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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Sunday Meditation: It's Septuagesima Sunday. Hear the Church Bells of Lent Calling from a Distance

Today is Septuagesima Sunday, the beginning of a seventeen day time of remote preparation for the season of Lent. After Vatican II, it was eliminated from the liturgical calendar. What exactly did we lose by that or did we actually gain something by the loss?

According to the architect of the Novus Ordo, Annibale Bugnini:
On one occasion Pope Paul VI compared the complex made up of Septuagesima, Lent, Holy Week and Easter Triduum, to the bells calling people to Sunday Mass. The ringing of them an hour, a half-hour, fifteen and five minutes before the time of Mass has a psychological effect and prepares the faithful materially and spiritually for the celebration of the liturgy. [Source]

What a lovely image! The farmer feeding his livestock early Sunday morning hears the bells and begins to think about getting ready for Mass. Perhaps the bells inspire his recitation of the Angelus begging the Blessed Mother to help him enter fully into the eucharistic sacrifice he will attend later. 

But apparently that isn't what came to Bugnini's mind reading the pope's words. 

Despite the fact that the seventeen days before Ash Wednesday are like the Church bells ringing faintly in the distance telling us to begin to get ready, Bugnini and the Consilium that changed the Mass, the Sacraments, and other liturgical practices decided to eliminate the Septuagesima season absorbing it into the green of ordinary time.

But was Septuagesima a negative thing taking away from the season of Lent? Bugnini thought so. He claimed “it was not possible to restore Lent to its full importance without sacrificing Septuagesima, which is an extension of Lent.” 

But wait a minute. Isn't that like saying loving your grandparents takes away from loving your parents? They were the "remote preparation" for your life. Do you need to diss your grandparents to emphasize the "full importance" of your parents? 

I know, I know...that's not the best analogy. After all, your grandparents are essential to the feast of your birthday. No grandparents, no parents, no you. Septuagesima, on the other hand, isn't essential to Easter. 

Nevertheless, I think Bugnini's statement is hollow and sterile.

Septuagesima is like an invitation to a future event or a "save the date" message? It doesn't take away from Lent. Rather, it magnifies the season by urging the faithful to prepare, like the athletes who "take their mark before the start of an event. It is the bell ringing the message. Bong! Prepare! Bong! Get ready! Bong! It's coming! Bong! Don't miss it! Bong! Prepare!

Doesn't Ash Wednesday catch some of us unawares? Do we only begin thinking about our preparation for the great feast of Easter when the cross in ashes is marked on our foreheads? Oh gosh! What am I going to do for Lent? I haven't really thought about it.

But now, three weeks out, we have the chance to ponder, perhaps choose a book and order it, reflect on how we can use Lent to grow closer to Christ and truly enter into His Passion.

One thing I'm going to do is to watch this video on the Shroud of Turin. My brother was an expert on the shroud who knew many of the scientists who participated in the original research project. He gave many talks to groups of all sorts as well as speaking at conventions. He died several years ago before the life-sized model of Christ was created. He would have loved this! I will be asking him to pray for me that I may enter more fully into the Passion of the Lord this Lent. 

Septuagesima Sunday is my invitation to plan well for Lent and be prepared to enter into it wholeheartedly when it begins on February 22nd. May God prepare us all for the holy season of Lent that is so near!



  1. A beautiful way to begin the Lenten season. Thank you and God bless.

  2. Beautiful bells, I checked out their mass today video… ugly guitar mass with ugly modernist alter (table?) and irreverent communion. What is going on at the altar durning communion.
    Nuvos Ordo is clearly a pathway to falling away.
    Time to push back with tradition. A reckoning is soon.

  3. My comment about a beautiful beginning to the Lenten season was referring to the video on the Shroud of Turin.

  4. When we were in Antigua, Guatemala several years ago we stayed a few hundred feet from the entrance to the Church of San Francisco (where Saint Pedro de San Jose de Betancur is enshrined) and could hear the bells before Mass. They were literally my alarm clock on Sunday morning.

    I was asleep when my son-in-law knocked on the door and said that it was 45 minutes before Mass. At the half hour bell, he reminded me again to get up. At the 15 minute bell he said I'd be late if I didn't get I finally got up, got dressed and ready, walked the few hundred feet to the church and was seated before Mass began.