This is the Church of the eternal Resurrection. The eternal springtime where, just like down on the range, “seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.” These men have always been terrified, not of penance, since many of them don’t believe it or practice it, but of what impression ashes and forty days of penance gives to lay Catholics and to the world. It’s so dark, is it not? So negative. And who likes a negative, painful, and grumpy Church after all? Thus, we are not allowed to have anything remotely penitential without left-wing Churchmen pumping positivity and good vibes into it all. They treat penance as an embarrassing ugly monster for which they have to constantly apologize.
Indeed, by the tone of the Pope’s latest address you would think he is speaking to a classroom of kindergarteners in the 1950’s who are suffering PTSD from Neo-Jansenist nuns. Who are these people the pope thinks he is addressing who are so absolutely depressed at the thought of Ash Wednesday and penance that they are on the verge of despair? Do they exist in the modern Church? The pope treats the sermon almost as if he is a doctor trying to give a patient hope after breaking the news that they’ve contracted a terminal illness.
What possible horrible penance do modern Catholics have to fear from the Church in Lent since the 1960’s? The only restrictions left are fasting and abstinence on two days! Two days! Yet the pope acts as if the faithful he is speaking to are about to experience a horror so bad that he must remind them of Christ’s Resurrection or else they may seek their final exit. Welcome to Ash Wednesday, 2017: Snowflake Edition.
Depressingly, nowhere does the pope take the opportunity to discuss how the ashes are meant to remind us of our mortality and the four last things. Nowhere does he discuss how penance is a participation in Christ’s sufferings on Calvary. Nowhere does he explain penance’s role in reparation for our sins. Nowhere does he discuss how penance is purifying or how it builds discipline, character, and humility. Nowhere does he discuss the true beauty of penance: the spiritual fruits that come with so deep a love for Christ that we are willing to suffer with Him and in the process grow closer to Him.
No. Instead the purpose for the season is cheapened and belittled. Neither the pope nor the men of his ideology can stand even one day focused on true penance without neurotic appeals to “The Resurrected Christ.” It’s as if he believes Catholics who focus on penance for any extended period of time will somehow forget that Christ rose from the dead. True Catholics are well aware that we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on Easter and that Lent is not Easter; that to participate in Christ’s Resurrection we must first participate in His Crucifixion. This is what Lent is all about.
Therefore, it is my heartfelt and humble suggestion to the Holy Father that he go on a verbal fast for Lent. He can thereby learn mortification of the tongue and allow those Catholics who actually want to have a fruitful Lent to do so without having the rug pulled out from under them on day one. Please sit under your Risifix, Holy Father, with the Protestant leaders you are” journeying” with and contemplate the Resurrection during Lent. As for Catholics serious about the Faith, they will heed Our Lord's words when He said, "…If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” and “Unless ye do penance, ye shall likewise perish."