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As the years have progressed, the moral turpitude of celebrating this "carnival" - this big blast before penance time - has diminished. Actually Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" in French and was originally meant for a day of feasting before the day and season of fasting. Actually, it was a time when folks in Europe came together much in the manner Americans do for Thanksgiving - with wine, food and music to encourage each other to be able to keep the Lenten resolutions they had been planning during the week before Lent. It was a time when the French began on the previous Thursday - thus the term "Jeudi Gras" - Fat Thursday in which they began to feast while they prepared for Lent. Many times it dealt with excess of crops and it was necessary for them to consume much of the food stored up over the winter so that it didn't go bad or be fodder for rats and other pestilences, especially wheat. Thus the French devoted the entire week before Lent in preparation by "finishing off that which would not keep." The Germans had a similar ritual which they called "Fetter Donnerstag". In England the Brits wolfed down eggs by the bushels to polish off the eggs and dair products that would spoil over time. Out of this came the recipe for what we know today as pancakes. What eggs were left over were buried in cold ground to keep for the forty days but not much longer. Thus the tradition of eggs at Easter and the ultimate evolution of the "Easter Bunny" makes sense. Another reason for eating these foods in great quantities the week before Lent began were the ecclesiastical restrictions on meat and fatty foods that were inappropriate for Lent. Back in those days people heeded the strict fast the Church called for, they would garb themselves in true sackcloth and cover their foreheads, arms, legs and the rest of their body with ashes as a reminder of who they were and in reparation for their sins. But before they donned these penitent robes, it was time for one last fling. Unfortunately, in southern climes of France, Spain, Italy and the New World the weather was conducive to shedding many garments - too often too many articles of clothing - causing increased inhibitions that were thrown to the winds. Too often the rationale was used that one could sin today and confess tomorrow. This thinking has sadly carried on through today. To rationalize this or masquerade it they donned masks and costumes, staging plays that spilled out into the streets as people wrote their own scripts - with plots that evolved around the seven deadly sins.
To counter this, Holy Mother Church sought to remind the faithful of the reasons for Lent and proper preparation meant coming together in prayer not for decadence. Priests formed "Forty Hour Prayer" cenacles to both prepare for Lent and to make early reparation for the debauchery in which others were participating. It became so bad in the eighteenth century in Italy that Pope Benedict XIV issued a plenary indulgence for those who participated in Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament held for three days during the Mardi Gras celebration. As we all know today in New Orleans, the carnival grows bigger and bawdier every year as the "Big Easy" makes it easier to fall into the grave temptation of sin. The carnival itself has taken on a satanic theme with the hideous looking antagonizers dressed to scare along with the similarly-grotesque Krewes crew. To their credit many parishes in the parishes of the city and surrounding areas are offering Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to counter the carnal carnival underway on and around Bourbon Street.
Another custom, much more calm and sedate, but a thrill for the youngsters is to find the "Baby Jesus" inside one of the "King cakes" a purple, orange and green conglomeration of dough and sweets that taste very much like hot-crossed buns, popular on Passion Sunday. It is always fitting that the children look for Jesus, even in a cake, but their parents need to educate them and themselves that they don't have to claw through the kneaded matter to find Jesus; all they have to do is need Him and look for Him in the nearest Tabernacle. He's there and so lonesome while everyone else parties. So as we acknowledge Mardi Gras, let's all get a headstart on tomorrow by showing restraint in pouring down one more and" remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." If we can remember that, we won't have to dust off the ashes of regret! Then it will be easier to throw away the garish and seductive carnival beads and embrace the beads of true love, hope and Mercy as Our Lady has promised - the Rosary! That's the real skinny on Fat Tuesday!
If you believe in God, then you must believe in His revealed truth. Do you believe in the reality of demonic influence? Ephesians 6 reminds us that we are not fighting against mere flesh and blood, but against principalities and power of darkness. Do you believe that you might be contaminated with a spirit of doubt, a spirit of divorce, a spirit of selfishness, a spirit of addiction? Are you prepared to admit that you might be contaminated with the forces of evil? All Christians are at one time or another under the influence of the devil; even Jesus was, in terms of temptation (Matthew 4:1). Or course, He did not succumb to the temptations and commit sin, but He was certainly tempted and that in itself is a degree of demonic influence.
Do you ever take dominion over those forces? To those who believe, Jesus gives His authority to cast out demons. Do you ever practice any exorcistic prayer? Do you ask God to cast out a spirit of infirmity that may be causing or aggravating your arthritis, or a spirit of doubt that is inhibiting your faith? Especially if youíve had experience with drugs, the occult, astrology, transcendental meditation, reincarnation theories, Eastern religions, et cetera, you have probably been affected by contaminatory forces of evil. Scripture says you can take authority over these things. Do you believe it? If you donít, or if you donít act as if you believe it, then your (secondary) faith in the God who revealed it is weak.
Next Installment: Measuring Maturity Don't waste your time, but believe!
You would think he would have learned by now that Frederick could not be trusted. Like his father Henry, he was cunning and sought to unify Germany, Sicily and Italy which was something the Holy See was totally against. When Honorius broached Frederick who had pledged his loyalty to the Pope, the young emperor denied such ambitions. Yet once crowned in 1220, Frederick began to meddle in Church appointed personnel and affairs and retaliated when Honorius objected, by retaking the duchy of Spoleto and Ancona which had been deeded to Innocent by Frederick's own mother. It was only too late in Honorius' pontificate that the Pope realized the error of his ways in dealing with the young emperor who manipulated the Pope to his own ends, including trapping Honorius into mediating between others and himself.
While Honorius was admittedly a weak military and political pontiff, he was a strong Pope in spiritual matters and evangelization. He considered the the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Cistercians as well as other orders his special task-force in bringing the gospel to others and assuring that heresy would not creep into the main body of the Church. He gave approval to these mendicant orders who would go out to all corners of Europe and beyond to preach the gospel and warn against heresy. In return their rule mandated that they would own nothing but be at the mercy of the people they ministered to for sustenance of food and shelter. Honorius was so enamored by his spiritual troops that he had no compunction in seeking out and convincing the new king of France King Louis VII to head up the Albigensian crusade and published ordinances of great significance in the evolution of what would become the "Inquisition." In 1226 Louis decreed that any person excommunicated by a bishop or his delegate must receive a due punishment which was called "debita animadversio". In the fight against heretics Frederick was on the same page with Honorius and the former had decreed six years earlier on November 22, 1220 that if convicted, heretics must face punishment. Followers of Manicheaism were the particular target of the emperor and his assigned inquisitors while in France Albigensians were sought out. As in any movement, what may start out as a noble cause - and in this case the inquisition was to uphold and protect the teachings of Holy Mother Church - in the wrong hands it can be abused. This unfortunately happened with some of the zealots under Louis VII and certainly with Frederick and his ambitious henchmen. Yet both emperor and Rome cited the ancient Roman law which brought death for treason and burning at the stake for heresy. Three years after Honorius' death the imperial decrees by Frederick in 1220 and 1224 and Louis' decree in 1226 were all incorporated into ecclesiastical criminal law. Though this was the official beginning of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, it really began during the reign of Honorius III.
Throughout his papacy Honorius sought to reach all peoples in Europe as well as to the east in Constantinople where he had crowned Peter Courtenay the Latin Emperor there in hopes of eventually reuniting the Eastern Church back with Rome. He had a fond interest in the universities where he commissioned the Dominicans to preach and felt these institutions could well stem the tide of heresy. He compiled many of the decrees he had made as well as past pontiffs and put them into a book called Compilatio quinta which, in effect, became the first official book of Canon Law. He was a great protector of protocol and established the Liber Censorium - the rights of the popes, and specified the ceremonial for their election. In his latter years, Honorius now well over seventy, turned his attention to the people of Rome who were suffering from pestilence and famine. He berated and exposed merchants who were stockpiling grain and charging exhorbitant prices to those in need. When the hoarders failed to respond, Honorius called upon Frederick to secure grain from Sicily, leaving those Romans who were extorting the people with nothing but left-over surplus that eventually went bad. It was not soon after that Honorius' heart went bad and he died on March 18, 1227 in Rome. His eleven year reign had come to a close, a regime that had given the world three mendicant orders that would forever be linked to the evangelization of the Church. With his death it brought an end to the "third" pontiffs - four who had taken that number. Honorius' successor would revert back to a Gregory - the one who proceeded his four predecessors.
Next installment: Pope Gregory IX the canonizer and excommunicator.
To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.
On this day when I seek those souls who will honor and comfort My Holy Motherís Immaculate Heart, I speak now on all the remaining corporal works of Mercy. As My One True Church teaches, these are: To clothe the naked; To visit the imprisoned; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To bury the dead.
I speak on all of these today, having already explained to you in the first two that these merciful acts which pertain to the mortal body, must stem from the supernatural life of your soul.
Today, I solemnly tell you, My children, that many are the holy and upright of heart who perform these corporal acts of Mercy and please Me, their God, by their external words and deeds for they are done in humility, bereft of self-seeking. When you act in this way, you are devout both interiorly and exteriorly and therefore are growing in the spiritual union you must have with Me.
But woe to the many who believe themselves to be devout because they perform these exterior or corporal works of Mercy, while interiorly their souls remain self-righteous, judgmental, filled with pride and ego, and unyielding uncharitableness.
Woe to you, o false givers of My Mercy. You are not devout, nor does your deed give Me pleasure. Woe, because you set a false example, leading countless of My little ones to see you as an example of devoutness when, in truth, you are as a leprous soul filled with the rot of pride and deceit.
Woe to all who clean out their closets and toss many garments to charities because they are tired of an outfit and by ridding themselves of it they then justify buying a newer, more costly garment to clothe their own body. It would be better for such a soul to keep the old garment, buy a new one and give the new one to the poor!
Woe to those who visit My little ones who are imprisoned or who are sick, because you are motivated not by Mercy but out of self-righteousness. How dare you go to My poor weak little ones and preach righteousness and espouse yourself as an example, when your soul knows neither Mercy or Love. In humility, which veils the good act from your ego, you must clothe yourself if you are to live mercy for all mankind.
Respect for the mortal body which I alone create is respect for your immortal soul which is My Image and Likeness. Respect out of humility bears My Light and My Truth and does not represent the human ego, or give voice to any human pride, but gives unto Me all praise, honor and glory.
These Corporal Works of Mercy are absolutely essential to your total union with My Will as they correspond to all Spiritual Works of Mercy. Works of Mercy, both Corporal and Spiritual, are animated by love for Me. They are achieved by Trust in Me; they bear good fruit by Love for Me. In these Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy you must pray much, sacrifice much and through the grace of the Holy Spirit seek to keep your intentions pure and holy before the Throne of God.
I do solemnly tell you, great shall be the need in these end times for all the works of Mercy, for Mercy precedes the Justice of The Eternal Father.
Therefore, examine yourselves carefully and then by My grace live a life of Mercy so that Mercy may be yours. O! Pray for Mercy, My gift, for I seek to have you in the Refuge of My Sacred Heart!
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February 24, 1998 volume 9, no. 39   DAILY CATHOLIC