Thursday, February 20, 2014


A long time ago, it must be more than 25 years, I was having a casual discussion with some friends, and one of them mentioned Septuagesima Sunday. Although I was 18 when the Mass of Paul VI was promulgated, and although the word septuagesima was familiar to me, I don't remember ever knowing what it was about until that day. I'm still quite far from being an expert on the subject. All I remember of that conversation was my friend's saying that Septuagesima was the period before Lent when we examined our consciences to find what our sins were, repented for our sins, and decided what we would do during Lent to make reparation for them. This is probably a very inadequate paraphrase of what he actually said, but since he sometimes reads this blog, he is welcome to correct me if he wishes.

 At the time, I was really taken with this concept, thought it would be a great practice, and filed it away for future consideration--and it has pretty much been gathering dust ever since. Last year I thought I would dust it off, do some research, and write a blog post about it. Unfortunately, remembering incorrectly that it was the Sunday before Lent and not three Sundays before Lent as it actually is, I waited until about the Wednesday before Holy Week to do my research and found that I was woefully behindhand, and decided to wait until this year.

As the mathematical geniuses among you have probably figured out, I am still quite tardy, but since we still have almost two weeks left until Ash Wednesday, I thought it might be worth the effort to go ahead and write something. I'm pretty sure I won't remember in a timely manner next year, either, so there's no reason to wait. 

I've had the idea in the back of my mind, but have been too busy to write, and then I found that someone had done the work for me. While looking around Dappled Things, after going there to read Sally Thomas's excellent poem, I found Roseanne T. Sullivan's article, Septuagesima. It's very informative and thorough, and if you have any interest at all in the subject, I would suggest that you proceed to the article without delay. I don't really have anything to add to what Ms. Sullivan has written, but I will quote the passage entitled, How Are We to Keep Septuagesima, which to my way of thinking is the most important part.
Dom GuĂ©ranger also tells us how we are supposed to keep Septuagesima: 
• By entering into the spirit of the Church in sober, mournful, preparation for the penitence of Lent • By growing in holy fear of God • By considering what original sin and our own sins have done to deserve God’s judgments • By rising up from indifference • By realizing our need for the saving sacrifice of Christ that we will remember in great detail during Lent 
“After having spent the three weeks of Septuagesima in meditating upon our spiritual infirmities, and upon the wounds caused in us by sin, – we should be ready to enter upon the penitential season, which the Church has now begun. We have now a clearer knowledge of the justice and holiness of God, and of the dangers that await an impenitent soul; and, that our repentance might be earnest and lasting, we have bade farewell to the vain joys and baubles of the world. Our pride has been humbled by the prophecy, that these bodies would soon be like the ashes that wrote the memento of death upon our foreheads.” – Dom GuĂ©ranger in “The Practice of Lent” in The Liturgical Year.
Last night, I found that my friend Craig at All Manner of Thing has also been thinking about Septuagesima, and has written a short blog post about it with a link to yet another, though quite different take on the season.

Thomas Cooper Gotch - Alleluia 1896
No more of this for a while.
By the way, if you aren't familiar with Dappled Things it's well worth a look.



  1. Well, this is much more worthwhile than what I wrote.

  2. Well, it wasn't one of your more serious efforts. :-)


  3. "By rising up from indifference....."