Sunday, 18 February 2007


Today is not only the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time but also the Sunday before Lent and the fiftieth day (quinquagesima) before Easter. Some sources refer to today as 'Shrove Sunday' - these days before Lent ('Shrovetide') were a good time to go to confession and thus begin Lent 'shriven' and in a state of grace (my parish is continuing this custom by having extra confessions on Shrove Tuesday).

Of course, it was also a time for merry-making and carnival - getting any excesses out of the system before the discipline of Lent. Venice took the idea to the extreme by having a carnival that lasted six months in total: first Sunday of October til mid-Advent; St Stephen's Day or Epiphany til Shrove Tuesday, plus a fortnight in Ascensiontide (with the famous ceremony of Venice's Marriage to the Sea). Everybody from doge to servant dressed in bautta (mask) and tabarro (long cloak), creating anonymonity, equality and endless (often immoral) possibilities (see the painting by Pietro Longhi above). Montesquieu recalled the scandal caused when someone asked for a blessing from the masked nuncio (shocked not that the Pope's representative was enjoying himself but that somebody had dared pierce the Venetian disguise). The collective party reached its peak on Shrove Tuesday and then, as the bells of Santa Francesca della Vigna struck midnight, everybody passed immediately from feasting into fasting - and their stomachs and livers were probably grateful for the respite.

It is little wonder the Church tried to attract people to more wholesome activities during the carnival, most notably the Quarant'ore - the Forty Hours adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with splendour and music to compete with the carnival celebrations plus generous indulgences.

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Anonymous Don Marco said...

I am rather saddened that here in Rome, although Carnevale remains ever popular, the Quarant'Ore have, effectively, disappeared. I asked a young(ish) priest about the Roman Quarant'Ore tradition. He knew nothing about it. Yesterday, "YMCA" was blaring from the loudspeakers outside my window while the little children of the parish in costume gesticulated to the "music." There are things that not even a Motu Proprio will be able to fix.

8:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminds me - I must eat the last box of Christmas Choccies before Tuesday night!

11:56 pm  
Blogger Joanna Bogle said...


Fr NIcholas: I can't find yr email address so am writing to you via yr blog!!

Would you be able to come and address the CATHOLIC CULTURAL GROUP on May 2nd in LOndon SW1? Meeting starts 7pm, finishes approx 9pm. Venue is near Victoria station



7:33 pm  

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