Happy Shrove Tuesday! Happy Mardi Gras!
The word “shrove” is the past tense of the English verb “to shrive”, meaning basically “to hear the confession of and grant absolution to a penitent”. Today was traditionally the day when people were shriven, meaning that they made their final preparations for the season of Lent by examining their consciences, making a firm purpose of amendment (and perhaps thinking about how their Lenten discipline could help them carry it out), and receiving absolution after making a good confession.
(Obviously not everyone could confess on the same day, so there was a period of about a week that led up to today called “Shrovetide” – see the Old Catholic Encyclopedia for more information.)
Today is also known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, referring to the custom also of cleaning out the larder (pantry) of those things that could not be eaten – and so would otherwise spoil – during the season of Lent. In different periods of history people did not eat any meat or eggs, etc. during Lent. Our discipline today is a piece of cake compared to what some of our ancestors did.
(Often around this time “Carnival” is being celebrated – coming from the Latin words for “farewell meat” – carne [meat] + vale [farewell] –; again, because in the past Lenten disciplines were much more serious!)
I, for my part, went to confession this morning and I think I have finalized what my Lenten penance will be. Hope you all have made your decisions as well and that you’ll make good use of the sacrament throughout this season – remember how the Pope told us that he goes every two weeks; we should go frequently as well, as has always been recommended by saints, and popes, and even saintly popes.
So again: Happy Mardi Gras! And I hope that everyone has a holy and fruitful season of Lent.