate the Paschal mystery. Each year, following Christ its Head, the whole Christian people takes up with renewed effort its struggle against evil, against Satan and the sinful man that each one of us bears within himself, in order at Easter to draw new life from the very springs of divine life and to continue its progress towards heaven.
Excerpted from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal
Here are a few suggestions to help you celebrate the final day before Lent.
- Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras! Try some of the traditional recipes linked here. When eggs were among the foods that were forbidden by the Church during Lent, people would use them up on Fat Tuesday by mixing up large quantities of pancakes or doughnuts (also known as fastnachts).
- Read Maria von Trapp's explanation of the traditions associated with Carnival, or Fat Tuesday here.
- Sing this American favorite, Turkey in the Straw, with your children as part of your Mardi Gras celebrations.
- Discuss Jesus' Gospel teaching for today, He who would be first must be last, with your children and ask them how they can put others in the family before themselves. Keep it simple and practical — setting the table, washing the dishes, folding laundry, watching the littler ones, doing homework right away.
- What does it mean to become a child spiritually, that we may enter Heaven and be received by Christ Himself? We can learn much from St. Therese of the Child Jesus about spiritual childhood. Begin reading her Story of a Soul.
- Read Fr. William Saunder's article, Shrove Tuesday and Shrovetide, from the Catholic Culture Library.