Wednesday, December 7, 2016

To Fast or Not to Fast, That Is the Question

Editor's Note:  Initially this post was inadvertently titled after a rock song.  About an hour after publishing, the lyrics surfaced in my brain, and I thought it better to change the title to the present one.  Happily, it is a more fitting title anyway.

After the gingerbread cookies and the chocolate of St. Nicholas Day, the complete fast of the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception:  2 snacks, 1 full meal, no meat.

And, I might add, no questions.

This past Vigil of All Saints, I realized that my two traditional Catholic calendars contradicted each other on whether to fast.  After consulting a knowledgable friend, I learned that the fast had actually been abrogated under Pope Pius XII.  So you could choose not to fast at all.

Today when I was looking at my calendar from St. Jude Shrine, my sedevacantist parish, I found a page titled "Supplement to the Instructions for Fasting and Abstinence" with all the background information to the changes that occurred under Annibale Bugnini during Pope Pius XII's reign.  Whether or not you agree with the sedevacantist position, the history is good to know.  I wish I had known it back in October.  I wouldn't have been so confused.

The last two paragraphs of the supplement page explain how the traditional fast for the Vigil of the Assumption was "transferred" (effectively abrogated) to the fast for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception during the latter part of Pius XII's pontificate and how there never was confirmation from the Vatican on whether the obligation to fast on the Vigil of All Saints was to be lifted.

"This brief historical background serves as an introduction to the main purpose of this advisory, namely, to address the questions surrounding the abrogation of the Vigils of All Saints and the Assumption, and the suspension of the fasting and abstinence regulations for those vigils.  Both vigils were abolished in the 1950's, quite possibly as the first phase of 'change for the sake of change', engineered by the aforementioned Masonic infiltrator, Hannibal Bugnini.  When the American Bishops requested an official determination from Rome on whether the custom of fasting and abstinence on the suspended Vigil of All Saints had also been terminated, they received only a pre-printed notice, dated 15 March 1957, stating that, 'The Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites...looks simply to the liturgical part of the day and does not touch the obligation of fast and abstinence that are a penitential preparation for the following feast day.'  Thus, without any official confirmation from the Vatican that the disciplines associated with the Vigil of All Saints no longer applied, the US Bishops unilaterally dispensed American Catholics from those long-standing regulations.  In 1957, the power of the still-valid and legitimate American bishops to bind and loose in disciplinary matters pertaining to the faithful under their care was certainly lawful.  However, the bishops' decision to relax the vigil fast was in reaction to the first wave of Vatican innovations that would soon morph into an all-out, anti-Catholic liturgical revolution that was spring-loaded to be unleashed upon the death of Pius XII.

"Just fourteen months before the demise of that aged and ailing pontiff, the penitential custom of fasting and abstinence on the Vigil of the Assumption was also effectively abolished by its transfer to the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, this time by official decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council (sic) on 25 July 1957.  This unusual move seemed to contradict the Pope's prohibition against rearranging the liturgical calendar, issued by his encyclical, Mediator Dei, ten years earlier.  Nevertheless, it is beyond the scope of this brief review to provide an analysis of this legislation, or, for that matter, to challenge every alteration in discipline that was enacted during the pontificate of Pius XII.  Indeed, three of them turned out to be providential just a few years later, after the true Mass had been taken away from parish churches.  The exemption of water from the Eucharistic fast in 1953; the shortening of the Eucharistic fast from Midnight to three hours; and the simultaneous introduction of Sunday Evening Masses in 1957, made it possible for circuit-riding, Latin Mass clergy to bring valid Sacraments to remote groups of remnant faithful on Sunday nights, sometimes hundreds of miles away, after assisting their own congregations earlier in the day.  Thus the legislative revisions in the waning years of Pope Pius XII may be viewed as a 'mixed blessing', with some seemingly inspired by the Holy Ghost and others of doubtful origin.  In any case, there can be no imputation of sin to those who no longer observe the old rules for fasting and abstinence on the Vigils of All Saints and the Assumption.  The faithful who are able to continue those traditions (while retaining the practice also on the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception) are encouraged to do so, as voluntary acts of penance win greater spiritual merit than those done purely for compliance with the law.  Finally, the rules for fasting and abstinence on the Vigils of Pentecost and Christmas were not affected by the changes in question, and therefore, are still listed as obligatory by this calendar."

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