Jesus appeared to three of his disciples in the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration. What was happening here? What did it mean? Here are 10 things you need to know!

The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration.

This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?

Here are 10 things you need to know.


1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans- (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance.

This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.

Before looking at the Transfiguration itself, it’s important that we look at what happened immediately before it in Luke’s Gospel.


2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?

In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically:

“There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur before the first generation of Christians died out.

The phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom.

The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be “seen” if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.


3. Did such a manifestation occur?

Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: the Transfiguration.

Pope Benedict states that it has been . . .

. . . convincingly argued that the placing of this saying immediately before the Transfiguration clearly relates it to this event.

Some—that is to say, the three disciples who accompany Jesus up the mountain—are promised that they will personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God ‘in power.’

On the mountain the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus. On the mountain they are overshadowed by God’s holy cloud. On the mountain—in the conversation of the transfigured Jesus with the Law and the Prophets—they realize that the true Feast of Tabernacles has come. On the mountain they learn that Jesus himself is the living Torah, the complete Word of God. On the mountain they see the ‘power’ (dynamis) of the Kingdom that is coming in Christ” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, p. 317).

We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.

In fact, Luke notes that the Transfiguration took place “about eight days after these sayings,” thus stressing its proximity to them and suggesting that it was the fulfillment of this  saying, concerning the fact that some of them would see the kingdom of God. Mark gives a different number of days, saying it was “after six days” (Mk. 9:2), but these both approximate a week.


4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?

The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)

The fact that Jesus only allowed three of his disciples to witness the event may have sparked the discussion which swiftly ensued about which of the disciples was the greatest (Luke 9:46).

Click here to watch a video about how Jesus answered this question.


5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?

Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.”

This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely.

Click here to learn more about Mt. Tabor (though be aware that the gospels do not actually say which mountain it was).


6. Why did the Transfiguration take place?

The Catechism explains it this way:

Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary.

Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ [CCC 568].


7. What does Luke–in particular–tell us about this event?

Luke mentions several details about the event that the other evangelists do not:

  • He notes that this happened while Jesus was praying.
  • He mentions that Peter and his companions “were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”
  • He mentions that Peter made his suggestion to put up booths as Moses and Elijah were departing.


8. Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain?

Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets.

Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets.

The fact that these two figures “spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward to the Messiah and his sufferings.

This foreshadows Jesus’ own explanation, on the road to Emmaus, of the Scriptures pointing to himself (cf. Lk. 24:27, 32).


9. Why was Peter’s suggestion misguided?

The fact that Peter’s suggestion occurs when Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart reveals a desire to prolong the experience of glory. This means Peter is focusing on the wrong thing.

The experience of the Transfiguration is meant to point forward to the sufferings Jesus is about to experience. It is meant to strengthen the disciples faith, revealing to them in a powerful way the divine hand that is at work in the events Jesus will undergo. This is why Moses and Elijah have been speaking “about his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

Peter misses the point and wants to stay on the mountain, contrary to the message the two heavenly visitors have been expounding.

As a seeming rebuke of this, a theophany occurs: “A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”


10. What can we learn from this event?

The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed certain apostles to have a privileged spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. But it was only a temporary event. It was not meant to be permanent.

In the same way, at certain times in this life, God may give certain members of the faithful (not all of the faithful, all the time), special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith.

We should welcome these experiences for the graces they are, but we should not expect them to continue indefinitely, nor should we be afraid or resentful when they cease.

They may have been meant only as momentary glimpses of the joy of heaven to sustain us as we face the challenges of this life, to help strengthen us on the road that will–ultimately–bring us into the infinite and endless joy of heaven.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 23 January 2015 to 21 February 2015.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences




Papal Tweets

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

corporalpunishmentSpanking is quite controversial in some quarters. Some people speak of it as if it is tantamount to child abuse.

Other say, that they were spanked as children, that it didn’t do any long-term harm, and that it actually did them good.

So I was interested to see Pope Francis’s remarks on spanking in a recent audience.


Cards on the Table

Before I get to them, let me put my cards on the table.

As I’ve written before, my own conviction is that the issue of corporal punishment is one for parents to decide.

I have known some parents who have successfully raised children using it seldom or never. I also know there are parents who feel it has played an important and needed role in raising their children.

The fact is that children are different, and some respond to different things. To one child a time out may be far more agonizing (and motivating) than a paddling. To others, just the reverse will be the case.

Whether corporal punishment is to be used in the case of their own children—and how much and when—is something that I view as within the natural law rights of parents to determine.

So what did Pope Francis say?


The Pope Speaks

As you may know, he’s currently giving a series of catecheses on the family in his Wednesday audiences, and earlier this month he was talking about fathers when he said:

A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart.

Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental.

The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.

Once I heard a father at a meeting on marriage say:

“Sometimes I have to strike the children lightly… but never in the face so as not to humiliate them”.

How beautiful! He has a sense of dignity. He must punish, but he does it in a just way, and moves on [General Audience, Feb. 4, 2015, emphasis in original].

It thus seems that Pope Francis sees a positive role for corporal punishment, in at least some cases.


“How Beautiful”?

I know that he’s talking about the father’s attitude—not the corporal punishment itself—when he says, “How beautiful!” (see the statements that immediately follow this remark; they clarify what he is saying is beautiful), though I’ll confess I was a bit taken aback by the phrase.

Juxtaposed with “Sometimes I have to strike the children lightly . . . but never in the face so as not to humiliate them,” it came across to me as rather arresting.

I don’t know what culture this father was from (or how close Pope Francis’s memory of his precise words is to what he said), but I’m not sure why a light strike on the face would be more humiliating than one elsewhere.

A hard strike could leave a bruise (or worse), which could lead to further humiliation—as well as a visit from child protective services in the developed world.

But Pope Francis remembers the man saying that he only used light strikes, and then not on the face, so perhaps he meant that he never even gave a light slap on the cheek.

In that case, the man would have been emphasizing that he only used light strikes and then only where they wouldn’t lead to ongoing harm/humiliation.

In any event, what Pope Francis is praising is the administration of discipline with “a sense of dignity. He must punish, but he does it in a just way, and moves on.”


What Would Jesus Do?

When discussing a subject like this in a Christian context, a question that is bound to come up is whether this is something Jesus would do.

I’ve written before about the difficulties of solving moral dilemmas by asking “What would Jesus do?”, but for now let me point to an event that we’re going to be hearing about this year on the Third Sunday of Lent.

According to St. John’s account of the clearing of the temple (quoted from the NAB):

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me” [John 2:14-17].

These merchants weren’t children, but they were behaving badly, and our Lord saw fit not only to spill their coins and overturn their tables (leading to a hopeless confusion and probable loss of income for the money-changers in question), he also saw fit to make a whip and start swinging it at people.

Note that he is swinging the whip at people. The text says that he “made a whip out of cords and drove them [i.e., those who sold ... as well as the money-changers], with the sheep and oxen.” So he didn’t just use the whip on the animals. He swung it in the direction of people, too.

It’s easy to say that we find it difficult to imagine Jesus spanking someone, just as it’s easy to suppose that he wouldn’t splatter people’s money, overturn their property, and physically attack a group of businessmen. Surely the meek and mild Jesus would never do those things! Our God is a God of order, not chaos, after all. And violence never solves anything.

Yet here we have the Savior of mankind brandishing a whip.


The Bible on Child Discipline

Jesus’ actions took place in a broader biblical context.

Sacred Scripture takes a positive attitude toward childhood discipline. As the author of Hebrews writes:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [Heb. 12:11].

The author of Hebrews doesn’t specify that he’s talking about physical discipline, though he surely wasn’t excluding it. There simply was no anti-spanking ethic in ancient Hebrew culture. Indeed, Proverbs counsels:

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him [Prov. 13:24].

That’s not to say that we must use these methods today, but it does show that they are not foreign to the Judeo-Christian tradition, including in the New Testament period in which the author of Hebrews was writing.

And even if the author of Hebrews (very implausibly) didn’t have corporal punishment in mind, he clearly acknowledged the use of painful discipline to train towards proper conduct.

What do you think?

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

Recently there was some discussion on Facebook of how ashes should be placed on the head, with some folks thinking that the form of the cross is mandatory.

It isn’t. There is no set form, and in some countries–like Italy–the norm is to sprinkle ashes on the top of the head.

Today I ran across a picture of Pope Francis doing that, and I thought I’d share it to document the diversity of global practice on this point.


More info here.


If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

Jesus-Sermon-on-the-Mount-006-Henrik-Olrik-1830-1890-Copenhagen-Church-AltarThis Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, and we read about events that occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

Following his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness—his own, personal equivalent of Lent.

It was a time of preparation for the beginning of his public preaching in Galilee.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .


1) How does Mark describe what happens after Jesus is baptized?

In Mark 1:12, we encounter the puzzling statement, “The Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness.”

The fact that Jesus responds to the initiative of the Holy Spirit reveals the cooperation of the three Persons of the Trinity.


2) Why does Mark say that Jesus went into the wilderness? He was already in the wilderness, for he had come to John to be baptized (1:4-5).

The statement must mean that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jesus went even farther into the wilderness than had John, in the way Christianity surpasses the movement that John initiated. By going to a more remote place, Jesus removed himself even farther from corrupt society for an even greater encounter with God.

Jesus remains in the wilderness for forty days, a period that echoes the forty days Moses spent on the mountain (Exodus 34:28) as well as other periods of forty days or years in the Old Testament.


3) What is Jesus doing in the desert, and what can we learn from it?

Mark does not mention the fact that Jesus fasts while in the desert (Matthew and Luke supply that information), but it is clear that Jesus performs spiritual exercises in the desert. This is why the Holy Spirit brought him into the desert: He is on retreat to prepare for his ministry.

When we go on retreat in our own lives, we often find ourselves beset by distractions that pull us away from the encounter with God that we are seeking, and this is what happens here. While he is in the desert, Jesus is “tempted by Satan.”

Mark records only this basic fact—more information is provided by Matthew and Luke—but it is still an astonishing claim. Mark’s readers would certainly have wanted to know more about this if it was the first time they had encountered it. This suggests that it was not the first time—that they were already familiar with the incident, presumably from the preaching of Peter.

In his brief account of Jesus’ time in the desert, Mark also points out that Jesus “was with the wild beasts,” indicating the physical danger present in the wilderness and thus Jesus’ abandonment to and trust in his Father. This trust was not misplaced, as shown by the next thing Mark records: “the angels ministered to him.”

In the same way, we can trust God to provide what we need when we are surrounded by danger.


4) What does it mean for the devil to “tempt” Jesus? How could Jesus, who is all good, be tempted by the devil? Why would the devil even bother?

Sin is irrational, and so there is something irrational or disordered about what the devil does here. The question is: What is disordered?

It could be that the devil is trying to put pressure on Jesus out of sheer spite, without hoping to actually corrupt him. On the other hand, the devil may have the irrational arrogance to think that he could corrupt the infinitely holy Son of God.


5) Could we look at this event another way?

Yes. The Greek verb used here (peirazō) means not only tempt but also test. The devil can be seen as testing Jesus—putting pressure on Jesus to see whether it is possible to get him to give in to sin.

If the devil knows that it is impossible to get the Son of God to sin then, presumably, he would be doing it to find out if Jesus is the Son of God. By passing the test, Jesus shows that he is.


6) How else can we look at this event?

Some have viewed it as a recapitulation of prior events in salvation history. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explores this way of looking at the text:

“The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: He ‘binds the strong man’ to take back his plunder (Mark 3:27). Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father” (CCC 539).

Similarly, St. John Paul II said:

“Jesus knew that he was sent by the Father to establish God’s kingdom in the world of humanity. On the one hand, for this purpose he accepted being tempted in order to take his proper place among sinners. He had already done this at the Jordan, in order to serve as a model for all (cf. St. Augustine, De Trinitate 4:13). But on the other hand, by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s anointing, he reached into the very roots of sin and defeated the one who is the ‘father of lies’ (John 8:44). Thus he willingly went to face the temptations at the start of his ministry, complying with the Holy Spirit’s impulse” (John Paul II, General Audience, July 21, 1990).


7) How does Jesus’ public ministry begin?

In Mark 1:14, Mark introduces the public ministry of saying that it happened “after John was arrested.”

This, again, seems to expect the audience to already know the story of John the Baptist. Mark does not even tell us who arrested John. (It was Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great and the tetrarch of Galilee, as we learn in Luke 3:19-20).

Mark does recount what happened after John was arrested: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.”

Since Herod was the ruler of Galilee, this was a daring move on Jesus’ part. He is going into the territory of the man who arrested John, and, in a sense, taking up John’s ministry and carrying it further, as John had prophesied.


8) What does it mean when it says that Jesus preached “the gospel of God”?

The reference to Jesus preaching “the gospel of God” does not mean that he preached the existence of God to people who did not believe in him. His audience was Jewish and already worshipped God.

Instead, “the gospel of God” refers to the news that a new phase in God’s plan of the ages is beginning. This is spelled out, as Mark records Jesus preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

“The time” that has been fulfilled is the time of waiting for “the kingdom of God” to appear.

The Jewish people already regarded God as the King of the entire world (Ps. 47:2). They regarded him even more particularly as the Ruler of the Jewish nation (see Josephus, Against Apion 2:18; it is in this passage that Josephus coins the word theocracy to describe the rule of Israel by God).

But it was clear that, despite the rule of God over all creation and over Israel, there are other, worldly powers that appear to rule. These include Caesar and his minions in the Holy Land, such as Herod Antipas in Galilee and Pontius Pilate in Judea.

Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God is at hand means that God will now manifest his kingly rule in a new way.


9) How would God’s rule be manifested in a new way?

Many in Jesus’ audience would have understood this in a purely political sense—that the reign of the Romans would be extinguished. But this was not Jesus’ plan, for as he says in John: “My kingship is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Nevertheless, as the Messiah, Jesus manifests in his own person the kingdom of God. He makes it present, and so it is “at hand.” As the mystical body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18), the Church is also an expression of this kingdom, which grows as the Church does.

The Second Vatican Council stated:

“The Church . . . receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King” (Lumen Gentium 5).

There is thus a sense in which the kingdom of God became present with the coming of Christ, a sense in which it grows throughout history, and a sense in which it will find its fulfillment at the Second Coming of Christ.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

Ash Wednesday is February 13th this year. Do you know what you need to about it?

Ash Wednesday is upon us again!

Here are 9 things you need to know and share . . .


1. What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the day that Lent begins (see: 9 things you need to know about Lent).

The name comes from the fact that a particular rite is always celebrated on this Wednesday in which the faithful have ashes put on their foreheads.

According to the Roman Missal:

In the course of today’s Mass, ashes are blessed and distributed.

These are made from the olive branches or branches of other trees that were blessed the previous year [on Palm/Passion Sunday].



2. What does the putting on of ashes symbolize?

According to the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:

125. In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes which are used in the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday.

The use of ashes is a survival from an ancient rite according to which converted sinners submitted themselves to canonical penance.

The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God.

Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent.

The faithful who come to receive ashes should be assisted in perceiving the implicit internal significance of this act, which disposes them towards conversion and renewed Easter commitment.


3. How does the distribution of ashes take place?

The Roman Missal states that after the homily, the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water.

Then the priest places ashes on the head of all those present who come to him, and says to each one:

Repent, and believe the Gospel.


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Meanwhile an antiphon or another appropriate chant is sung.


4. Is there a particular way the ashes should be put on people’s heads?

Fr. Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at Regina Apostolorum University comments:

There are no set rules regarding this, and it largely depends on local custom.

In most English-speaking countries the prevailing custom seems to be that the priest places enough holy water into the ashes to form a kind of paste. The ashes are then daubed in the form of a cross on the forehead.

Many Catholics see this practice as a means of publicly showing their faith and leave the smudge on their forehead throughout Ash Wednesday.

In other countries, such as Spain, Italy and parts of Latin America, the prevailing custom seems to be sprinkling fairly dry ashes on the crown of the head. But even within these geographical areas, both customs are practiced and there may be other legitimate traditions as well.


5. Can this be done outside of Mass?

Yes. The Roman Missal states:

The blessing and distribution of ashes may also take place outside Mass. In this case, the rite is preceded by a Liturgy of the Word, with the Entrance Antiphon, the Collect, and the readings with their chants as at Mass.

Then there follow the Homily and the blessing and distribution of ashes.

The rite is concluded with the Universal Prayer, the Blessing, and the Dismissal of the Faithful.


6. Can someone other than a priest distribute the ashes?

Yes. The Book of Blessings states:

1659 This rite may be celebrated by a priest or deacon who may be assisted by lay ministers in the distribution of ashes. The blessing of the ashes, however, is reserved to a priest or deacon.


7. How long do you leave the ashes on?

There is no rule about this. It is a matter of personal decision based on the individual’s own inclinations and circumstances.

The ashes can be left on until they wear off naturally or they can be washed off or wiped off when the individual chooses.


8. Can ashes be distributed to the sick who cannot attend Mass?

Yes. The Book of Blessings states:

1657 This order [in the Book of Blessings] may also be used when ashes are brought to the sick. According to circumstancs, the rite may be abbreviated by the minister. Nevertheless, at least one Scripture reading should be included in the service.

1658 If already blessed ashes are brought to the sick, the blessing is omitted and the distribution takes place immediately after the homily. The homily should conclude by inviting the sick person to prepare himself or herself for the reception of the ashes.


9. Is Ash Wednesday a Holyday of Obligation?

No. There is no obligation to attend Mass.

However, Ash Wednesday is a penitential day and it (together with Good Friday) is one of two days of the year on which fasting and abstinence are required.

See here for more on the discipline of fasting and see here for more on the discipline of abstinence.


One More Thing . . . 

If I may be permitted a personal observation, Ash Wednesday is spiritual marketing genius.

Give away free stuff–on a limited time basis–and people will show up in droves.

No wonder Mass attendance soars on Ash Wednesday, even though it’s not a holyday of obligation.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 February 2015 to 16 February 2015.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences




Papal Tweets

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

keep-calm-and-live-lent-21. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]:

27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.


2. Where does the word “Lent” come from?

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish, cuaresma), meaning the “forty days”, or more literally the “fortieth day”. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times.


3. When does Lent begin and end?

The Universal Norms state:

28. The forty days of lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive.

This mean that Lent begins at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and runs to just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. As soon as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper starts, it’s a new liturgical season: Triduum.


4. Is Lent exactly forty days long as currently celebrated?

No, it’s actually a little longer than forty days. The number is approximative, for spiritual purposes.

More info on the precise number of days here.


5. Are the Sundays in Lent part of Lent?

Yes. See question 1 for the duration of Lent. It runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. No exceptions are made for Sundays.


30. The Sundays of this time of year are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent [emphasis added]. The Sixth Sunday, on which Holy Week begins, is called, “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”


6. Why is the number forty significant?

Pope Benedict explains:

Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter [Message for Lent 2009].


7. What are the rules for fasting in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. The law of fast binds those who are from 18 to 59 years old, unless they are excused for a sufficient reason (e.g., a medical condition that requires more frequent food, etc.).

According to the Church’s official rules (as opposed to someone’s personal summary of them):

The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom [Apostolic ConstitutionPaenitemini, Norms, III:2].

The system of mitigated fasting that is required by law thus allows for “one full meal” and “some food” in the morning and evening. The Church’s official document governing the practice of fasting does not encourage scrupulous calculations about how much the two instances of “some food” add up to, though obviously each individually is less than a full meal, since only one of those is allowed.

More on the discipline of fasting here.


8. What are the rules for abstinence in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (as well as Good Friday). An exception is if a solemnity falls on a Friday, but no solemnities fall on Fridays in 2015, so all Fridays are days of abstinence.

The law of abstinence binds those who are 14 years old or older.

According to the Church’s official rules:

The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [Paenitemini, Norms III:1].

More on the discipline of abstinence here.


9. Do you have to give up something for Lent? If you do, can you have it on Sundays?

The traditional custom of giving up something for Lent is voluntary. Consequently, if you give something up, you set the parameters. If you choose to allow yourself to have it on Sundays as to promote joy on this holy day, that is up to you.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy


We discuss the first part of the Doctor Who finale of series 8, “Dark Water”. What did we think of the revelation of the nethersphere that was hinted at during the entire season? And what to think of the true identity of ‘Missy’? Hear our thoughts in this episode of ‘Secrets of Doctor Who’.

Join Jimmy Akin, Stephanie Zimmer, Fr. Cory Sticha, Dom Bettinelli and Fr. Roderick for discussion, analysis and speculation!

Click this link to listen or use the player on the web site.

Links for this episode:

Check out Jimmy Akin’s blog Let’s Watch Doctor Who and Dom Bettinelli & Fr. Roderick’s podcast Secrets of Star Wars! Subscribe to the Feed | Subscribe with iTunes

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy


This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 31 January 2015 – 08 February 2015.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences




Papal Tweets

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy