Ordinary Time: February 16th
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Other Commemorations: St. Juliana (RM); St. Onesimus (RM)
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is a celebration marking the time until the start of the penitential season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting and penance through a period of 40 days until Easter. The time after Epiphany until Lent begins is often referred to as "Carnival" when Catholics and others celebrate with festivities before the time of penance.But the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday has several traditional names. In the United States, it is most commonly known as Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, tying in the tradition of consuming foods containing animal fat before the beginning the traditional harsh Lenten fast. The season of "Mardi Gras" or Carnival begins after Epiphany and ends midnight of Fat Tuesday, with many hosting their own carnivals or parties. The largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States takes place in New Orleans. Tying in with theme of "Fat Tuesday" and consuming the animal fats, some countries, including England and Ireland, celebrate Pancake Day by consuming pancakes. For centuries, it has been a tradition to eat pancakes or other foods made with butter, eggs and fat, which would be given up during Lent.Another traditional name is Shrove Tuesday, from the old English word shrive, meaning to confess all sins. Catholics usually prepare for Lent by spiritually removing themselves of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Ash Wednesday. No matter the name, the day before Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the sacrifice that is to come in the next 40 days. We also are reminded of the sacrifices Jesus made as he fasted and prayed for 40 days after his Baptism and before the beginning of his ministry. Catholics are encouraged to fast, pray and confess sins during this penitential season. --Adapted from the Archdiocese of St. Louis
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 without reminders, etc.
- 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.
In 1958, Pope Pius XII declared the Holy Face of Jesus a movable feast on Shrove Tuesday. Devotion to the Holy Face was revealed by Jesus to Sister Marie of St. Peter (1816-1848) a Carmelite nun of Tours in France. The primary purpose of the devotion is to make reparation for sins against the first three commandments. See this article for more information.
St. Juliana suffered martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution. Both the Latin and Greek Churches mention a holy martyr Juliana in their lists of saints. The oldest historical notice of her is found in the "Martryologium Hieronymianum" for 16 February, the place of birth being given as Cumae in Campania (In Campania Cumbas, natale Julianae). It is true that the notice is contained only in the one chief manuscript of the above-named martyrology (the Codex Epternacensis), but that this notice is certainly authentic is clear from a letter of St. Gregory the Great, which testifies to the special veneration of St. Juliana in the neighbourhood of Naples. A pious matron named Januaria built a church on one of her estates, for the consecration of which she desired relics (sanctuaria, that is to say, objects which had been brought into contact with the graves) of Sts. Severinus and Juliana. Gregory wrote to Fortunatus, Bishop of Naples, telling him to accede to the wishes of Januaria (Gregorii Magni epist., lib. IX, ep. xxxv, in Migne P.L., LXXXVII, 1015).
St. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, an influential man who had been converted by St. Paul. Onesimus offended Philemon and fled in order to escape any sort of retribution. He then met St. Paul while Paul was in a Roman prison. Shortly after, Onesimus was baptized.