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Septuagesima70 

Septuagesima70: Our Practices

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)

 

Penance is intended to be the joy of the Christian, the means by which to join ourselves in freedom, willingly, with the suffering of Our Lord. For too many it is simply an 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 again become a part of our Christian lives, if it is not already. So the intention in Septuagesima70 is to hit penance hard. Alas, however, we are weak. Despite our readiness to ‘storm the bastions’ we are too often brought down by our own frailty, and struggle to get out of bed. Bastions just seem so difficult, so distant.

 

Therefore…let us embrace, in this year of Our Lord 2024, some of the Church’s ancient practices of her liturgical season which have been repackaged for us here under the name Septuagesima70.

 

This programme grew out of the experience of young Catholic friends with other “programmes” which are out there. When I looked into these I found that many lacked that understanding that Holy Mother Church always had for the weakness of men, how, very often, when penance was demanded, and seemed relentless, our Mother, the Church, even in her most demanding liturgical penitential seasons, seemed to understand that relentless penance, without “breaks” or “dispensations”, or without feasts, could break individuals and see them eventually run from it, rather than to it.

 

Septuagesima70 then seeks to take up the ancient spirit of penance. It is both liturgical, centred very much around the liturgical calendar of the Church, and also realistic, where every participant has the possibility of seeking individual means by which to live this penitential season. Septuagesima70 is also demanding. When I list the requirements which come below you may feel - especially the last period - seems just beyond you. If it is, then it is. There are many, however, who have “given it a go” and returned, like the tenth leper healed, to thank us for “something that has changed my life”. As the old saying goes: “one day at a time sweet Lord”. Let us begin with good intentions, let us be encouraged to “hit it hard” and let us not be discouraged by thinking I cannot do this, even before we start. The world, the flesh, the devil, will tell you this. The Catholic faith, and Holy Mother Church, bid you to walk a different way, the way of prayer, the way of penance. Come with us won’t you?

 

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 and deeper into our penances as we approach the ‘Week of Weeks’ Holy Week.

The First Period: Septuagesima until the First Sunday of Lent

From Septuagesima Sunday, historically, the Church has asked the faithful to begin to prepare for the rigors of Lent and the Lenten fast. Effectively abandoned by the Church in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, for those who have been rediscovering the traditional Calendar, the rediscovery of the Septuagesima season, the pre-Lent time of preparation, is in order. 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 season (and on the Monday, not Septuagesima Sunday) we will begin this first period which goes until the First Sunday of Lent with:

- Daily Meditation (Hamon’s Meditations. A link will be provided to you each day).

- One small penance offering – it could be chocolate/dessert/coffee/alcohol/cold showers…

- The Creation of a small money box for your almsgiving offerings during Lent

- Weekly colloquy: exhortation from the chaplain and group discussion,

or the formation of your own groups centred around the weekly exhortation and discussion.

- Daily Reading of the martyrology (posted daily on the website), ideally after the

Grace before Meals of the evening meal.

- Daily Angelus, morning and evening prayer, daily Rosary

- Fasting and Abstinence on Fridays of the Septuagesima Period

 

The weekly colloquys will also commence from Wednesday 31 January 2024 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 initially to explain the programme and to ask questions about Septuagesima70, to explain difficulties and seek answers, and then eventually will move into an exhortation to “keep persevering” and to discuss difficulties but also to share insights. Please make a note of these weekly times (women meet on the Thursdays of every week) and make this part of your lead-up to Easter.

 

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 i.e Brisbane Australia (or 8.30pm EDST for those in Sydney and Melbourne for example)

Thursdays 10.30am (Brisbane) which will be 7.30pm Wednesday USA Eastern

Women

Thursdays at 7.30pm EST (Brisbane) or 8.30pm EDST (Sydney and Melbourne)

Fridays 10.30am (Brisbane) or 7.30pm Thursday (USA Eastern)

The Second Period: First Sunday of Lent until Passion Sunday

The Holy Season of Lent, which follows on from the Septuagesima season, begins 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 Sundays of Lent.

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 cease, right through the Lenten 40 days, including Sundays. We will continue the practices already begun (Daily meditation, Martyrology, weekly colloquys etc.) and then from Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday in Lent our common practices will include:

 

‘Leaving behind some things for Lent’

- All juices and sweet drinks

- All desserts

- Non sacred music

- Movies

- Social Media

- Watching Sport

- Screen time

- Eating between meals

- Warm showers

- Milk and sugar in our coffee or tea

- Alcohol

It is important that in considering these practices above you look for the area where you have the most attachment and challenge yourselves, in these Lenten days, to truly leave these behind.

 

At the same time we will also ‘take up’ the following:

- Some form of strenuous exercise for a few hours a week

- Aim for 7 hours sleep each night

- Fasting (3 different “levels” possible) on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays

- Weekly Confession (where practicable)

- 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 31 January until Spy 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 Easter. We will add to the box our “savings” money not spent on food, a money penalty if we fail on our commitments, money for sinful failures e.g. swearing etc.

- {Daily Mass would be an ideal - and was once a customary practice for the Lenten season but I don’t want to list this because these days it can be very difficult for people to find a daily Mass they can attend without great, and perhaps heroic, sacrifice).

- Weekly Stations of the Cross (privately or in a Church if possible)

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).

 

Having an Intention:

A key plank of the Septuagesima70 programme is ‘not to waste’ your penances. Have an intention for these and all our penances during this time – 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. There will be no doubt that the Devil will ensure that temptations to ‘throw it all in’ will come and sometimes often.

The Third Period: Passion Sunday until Easter Vigil, including Holy Week

 

We will really hone our penances when we come to the final two weeks of Lent, and especially in Holy Week. In addition to the above practices, in these last two weeks we will adopt total abstinence from meat, fish, dairy (incl. eggs) and oil. This is the true Lenten fast (which began on the First Sunday of Lent and carried right through) and we will try adopting these practices 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, there might be the possibility of a daily or occasional Mass in this period, in addition to our regular Holy Hour. Additional prayer will include reading, over the two weeks, the Passion Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

Septuagesima Helpline: Dylan Shogren

Dylan Shogren is the point person for administration and can be contacted if you have questions, queries, or anxieties, or to invite other friends to be members of the group. He can be contacted at: dshog@hotmail.com

Most of the information that will be required will be made available through the website of the Iria Foundation, who will again host the programme here: As in past years it will be possible to download all of the meditations and prayer requirements on a PDF available on the Septuagesima70 tab.

Accountability: Fr. Withoos the Chaplain

In order to ensure that all of us are not tempted or made scrupulous, to either ‘do whatever I want’ or be driven by fear that “I’m not doing it properly” it shall be possible to change any or all of the practices in discussion with Fr. Withoos, or indeed on discussion with any regular priest advisor.

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 via the website of the Iria foundation). In this way, changes are brought into the external forum, and then, subsequently, each person can remain accountable to changes that have been agreed upon.

 

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 or email, 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 via the website or email (frwithoos@pm.me).

 

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 (and Dylan Shogren)

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