From: joachim omolo ouko
News Dispatch with Father Omolo Beste

Gladys from Bungoma writes: “Fr Beste thanks for your homily on Ash Wednesday. I attended mass at our church here and I saw the priest blessing the ashes and pouring on oil. I could not understand this and could not be able to find time to ask him. Please can you give me light on this?

On abstinence and fasting why do some women abstain from sex like in Kenya where women’s activist groups used it to slap their partners with a week-long sex ban in protest over the infighting plaguing the national unity in Kibaki and Raila government?”

Yuvinalis from Kisii writes: “Fr. Beste today was one of those rare occasions when I attended mass at 6.30 am with my wife. The preaching was on the same topic you have enumerated. The homily from the Father was that we are asked for two things during the lent period, to fast and abstain.

Now what about abstaining from meat for somebody who doesn’t normally take meat? You must choose something that you can abstain from during this period. How then did meat come to be a universal item from which Catholics are asked to abstain from?”

Thank you for the questions Gladys. On Ash Wednesday Palm from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burnt. In the liturgical practice the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized), though some churches use ordinary oil.

Your second question is quite interesting one. It is not only women activist; some devoted Catholic couples may abstain from sexual intercourse during Lent as part of their sacrifices to give God the best of themselves.

It is not only in Kenya where women activists have abstained from sex. Togolese women abstained from sex for a week in order to urge Togo’s men to take action against President Gnassingbe. The rally was organised by a coalition which was protesting electoral reforms which they said would make it easier for Gnassingbe to win reelection in the polls set for October.

Sex abstinence has also been used in Belgium, in Pereira, Colombia, in 2006, where the girlfriends of gang members held a widely publicized “strike of crossed legs” vowing to give up sex until their partners gave up violence.

In Naples, Italy, in 2008, women formed a similar strike against the notoriously dangerous New Year fireworks displays; in 2011. A man died and 70 people were injured at the event.

Such types of fasting are often used as a tool to make a political statement, to protest, or to bring awareness to a cause. A hunger strike for example is a method of non-violent resistance in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt, or to achieve a goal such as a policy change. For Muslims fasting includes abstaining from having lustful thoughts.

Yuvinalis your question is frequently asked. Vegetarians cannot abstain from something else to substitute meat since as a matter of fact they don’t eat meat. But like other Catholics they can abstain from something that is good.

Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays during lent and Good Friday in respect of Jesus Christ who was killed and buried on Friday. It’s a way of mourning and doing penance for the sins for which Christ died.

Fasting from something good is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that we can concentrate on higher things. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578
E-mail obolobeste@gmail.com

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