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Lenten sacrifices nearly a thing of the past

Down memory lane
“I remember as a young child hoarding all my sweets and chocolates received during Lent and feasting on Easter Sunday. Of course, I was as sick as a bloated parrot afterwards.”


Down Memory lane
Aine Ryan


SO Shay Given is not going to watch sport for two days in March as his Lenten sacrifice. Big deal. With the Irish soccer team’s recent dismal record (notwithstanding Thierry Henry’s handball), he must surely be delighted, even relieved, to forget about footie for a couple of days. And where’s the real sacrifice in athlete Derval O’Rourke not surfing the net or logging on to Facebook for two whole days.
Of course, Trócaire must increasingly go to new creative lengths, by advertising, to engage the public with their longtime Lenten campaign to raise funds for their wonderful work in the developing world.
After all religion and self-sacrifice has long been abandoned on the altar of the heathen Celtic Tiger.
Three years ago, in his Mayo News De Facto column, Liamy McNally revealed how parishioners in Islandeady were cajoled by their priest, Pat Donnellan, into taking a Short Term Pioneer Pledge for the duration of the 40 days and 40 nights of abstinence. They were offered a special pioneer pin, along with a daily prayer. Moreover, special non-specified dispensations were allowed.
Now with the imaginative meanderings of hindsight, this writer conjectures that such ‘dispensations’ could well have been justified for scheduled weddings, christenings and birthdays. It’s possible that unexpected deaths, traumas, bad hair days and piss-ups in breweries could also have been deemed acceptable as dispensations too.
After all (and mea culpa) that’s what we appear to do best these days: indulge ourselves. Oh! yes, we’ve come a long way from the ashes and sackcloth of our forefathers. Nowadays the dwindling signs of the symbolic ash on the forehead, dispensed by ageing priests at Ash Wednesday Masses, exposes our fragile faith and disenchantment with a once all-powerful clergy and church. Two thousand years ago the wearing of sackcloth and the covering of one’s head in ashes was a symbol of sorrow, repentance. Now it is dispensed from cut cork using burned ashes of the branches from Palm Sunday.
Traditionally fasting ranged from giving up meat, eggs and dairies for the entire seven weeks to the smaller, but widely practiced, sacrifice of not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Up until the 1970s huge numbers of people attended daily Mass throughout Lent. Many also gave up sweets and alcohol for the duration of the penitent period.
I remember as a young child hoarding all my sweets and chocolates received during Lent and feasting on Easter Sunday. Of course, I was as sick as a bloated parrot afterwards from the cocktail of chocolate eggs, crisps, Cadburys flakes, all washed down by Taylor Keith red lemonade.
These memories are sepia-tinged now. Back then, unlike the present, the entire commercial wheels of the country stood still on hot sultry Good Fridays.  Church bells pealed penitent tones for the series of services marking the symbolic potency of the death of Christ on the cross. Female faces hid under simple mantillas, while bareheaded men bowed their heads in simple faith.
No need for slick television campaigns promoting the fact that, on behalf of Trócaire, Danny Reilly of the Coronas will stay silent on March 4 next as a sacrifice.