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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 9, 2020

If you persevere until death in true devotion to Mary, your...

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July 9

 

If you persevere until death
in true devotion to Mary,
your salvation is certain.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

“Let’s go, we are going to heaven today!” exclaimed Fr...

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St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

Augustine Zhao Rong, is one of a group of 120 Catholics, among many more who were martyred between the years 1648 and 1930 in China.

Having come to China through Syria in the seventh century, down through the centuries Christianity has in turn thrived or gone into hiding, contingent upon the relations of China with the outside world.

Of the 120 martyrs mentioned above, eighty-seven were Chinese, ranging in age from nine to seventy-two, and four of them were priests. Thirty-three were foreign-born, mostly priests or women religious. Though the missionaries and religious tried to distance themselves from foreign policies, the Chinese government did not differentiate and saw them all as westerners.

The martyrdoms of China are most moving, each person having died heroically though many of them suffered torture and cruel deaths. Fr. Francis Li, grandson of a Chinese martyr, describes his grandfather going to his death joyfully saying to his brother and son, “Let’s go, we are going to heaven today!”

Zhao Rong was a bailiff of a county jail. During the persecution of 1772, he was moved by the words of Fr. Martinus Moye to his fellow Catholic prisoners, and, ultimately converted. He later became a priest, and when in 1815 another persecution broke out, he was arrested and tortured, and being aged, died of the ill treatment.

The group of 120 martyrs celebrate today headed by St. Augustine Zhao Rong was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. N...

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A Young Man and His Lady Love

In twelfth century England, a group of young men had gathered and were bragging of their various feats, as young men have done since the beginning of time.

The lively conversation went from archery to sword fighting to horsemanship, each trying to outdo the accomplishments of the others.

Finally, the young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

Thomas of Canterbury meant the most holy Virgin as the object of his affection, but afterwards, he felt some remorse at having made this boast. He did not want to offend his beloved Lady in any way.

Seeing all from her throne in heaven, Mary appeared to him in his trouble, and with a gracious sweetness said to him: "Thomas, what do you fear? You had reason to say that you loved me, and that you are beloved by me. Assure your companions of this, and as a pledge of the love I bear you, show them this gift that I make you."

The gift was a small box, containing a chasuble, blood-red in color. Mary, for the love she bore him, had obtained for him the grace to be a priest and a martyr, which indeed happened, for he was first made priest and afterwards Bishop of Canterbury, in England.

Many years later, he would indeed be persecuted by the king, and Thomas fled to the Cistercian monastery at Pontignac, in France.

Far from kith and kin, but never far from his Lady Love, he was attempting to mend his hair-cloth shirt that he usually wore and had ripped. Not being able to do it well, his beloved queen appeared to him, and, with special kindness, took the haircloth from his hand, and repaired it as it should be done.

After this, at the age of 50, he returned to Canterbury and died a martyr, having been put to death on account of his zeal for the Church.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

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