While we New Orleanians generally figure our date of Easter by the celebration of Mardi Gras, the movement is actually reverse -- today and historically. In the earliest times of Christianity, those preparing to enter the Church in liturgical celebrations of Easter intensified their prayer and practices during the days closest to Easter. Thus, Lent with its symbolic 40-day period began by those going through an ancient RCIA-like program, and those believers already initiated into the Church similarly kept Lent as a support to those preparing to join their community and as a way to personally recommit themselves to the faith.
In turn, Catholics began preparing themselves for the penitential season of Lent by enjoying the many blessings they had received, giving birth to Mardi Gras, a festival period beginning on Epiphany and culminating with "Fat Tuesday." The older -- and still current -- title of this period is instructive: Carnival. Carnival is actually an anglicization of two Latin words, carne vale. Catholics, then, literally offer a "goodbye to meat or flesh." Rather than a hedonistic display of all possible excesses, Mardi Gras or Carnival is our common enjoyment of friends, food, and creation. It is only through truly knowing these things can we know what we are actually giving up in Lent.
There are, of course, certain excesses on display, requiring an appropriate celebration to always be the goal. Archbishop Gregory Aymond has offered some help in this regard, penning both suggestions for parents and children for the Mardi Gras season.
Not convinced yet about the Catholic necessity of the celebration? Famed 20th century German theologian Karl Rahner was even taken by the feast, noting the importance of laughing with creation. Read his reflection on a feast far from his native Freiburg, but close to his heart.
Finally, don't forget to get your routes and dates and times straight! Patience is a virtue to develop, but there is plenty of opportunities for it without creating it yourself. Get all your parade info here.
St. Rita Info
Our St. Rita School Color Guard and Cheerleaders will march in a number of school parades and in Metairie’s Little Rascals on Sunday, February 17th and New Orleans’s Choctaw on Saturday, February 23rd.
Fr. Peter will again take up his role as Chaplain of the Krewe of Thoth, celebrating the krewe’s Mass (8:30am in the riverfront Hilton, if you’re looking for a lively downtown Mass) and riding in the parade. Sunday, March 3rd, Float 9 (“D Day”), neutral ground side, top, last rider. I’m usually throwing to the back, so yell loud!