The Ember Days: A devotional invitation to fasting and abstinence, encouraging moderation in our use of the goods of creation

The Ember Days are a traditional devotion of the Church that aren't observed much anymore. They are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the feast of St. Lucy (December 13th), Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, and the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th).The purpose of these days of fasting and abstinence, "besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." (1908 Catholic Encyclopedia).

After the Second Vatican Council, the practice of fasting and abstinence fell out of favor with clergy and laity, except during Lent. The idea was for people to substitute some other form of penance for the traditional meatless Friday. We abandoned abstinence, but we didn't do such a good job of "substituting some other form of penance." We used to be known as people who didn't eat meat on Friday; today we are not known as "people who do good deeds on Friday." Oops.

Every day we experience a very noisy propaganda crusade preaching "Spend, consume, waste." Gluttony and instant gratification are among our most important values, moderation is way down on the list. We say we "need" something, when in reality we only "want" it, and we are disposed to think that our "wants" are mandates, whatever the cost may be.

Yet, God does not call us to a life consisting of one orgy of consumption after another until the entire earth is filled with our trash. To do God's will on Earth, as it is in heaven, means that we must be moderate in our use of material goods. Over consumption of material goods is a manifestation of the cardinal sins of greed and gluttony.

Perhaps this is one reason why Mother Teresa advised us to "Live simply, so that others may simply live." This is also a clue as to what meaning traditional devotions like the Ember Days can have for us today. We need reminders of the importance of moderation in the use of the goods of creation.

Thus, we encourage our readers to recover our traditional Catholic practices of fasting and abstinence, not only during Lent, but throughout the year. If we do not learn how to make do with less, we will be responsible for the deaths of millions in the poor countries whose resources we steal to fund our gluttonous lifestyles. The Ember Days in the coming season of Advent are the 18th, 20th, and 21st of December (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday). We invite you to join with us in keeping these days of fasting and abstinence and dedicating our prayers and good works of reparation on those days for the needs of the poor.

Supplies we need for our work with the poor. Please help regularly! People are hungry 365 days a year!

Food: Beans + Rice + Spaghetti sauce + Boxed mac & cheese + Creamy peanut butter + Pasta + Ramen noodles + Canned soup + Powdered milk + Flour + Sugar + Coffee, tea + Canned veggies + Cookies +Cereal

Other: Blankets, kitchen goods/equipment (dishes, pots, pans, cutlery), coats, sweaters, towels, hospitality bags for the homeless. (We are not taking miscellaneous clothing at this time.)