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The Fat Tuesday Catholic

There are very few days in the Liturgical year of the Catholic Church that are set aside for enriching one’s diet, but Fat Tuesday remains a day that is supposed to mentally prepare us for sacrifice by allowing for culinary pleasures we normally enjoy.
Many Catholics attend Pancake Suppers at their local parishes, usually sponsored by the Knights of Columbus or some other church organization. The idea of eating to some degree of excess on the Tuesday before Lent is to prepare oneself to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and to perhaps “give up” some ordinary pleasure during Lent for the purpose of repentance.
The Pancake Supper began as a tradition to use up all the flour, sugar and other baking ingredients before Lent so that for forty days the family would go without cakes, cookies, pies and the like. Now Pancake Suppers are more of a social event that brings families together to enjoy a special treat before Lent begins.
But Fat Tuesday is not limited to pancake indulgence alone in the far reaches of modern culture. Mardi Gras, the French name for Fat Tuesday, has become synonymous with over-indulgence of several deadly sins! There is normally an excess of drinking, carousing, and revelry associated with Mardi Gras with or without the intention of giving anything up once Lent begins. This has become the secular tradition.
Catholics, however, can focus on the real original intent of Mardi Gras – to enjoy the overabundance of blessings that our Heavenly Father has bestowed on us in an act of gratitude with the application of morality and reason. In other words, we still need to apply some Catholic common sense to the festivities because we know why we’re celebrating – to thank God for his goodness and to prepare ourselves for an act of sacrificial love.
We should not look to Lent as a time to punish ourselves for sins, but to find ways to deepen our loving relationship with God. Lent is a time to reflect on ways to remove the obstacles that keep us from God, to give to those who have less than we do, to discover loving ways to atone for our sins, and to spend more time in prayer.
How does Fat Tuesday help us to prepare for Lent?
• Consider how we celebrate. What are those little pleasures we enjoy? Are we willing to give one of them up for love of God?
• How much time do we spend in prayer with God on Fat Tuesday? How much time do we spend thanking him for our blessings? How can we do a better job of thanking God and praying during Lent?
• What is the first thing we think of as a reason to party? How do we celebrate birthdays? Holidays? Achievements? How can we use these blessings to bring us closer to God?
Fat Tuesday is a day to remember how good God has been to us and how much we love him for his goodness. This prepares us for Lent – a time when we reflect on how much God loves us, and how much he was willing to sacrifice for us because of that love.

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