Carnival: Feast Before the Fast

Lent is just around the corner, and as we all know, fasting for 40 days is not easy. In order to make the most out of this holy season, one needs to get ready ahead of time.

The first way to do this is by preparing ourselves physically. We can start by cleaning out the pantry. Long ago, when people didn’t have refrigerators to keep their food fresh, the days before Lent were considered the best time to consume the winter stores of butter and meat that would soon spoil.

Nowadays most people think of Carnival as a massive party in Rio de Janeiro, but carnival is actually derived from the Latin terms carne vale (farewell to meat) and carne levare (to remove meat), and based on this practice of cleaning out the cupboards. So consider using the eggs, milk, lard and meat in your kitchen to make something delicious, like hushpuppies with honey-butter as an appetizer, fried chicken or andouille sausage with red beans and rice as an entrée, and beignets with powdered sugar for dessert. This menu, inspired by the French Quarter in New Orleans, will make Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) a time of feasting before the fast.

The second step in laying the groundwork for Lent is to prepare ourselves spiritually.

Nowadays most people think of Lent as the time of year to go to confession, but this was not always the case. It’s rare, but every once in a while I hear some of our older friars refer to the days before Ash Wednesday as Shrovetide — a period during which priests heard countless confessions before the season of Lent began.

People lined up to be shriven (freed from guilt), because they knew it would make the fasting and penitential practices of Lent a little less rigorous if they weren’t already weighed down by their sins. One of the precepts of the Catholic Church is to go to confession at least once a year. Why wait until the middle of Lent when we can celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation beforehand?

It may not seem like much, but putting a little bit of effort into our planning for Lent can make a big difference. Who knows how the Lord will help us to grow closer to Him during this sacred season?