In the Catholic world, the time leading up to Lent has traditionally been known as “carnival”, from the Latin words for saying farewell to meat (“carne vale”); during this time people would clean out the larder in their homes – i.e., clean out the pantry of meats and other things that were forbidden during Lent – and so prepare for the time of penance.
Nowadays perhaps the most famous carnivals take place in Rio de Janeiro and in New Orleans. And they have become times of great excess and great sin. It’s one thing to clean out the larder and eat some extra flesh of animals; it’s another thing to feast on pleasures of the flesh. We all are familiar enough through our knowledge of pop culture with what happens at these “carnivals”; there is no need for me to go into detail.
Many saints saw this time, therefore, not as one of feasting, but as one of doing extra penances, in reparation to Our Lord for the great and outrageous sins being committed by those reveling in the flesh instead of making a more sober preparation.
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – and surely there’s nothing wrong with having a little extra celebration, a little extra chocolate, a good steak, etc., as we prepare for Ash Wednesday and beyond. But let’s not anticipate too much the joy of Easter. And let’s also ask ourselves: is there some act of reparation that I could do during this day, on account of those whose minds are far from the holiness of the season we are about to embark upon?
If you choose to undertake some act of reparation on Mardi Gras, you are in the company of many illustrious saints who did the same. You bring pleasure and consolation to the heart of Our Lord. And perhaps – perhaps – through your act of love, you will obtain a special grace for a poor sinner in need of conversion.
A blessed final preparation for Lent to all!