Daily Archives: March 9, 2014

Lenten spirituality: Gluttony and Wedding Cakes

Some quotations from saints about gluttony:

1. “Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity
Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
Ardenter – eating too eagerly.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

2. ‘It is often thus, that when we begin with good intentions in the eyes of God, a secret tagalong yen for the praise of our fellow men comes along, taking hold of our intentions from the side of the road. We take food, for example, out of necessity, but while we are eating, a gluttonous spirit creeps in and we begin to take delight in the eating for its own sake; so often it happens that what began as nourishment to protect our health ends by becoming a pretext for our pleasures.’ ~ Pope St. Gregory the Great

3. ‘It is so natural for people to seek pleasure in eating and drinking that Saint Paul, teaching early Christians to perform all their actions for the love and glory of God, is obliged to mention eating and drinking specifically, for it is difficult to eat without offending God. Most people eat like animals to satisfy their appetite.’ ~ St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

The debate about “wedding industry services” and “same sex marriage” has raised a very important issue: should Christians be involved in the so-called “Wedding industry” at all? Doesn’t the “wedding industry” promote inherently un-Christian values of greed and gluttony and vanity? Doesn’t the glorification of “weddings,” as Maggie Gallagher argues in _The Abolition of Marriage_, lead to an inverse de-emphasis on preparation for marriage and a false standard of “happily ever after”?

When my wife and I were preparing for our wedding, we went to Wal-Mart, rather than a baker (I know, I know, “localism,” but that’s a separate issue). We were kind of impressed with some of the sheet cake possibilities, intended for “showers.” We asked what the difference was between a $200+ wedding cake and a $20 sheet cake. “Tiers.” “Just tiers?” “Yes.” “It isn’t a different kind of frosting?” “No.” “Same cake?” “Yes.” “Does it feed more people?” “No, probably less.”

So we went with the $20 sheet cake and not only fed the wedding party but the congregation after Saturday evening Mass.

Responding to “one of those” friend requests

About once a day, I get a “friend request” and/or private message “from a young lady”. I’m sure many men get them, and some of my female Facebook friends have complained of them as well. Indeed, the usual kind is the stuff of classic “Nigerian prince” spam/phishing: “hi, I wanna be friends! Email me at [insert email address here] to see pics.” No thanks, I think, and mark as Spam.

Every now and then, a more “legitimate” looking request comes along, usually with few “friends”, some of them mutual, and almost all men. A brief viewing if the point lady’s page will indicate she is either an aspiring “model” or else looking for a boyfriend. Since I think it should be pretty clear from my own profile that I have no gold to dig, I don’t know why they bother. I am never sure whether to accept the requests and hide the person from my feed so I can witness or else delete and block to avoid giving others the wrong impression.

Coincidentally, a former student of mine who is a Facebook friend posted on Friday about how young people today seem to have no respect for marriage, how a young woman was flirting with him and, when he said he has been happily married for ten years, she said, in shock, “You mean you never fool around?”

Thus, I was bemused by a combination friend request and PM from a woman who was obviously real, and from South Carolina, saying she was a Christian who believed in being Godly in her personal relationships and felt the Holy Spirit was telling her to contact me. Taking her at her word, which seemed to conflict with her profile pic and timeline “cover photo”, I prayed and drafted the following. I offer it as a template for others facing these situations, choosing between just ignoring the request and missing an opportunity for evangelization.

Hello, I had read your profile-I normally do when evaluating friend requests. Given that you took the time to write a message and that your profile shows you’re a “real person,” I’ve been trying to figure out how best to phrase this. If I have the wrong impression, forgive me, but I was under the impression you are “looking for a [romantic] relationship,” which, if you read my profile, you would know
I am not. If you are simply seeking Christian fellowship, and I was mistaken, I wanted to make sure I replied wisely, as your profile picture and timeline banner suggest otherwise. We live in a society that has little regard for the Ninth Commandment and Our Lord’s corresponding teaching in Matthew 5:28. Perhaps the objectification of women in our culture is a side effect of the truncating of the last two commandments into one and expansion of the first into two: reducing women to property and thus into idols. In any case, modesty indicates both that you respect yourself and your Creator. If you are looking for a relationship, I suggest presenting yourself in a manner that will attract men who respect women. Likewise, if you are looking for Christian fellowship, it would be wise to present the same image. I take CS Lewis’s view that modesty is relative to context, but in this particular context, you may want to rethink your choice of public images. If you are seeking fellowship, and accept my advice in the charity with which it is intended, I will accept your friendship on Facebook.

Lenten Spirituality: Why do We Fast?

Jesus in the Desert

Jesus fasted completely for 40 Days, and we complain about fasting for 2 and giving up meat on Fridays?


Often, we hear pragmatic explanations of fasting, to try and make it more acceptable to a modern “consciousness,” such as “we fast to save money to give more to the poor.”  While that certainly has some grounding in Tradition, it is not the principle reason for fasting.  Fasting and self-denial are about recognizing that this is not our true home.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

It is about recognizing that we are, ultimately, immortal, and  that we must not become attached to temporary things like electric lighting and seek reward in this life.

[1] Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. [2] Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. [4] That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. [5] And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:1-5, Douay-Rheims).

We deny ourselves to imitate Jesus,

[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, Douay-Rheims)

To imitate Jesus, we must so empty ourselves and take the form of slaves:

[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. [23] Then Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. [25] And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:21-25, Douay).

This is why prayer is more effective when accompanied by fasting, as Our Lord teaches:

[19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.[20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:19-20, Douay)