08 March, 2020

Lenten Pastoral 1849 : 2

To prayer, we must add fasting and alms-deeds. Fasting, indeed, is the good work to which the Church especially directs our attention at this holy time. And, what are we to understand by fasting? Not merely the abstaining from a certain quantity or quality of food for the body, but moreover, the denying to the soul that which serves only to nourish its evil propensities. Hence, the tongue and senses must be placed under restraint; that love of pleasure, of novelty, that indulgence of curiosity which so ordinarily prevail, must give way to Christian mortification. The fast of the body will avail little if the soul does not also fast. Hence, the season of Lent is to be to you a time of retirement, so far as the circumstances of your state of life will permit….

The fast of Lent prescribes that we take only one full meal each day, and this after mid-day. Custom, sanctioned by the Church, permits a small collation to be taken in the morning and in the evening. Moreover abstinence from meat is enjoined. Our forefathers, nay, even some dioceses within our own memory, observed this injunction in great strictness. We have, alas! fallen away greatly from their fervour…

To prayer and fasting, let a liberal distribution of the means you have of benefitting your fellow-creatures be united ... Our fast must be accompanied by an ample distribution of our means.

Blessed be God, we willingly bear our testimony to the generous aid you have imparted when we have called upon you for assistance in the direction of churches and schools. We exhort to you to continue, and to enlarge the expanse of your charity.

The wretched unfortunate aborigines of the country – the first occupants of the lands over which your flocks and herds now run – have a very strong claim upon you. Nor will the Lord hold you innocent if you have not used your best endeavours to promote their temporal and eternal well-being.

The servant who has given you the flower of his days is not to be turned on to the wide world, nor consigned to the Benevolent Asylum when old age and its infirmities have come upon him. Are there not poor within the range of your influence to be relieved?  Ignorant to be instructed?  Children to be catechised?  Sick to be visited?  Afflicted to be consoled?  Ah, when the heart is well-disposed, objects for the exercise of its generous impulses will never be wanting.  Would to God we could witness in this our Metropolitan City the spirit of Christian alms-giving holding full sway over the minds and affections of our people! ... At all times but particularly during this holy season, we exhort our beloved clergy to encourage to the utmost this holy and fructifying spirit.

Excerpts from Archbishop John Bede Polding's Pastoral Letter for 1849 as contained in the anthology The Eye of Faith. It is thought that the 1849 letter was written for Lent 1848 and re-issued in 1849.


The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.


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