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What are Ember days?

Four Seasons TreeEmber days, are three days at the beginning of each of the four seasons that the Church has traditionally set aside as days of fasting, abstinence, and prayer in thanksgiving for the blessings of the last season and in petition for the next.

Historically, it is likely that the Ember days were celebrated from the earliest days of the Church – after all, it is a tradition adapted from the Old Testament:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace. (Zechariah 8:19)

Pope Gelasius, who was pope from the year 492-496, speaks of the Ember days (or in the Latin, the Quatuor Tempora, or four- times.) We know of their practice in Rome at this time, and the practice spread throughout the Church until they were officially prescribed by Pope Saint Gregory VII during his pontificate, 1073-1085.

 

When are the Ember Days?

Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.

This old rhyme was long used to aid in remembering the dates of the Ember days. It is translated:

Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost are when the quarter holidays follow.

The dates of the Ember days each year can be figured from the dates of these feasts.

The Winter Ember days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the feast of St. Lucy on December 13th.

The Spring Ember days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday the week after Ash Wednesday, in the first full week of lent.

The Summer Ember days fall on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost.

The Autumn Ember days fall the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14th.

It might be easier to just remember “Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross.”

 

Practicing Ember Days

Our Lady of FatimaWhile no longer mandatory, it is nonetheless beneficial to voluntarily practice the observation of Ember days each year. It is one of many ways we can heed the words of Our Lady of Fatima:

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially when you make a sacrifice, ‘O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'”

St. Basil the Great says of fasting:

Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.


The basic observance of fasting on Ember days is similar to Ash Wednesday or Good Friday - one primary meal and two lesser meals. On Ember Wednesday and Ember Saturday meat is be allowed in the main meal only. On Ember Friday the traditional practice of abstinence from meat is observed at all meals. Those who are unable for health or age reasons to participate in the full fast should perform some other penance.

While the fast is similar to that of Lent, there is a different focus to our prayers. Unlike the somber fasts of Lent, as we prepare for and participate in Christ’s suffering on the cross, the Ember days give us an opportunity to fast with greater joy. While there has certainly always been the component of penance for our sins and a resolve to do better in the coming season, the focus of thanksgiving for the gifts received in the previous season and the prayer of petition for a fruitful coming season is a very important part of the Ember days. Our hearts should be filled with joy at the thought of the great love and care Our Heavenly Father shows for His Children. While joyful music and celebration would be out of place on Good Friday, they are fitting in the celebration of the Ember days, even as we practice the virtue of fasting.

Praying in ChurchAnother important aspect of the Ember days, stemming from the practice of ordinations being held on Ember Saturdays for many years, is to pray for priests and for new vocations. In these days when our priests are so under attack both from the world and the devil, setting aside days each year to pray and fast for our priests is even more important than ever. While these intentions should be in all of our daily prayers, we do well to make special note on the Ember days.

Finally, let us not forget those less fortunate as we give thanks for our blessings. The Ember days have also always traditionally been days when the fruits of the harvest would be shared with the poor. Even though few of us have harvests to share, there are still many ways we can share what we have with those who have less, whether by donating money, or time, or even those things in our homes that we no longer use.

The world is drifting farther and farther away from God, and as it does it is becoming harder for us to live a Christian life. Incorporating the feasts and fasts of the Church, such as the Ember days, will help us to grow in grace and to keep our focus on Christ.

 


 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 26, 2021

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one wi...

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July 26

 

To one who has faith,
no explanation is necessary.

To one without faith,
no explanation is possible.

St. Thomas Aquinas


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Sts. Joachim and Anne

After years of childlessness and much prayer, an angel appea...

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Sts. Joachim and Anne

According to tradition, Our Lady’s parents were Joachim and Anne to whom, after years of childlessness, and much prayer, an angel appeared and announced they would bear a child. Much like Hannah who dedicated her son Samuel to the service of God (1 Kings), Anne also dedicated Mary to God as a child.   Hence, we find the abundant iconography representing the child Mary being presented in the Temple.

Eastern tradition of devotion to the parents of Mary goes back to the sixth century. Relics of St. Anne were brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople in 710. In the twelfth century, this devotion reached the West, with Crusaders bringing back relics of St. Anne to Western Europe.

Two popular shrines to Saint Anne are that of Ste. Anne D’Auray in Britanny in western France, and that of St. Anne de Beaupre near Quebec, where countless mementos hang in thanksgiving for favors and healings granted.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates t...

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The Rosary and the Possessed Girl

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

Father Amat began the exorcism. After several unsuccessful attempts, the priest had an idea; taking his Rosary, he looped it around the girl’s neck. 

No sooner had he done this, the girl began to squirm and scream and the devil, shouting through her mouth shrieked, “Take if off, take off; these beads are tormenting me!”

At last, moved to pity for the girl, the priest lifted the Rosary beads off her neck.

The next night, while the good Dominican lay in bed, the same devils who possessed the young girl entered his room. Foaming with rage, they tried to seize him, but he had his Rosary clasped in his hand and no efforts from the infernal spirits could wrench the blessed beads from him.

Then, going on the offensive and using the Rosary as a physical weapon, Fr. Amat scourged the demons crying out, “Holy Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, help me, come to my aid!” at which the demons took flight.

The next day on his way to church, the priest met the poor girl, still possessed. One of the devils within her taunted him, “Well, brother, if you had been without your Rosary, we should have made short work of you…”

With renewed trust and vigor, the priest unlaced his Rosary from his belt, and flinging it around the girl’s neck commanded, “By the sacred names of Jesus and Mary His Holy Mother, and by the power of the holy Rosary, I command you, evil spirits, leave the body of this girl at once.”

The demons were immediately forced to obey him, and the young girl was freed.

“These stories,” concludes St. Louis de Montfort, “show the power of the holy Rosary in overcoming all sorts of temptations from the evil spirits and all sorts of sins because these blessed beads of the Rosary put devils to rout.”

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In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

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