"Brethren: Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it." (1 Cor. 9:24)
Septuagesima70: Our Practices
Penance is intended to be the joy of the Christian, the means by which to join ourselves in freedom and willingly with the suffering of Our Lord. For too many it is simply the most enormous burden. Lent is a time to attack this attitude and to really engage with the Church’s Lenten discipline so that, post-Lent, regular penance can be a part of our Christian lives, if it is not already. So the intention in Septuagesima70 is to hit it hard. Alas, however, we are weak men, despite our readiness to ‘storm the bastions’ we are too often brought down by our own frailty.
So... Our Penance(s) will be divided into three separate periods:
Period One: From Septuagesima until first Sunday of Lent
Period Two: From First Sunday of Lent until Passion Sunday
Period Three: Passion Sunday and Holy Week
We will enter deeper into our penances as we approach to the ‘Week of Weeks’ Holy Week.
First Period: Septuagesima until First Sunday of Lent
From Septuagesima, historically, the Church has asked the faithful to begin to prepare for the rigors of Lent and the Lenten fast. Historically, this was a time to finish off all the chocolate in the house, the eggs, the butter, the dairy, the red meat. In earlier times the seasons – especially in the Northern Hemisphere – made this relatively easy (there weren’t too many vegetables above the ground when snow lay upon it) and the Church adopted these practices and Christianised them.
So this Septuagesima we will begin until the First Sunday of Lent with:
- Daily Meditation (Hamon’s Meditations. This will appear daily on this blog)
- One small penance offering – it could be chocolate/dessert/coffee/alcohol
- The Creation of a small money box for your almsgiving offerings during Lent
- Weekly colloquy: exhortation from the chaplain and group discussion
- Reading of the martyrology (provided on this blog) daily, ideally after the Grace before Meals of the evening meal.
The weekly colloquys will also commence from Wednesday 8 February 2023 for the men, and will continue right through the rest of the weeks up to and including Holy Week. These provide participants with an opportunity to explain the system and to ask questions about the Septuagesima70, to explain difficulties and seek answers, and also to some ‘general housekeeping’. So put that date in your diary (Women will meet on Thursdays). A link will appear on the blog inviting you to a zoom meeting.
There will be four opportunities to join the Colloquys (making allowances for our overseas friends, who can perhaps provide the timing where they are). Men Wednesdays at 7.30pm EST (or 8.30pm EDST) in Australia, Thursdays 10.30am (or 7.30pm Wednesday USA Eastern). Women will have their zoom meetings on Thursdays at 7.30pm EST (or 8.30pm EDST) Fridays 10.30am (or 7.30pm Thursday USA Eastern). That all sounds complicated, but there are two occasions basically for Men and two occasions for women. After the first week this will become obvious.
Second Period: First Sunday of Lent until Passion Sunday
NB: Lent will begin in earnest on the First Sunday in Lent (Ash Wednesday the days following were considered special fast days but traditionally Lent began on the First Sunday). You will need to prepare yourself that in these Lenten practices there are no ‘days off’ on the Sunday. Indeed there are ‘days off’ but they are only on the First Class Feasts in Lent. This means our practices are going to continue, generally without ceasing, right through the Lenten 40 days, including Sundays. We will continue the practices already begun (Daily meditation, Martyrology, weekly colloquys etc.) and add some additional common practices for the beginning of Lent...
Our Common Practices will include
Us ‘Leaving behind for Lent’
- All juices and sweet drinks
- All desserts
- Non sacred music
- Social Media
- Watching Sport
- Screen time
- Eating between meals
- Warm showers
- Milk and sugar in our coffee or tea
It is important that in considering the above you look for the area where you have the most attachment and challenge yourselves in these Lenten days precisely there.
We will ‘take up’ the following:
- Some form of strenuous exercise for a few hours a week
- Obtain 7-8 hours sleep each night
- Fasting on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
- Weekly Confession (where practicable)
- Daily Mass where possible.
- A daily hour of Meditation and prayer (this can include Mass but a meditation text will be given and is to be read daily. Other devotional practices can be included in the hour such as daily rosary).
- Morning and Evening Prayer (the small fixed morning and evening prayer from Hamon’s Meditations is one suggestion, or the liturgy of the Church)
- A daily examination of conscience before bed.
- A weekly colloquy on Wednesdays (Men) and Thursdays (Women) (beginning Wednesday 8 February 2023 until the Wednesday of Holy Week)
- A regular contribution to a “Septuagesima70” money box which will be then be given to a charity of your choice, at the end of our experience. We will add to the box our “savings” money not spent on food, a monetary penalty if we fail on our commitments, money for swearing etc.
There is no doubt that the above is challenging, there is no doubt. It so happens, however, that those who did this last year, after pushing themselves, especially in Passiontide, returned to tell us “how wonderful Easter was, having prepared for it, and with the mind of the Church and her liturgy, by doing Septuagesima70.
While it might seem hard, many of these practices were those that the Church and her ministers used to recommend to all the faithful, even as recently as a century ago. Many of our Eastern Brethren continue to observe practices like this, and more. Islam, with its Ramadan, adopts a similar, if not even more demanding, regime.
This can be done people! I promise you, over 6 weeks your health will not be affected adversely! Indeed, it may be greatly improved by having increased sleep, exercise, and healthy eating particularly of natural foods and pulses (artificial supplements are not advised).
Please note we will relax our penances entirely when there is a first class Feast that falls in Lent, such as St. Joseph, St. Patrick, Annunciation etc. in line with the Church’s liturgical year. (You will be advised accordingly).
Third Period: Passion Sunday until Easter Vigil, including Holy Week
We will really direct our penances in the final two weeks of Lent, and especially in Holy Week. In addition to the above common practices we will adopt total abstinence from meat, fish and oil in the final two weeks. This is the true Lenten fast and we will try adopting it only in these last two weeks, not the entire period. Veggies, veggies, veggies. As much bread as you like. Just simple fare, to remind us of the luxuries we take for granted, and to do penance for our sins, as Our Lord goes to His Cross. Ideally, if daily Mass has not been happening, we will aim to get to daily Mass in this period in addition to our regular Holy Hour.
Having an Intention:
A key plank of the Septuagesima70 programme is ‘not to waste’ your penances. Have an intention for these penances – a soul that may have lapsed from the faith, a relative who is ill, your own sanctification, etc. – and this will act also as a motivator when temptations to ‘give up’ arrive, because the Devil will ensure that they will.
Septuagesima Discussion Group & communication
Feel free to join the Septuagesima Discussion group via the Telegram App.
You will find members from previous years there as well as Dylan and occasionally Fr Withoos. This can be a place to communicate and ask questions, which has been useful in previous years.
People can also contact Dylan or Fr Withoos for general enquiries via this website or Dylan by email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Accountability: Fr. Withoos the Chaplain
In order to ensure that all of us are not tempted by the devil to ‘do whatever I want’ it shall be possible to change any or all of the practices in discussion with Fr. Withoos, or any of the other priest participants (where there are any).
Some may find it difficult, for example, to do all of the requested penances, or, for example to do one in particular, say, having cold showers. Alternatively someone may have a particular reason why they cannot do this, or that. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. In Septuagesima70 it is possible to develop a regime of penances or prayers that is tailor made, simply by referring a particular request to do so to the chaplain. (This can be done quite simply by direct message - or a telephone call - in the Telegram app). In this way, changes are brought into the external forum, and then, subsequently, I can remain accountable to changes that have been agreed.
In addition there may be reasons, or occasions, where an amelioration to the penances for a day or evening or period of time, may be necessary. For example, a birthday party is held for you by family during the Lenten period. One simply requests of the chaplain, by direct message, a dispensation - which are freely given and a substitute penance suggested.
The chaplain is there to assist you also in a private capacity. Should you like to talk to a priest, please do not hesitate to contact Fr. Withoos by direct message in the App.
A Final Exhortation: And everyone in a contest abstains from all things - and they indeed to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable. I, therefore, so run as not without a purpose; I so fight as not beating the air; but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected. (1 Cor. 9:27)
You can do this! Let us chastise our body so as to win the prize. To rise with Him this Easter... In Our Blessed Lord and Our Blessed Lady,
Fr. Withoos Dylan Shogren