Friday, November 03, 2006

Reaching for Perfection

I'm surrounded by the stuff. Chocolate is everywhere I look:
In a bowl on the table
In the kids' Halloween bags
In the pantry
In my mind

Therefore, it makes the most sense that abstaining from chocolate is my Friday penance of choice.

There has been a lot of confusion over the years about just what is required, or asked, of Catholics on Fridays throughout the year. When I was received into the Church in 1995, I learned (or thought I learned) from reliable sources such as Catholic Answers that some sort of Friday penance was required on every Friday throughout the year. My understanding at the time was that it didn't have to be meat, but should be something.More recent and seemingly closer examination of the language of canon law and, more particularly, the language of the U.S. norms, seems to say that our bishops exhort Friday penance, as a meaningful and spiritually beneficial preparation for Sunday, but that they do not mandate it.

Jimmy Akin notes:

that Friday continues to be a day of penance (norm 1). The norm clarifies the sense in which this is to be understood by explaining that it is "a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind, which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ crucified."

This is exactly what Friday penance does for me. It keeps me "mindful of my personal sins," my failings and weaknesses. It reminds me that I must call on Christ for strength. It calls to mind "the sins of mankind" and inspires me to offer my weak and tiny sacrifices as prayers for others. It trains my will, and sharpens my self-discipline. It beckons me to perfection, and to the Perfect Source, even while making it glaringly apparent to me that I am woefully far from perfection.

And yet, my Lord calls me to perfection. Can I attain it in this life?

I'm no math expert, but I think my virtue will have to grow exponentially for me to make it in my lifetime. Some of the saints did it.

It's possible.

And, when I sit in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, when I spend time in prayer, when I feel the presence of Christ, as palpable as the chocolate I crave, I know that I want to reach for the perfection that He is.

And so, on Fridays, instead of reaching for chocolate?

I reach for Him.


Jennifer said...

Ok, I'll join you. I was just pondering whether to grab a chocolate chip cookie (it's 9:00AM here!) from last night's dessert when I clicked on here. I am going to print out my post when my very good Protestant friends ask "Why do you do that?"

The Bookworm said...

Oh good idea! I usually give up chocolate in Lent, and aren't Fridays supposed to be a little Lent?

I noticed the good taste in English chocolate (Cadbury's) in the photo ;)

Amy said...

This is beautiful, and so timely!

Alice said...

Karen, I love you. You always speak directly to my heart.

Anonymous said...

can someone really attain perfection?

yesterthoughts said...

I'm inspired by your good and holy example. Give up chocolate or meat on Friday? For me, meat is so easy to give up. Chocolate...not so easy. Karen, you have raised the bar.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, to all of you.

Anonymous, yes, perfection *can* be attained -- by God's grace. Catholic theology is a *transformative* theology, a key difference from Protestant *declarative* theology. I can elaborate if you're interested ....

melanie b said...

Thanks so much for this post.

When I read it a few days ago, I thought: isn't that nice. But it stuck with me and yesterday I decided to follow your example and fasted from chocolate for the day. I thought of this post every time I passed up the bowl of leftover halloween chocolate bars on the kitchen table. And when I8 was out for my walk and saw at least half a dozen chocolate bar wrappers in the street.

Thanks again for the inspirational boost.

Karen E. said...

Thanks so much, Melanie, for taking the time to come back and comment! That means so much. Fasting never ceases to amaze me ... whatever I'm giving up always seems to become suddenly ubiquitous ... making it all the harder to give up, yet all the more meaningful.

Thank you!