Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Lent with the Saints
The St Jean Vianney Diet
Hungry? Why not indulge yourself with some mouldy potatoes, washed down with lashings of rainwater that you've collected in your sweaty boots. Hmmm...delicious!
Looking for ways to do penance, mortify the flesh and remember the purification of purgatory? What better way to impose upon yourself some exterior penance by standing in cold water, supported by the prayers of St Cuthbert, who stood waist deep in the North Sea chanting the Psalter. Standing in cold water is a great start to your day. Why not take a laminated copy of the Psalm 51 into the shower with you and gradually reduce your shower from hot to lukewarm to cold, or if you're really hardcore, take it cold from the beginning. Nothing is guaranteed but it could potentially help a soul on their climb out of Purgatory if you ask nicely.
If you are unfortunate enough to have snow in April, then you might want to consider running out of your house and rolling about in the snow, subduing your earthly passions and making reparation for violations against purity. No snow in your area? Then there's really nothing you can do, short of finding yourself with the perfect excuse for a skiing holiday, even if you can't actually ski.
After years of neglect, the cilice is making a big comeback. Having been ridiculed by the portrayal of the psycho albino monk in The Da Vinci Code, Catholics are reclaiming the cilice as their own, knowing that a little bit of pain and discomfort is a thorn in the enemy of self-love. Works well in tandem with the hairshirt. How uncomfortable is it? I don't know, I don't think I want to know, but I believe that this kind of religious paraphernalia is available in Kemptown, Brighton on a road called St James's Street. While wearing your cilice over Lent, invite your Opus Dei friends round for a cilice and celery evening and pour fastidiously over the writings of the founder.
The Health and Safety Executive would never recommend this, but St Benedict overcame his sexual desires by befriending a thorn bush and spending time getting close to it. Start off with privet hedges and work your way up, but I don't envy you. There is no easy way of re-creating the thorn bush embraced by St Benedict in the comfort of your own home. Every now and then, when you see one, just hug a berberis.
Alternatively to all of these penances, varying in pain, discomfort and bodily mortification, endure over an hour of excruciating agony with Fr Ray Blake of Brighton and watch this. If you aren't absolutely 'mortified' after you've watched that video, then something has gone seriously wrong in your spiritual life over the period of Lent. After watching that, you will consider taking upon yourself any form of suffering and consider it mild because countless souls are in grave danger thanks to this kind of liturgical abuse and the shameless abasement of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that continues to take place in the Universal Church. After that, you will offer up every penance for the intentions of the Holy Father, the reform of the liturgy, the defence of the Most Holy Faith and for the salvation of souls and consider every form of suffering a joy for the Lord.
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