Ordinary Time: February 17th
Optional Memorial of Seven Founders of the Order of Servites
Other Titles: Mardi Gras; Plentone; Carnival; Fastelaven; Collup Monday; Carnevale; Shrove Tuesday; Fat Tuesday
Today the liturgy honors seven noble Florentines who in the thirteenth century, at a time when Florence and all Italy was torn by civil strife, banded together to found, not far from Florence on Monte Senario, the Order of Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially dedicated to penance and meditation on the sorrows of our Lady in the passion of our Savior. This order was approved by the Holy See in 1304. One of the seven, Alexis Falconieri, died on this date in 1310. According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite this feast is celebrated on February 12.It is also 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.
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.
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.