(Today’s post is by one of my grandmothers, who was born and raised Catholic in a tiny town in the Midwest during Depression era. As you will see, the observance of the season of Lent in her Domestic Church was rigorous. How good that must have been for all of their souls!)
Lent was a very special times of the year when I was a child more than eighty years ago. I grew up in Monterey, Indiana, about 100 miles to the west of Fort Wayne. The Lenten season began on Ash Wednesday when my mother put a purple drape over the crucifix in our home. I did the usual “giving up candy” along with attending Mass daily (this was required at my school all year, not just during Lent). And although I was too young to fast I ate only one full meal and two small meals daily. Meat was only allowed at the full meal and no meat was allowed on Wednesdays or Fridays. I did not eat between meals, either. Candy given to me was saved until Lent was over. Also, I did not attend movies or parties during this season.
I attended special Wednesday evening services with my family. We listened to visiting priests who gave long sermons or a Benediction. As part of the Benediction the priest would hold up a large gold monstrance and bless us making the Sign of the Cross. On Friday evenings we gathered in church for the Stations of the Cross. The priest and two altar boys went to each stations and announced the prayers as we knelt in the pews.
I confessed my sins on Saturday afternoons at two week intervals. My sins would most likely include quarreling with my brothers and sisters, failing to honor my parents, or missing my night prayers.
Good Friday was the most solemn day of the year. I had to be quiet all day–no laughing or running. I didn’t have the day off from school. I attended Mass but there was no Holy Communion because Jesus’ death. I spend the three hours from 12:00–3:00 p.m. on my knees in front of the cross in church. At the end of the service we parishioners filed up to the big wooden crucifix laid across the steps leading to the Communion rail. Everyone bent and kissed Jesus’ pierced heart.
On Holy Saturday Mother removed the purple drape at home and although Lent seemed long, I had the most joyful feeling of accomplishment as I approached Easter Sunday.