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These 17th-century monks did a beer fast for Lent

Beer. / Africa Studio / Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Mar 18, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

With the Lenten season underway, Catholics are immersing themselves in 40 days of abstaining from sweets, technology, alcohol, and other luxuries.

But did you know that Catholic monks once brewed beer specifically for a liquid-only Lenten fast?

Back in the 1600s, Paulaner monks moved from Southern Italy to the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria. “Being a strict order, they were not allowed to consume solid food during Lent,” the braumeister and beer sommelier of Paulaner Brewery Martin Zuber explained in a video on the company’s website.

They needed something other than water to sustain them, so the monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer. They concocted an “unusually strong” brew, full of carbohydrates and nutrients, because “liquid bread wouldn’t break the fast,” Zuber noted.

This was an early doppelbock-style beer, which the monks eventually sold in the community and which was an original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634. They gave it the name “Salvator,” named after “Sankt Vater,” which “roughly translates as ‘Holy Father beer,’” Zuber said.

Paulaner currently serves 70 countries and is one of the chief breweries featured at Munich’s Octoberfest. Although its doppelbock is enjoyed around the world today, it had a distinctly penitential origin with the monks.

Could a beer-only fast really be accomplished? One journalist had read of the monks’ story and, in 2011, attempted to re-create their fast.

J. Wilson, a Christian working as an editor for a county newspaper in Iowa, partnered with a local brewery and brewed a special doppelbock that he consumed over 46 days during Lent, eating no solid food.

He had regular checkups with his doctor and obtained permission from his boss for the fast, drinking four beers over the course of a work day and five beers on Saturdays and Sundays. His experience, he said, was transformative — and not in an intoxicating way.

Wilson learned “that the human body is an amazing machine,” he wrote in a blog for CNN after his Lenten experience.

“Aside from cramming it [the body] full of junk food, we don’t ask much of it. We take it for granted. It is capable of much more than many of us give it credit for. It can climb mountains, run marathons and, yes, it can function without food for long periods of time,” he wrote.

Wilson noted that he was acutely hungry for the first several days of his fast, but “my body then switched gears, replaced hunger with focus, and I found myself operating in a tunnel of clarity unlike anything I’d ever experienced.” He ended up losing more than 25 pounds over the course of the Lenten season but learned to practice “self-discipline.”

And, he found, one of his greatest challenges was actually fasting from media.

As he blogged about his fast, Wilson received numerous interview requests from local and national media outlets, and he chose to forgo some of these requests and step away from using media to focus on the spiritual purpose of his fast.

“The experience proved that the origin story of monks fasting on doppelbock was not only possible but probable,” he concluded.

“It left me with the realization that the monks must have been keenly aware of their own humanity and imperfections. In order to refocus on God, they engaged this annual practice not only to endure sacrifice but to stress and rediscover their own shortcomings in an effort to continually refine themselves.”

Catholics are not obliged to give up solid food for Lent, of course, but they must do penance during the season of Lent in the example of Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness, in commemoration of his death and in preparation for Easter.

Catholics in the U.S., if healthy adults aged 18-59, must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and are encouraged to continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday to the Easter Vigil.

“No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called ‘Good’ because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their 1966 pastoral letter on fasting.

Fasting is interpreted to mean eating one full meal and two smaller meals that, taken together, do not equal that one full meal. There may be no eating in between meals, and there is no specific mention of liquids in the guidelines.

In their pastoral letter, the bishops also instruct all Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent, and “strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting” on other Lenten days, as well as almsgiving, study of the Scriptures, and devotions such as the rosary and the Stations of the Cross.

This article was originally published on CNA March 1, 2017, and was updated March 16, 2023.

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Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, abortion activists and students at the University of Florida are arrested by university police. / Created Equal

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

Two pro-abortion activists were caught on video stealing pro-life signs and then violently resisting arrest on March 10 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The activists, identified by the police as Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, were arrested by officers from the University of Florida Police Department. They now face violent felony charges including “battery of a law enforcement officer” and “resisting an officer with violence.” They will stand trial in Alachua county court in Florida. 

The signs stolen by the abortion activists included photos of aborted babies and were posted on campus as part of a temporary demonstration by the pro-life group Created Equal. The group had received permission to post their display from the University of Florida administration. 

An Ohio-based group, Created Equal trains and sends students to colleges and high schools across the East Coast to raise awareness of the reality of abortion.

According to the police arrest report, Dinkla repeatedly shoved a police officer in attempts to resist arrest while Taylor struck the officer over the head with a bullhorn and punched him in the face. 

The video, posted by Created Equal, first shows Dinkla grabbing a large pro-life sign and walking off with it to put in his car.

Video taken later that day shows Dinkla approaching another pro-life display and then being confronted by a plainclothes law enforcement officer who identifies himself as “Detective Tarafa with the University of Florida Police Department.”

Dinkla becomes noncompliant and shoves the detective away, saying “stop this person, I’m being attacked.”

As Dinkla can be seen resisting arrest, Taylor intervenes, striking the detective, jumping on him, and shouting profanities.

According to the police arrest record, Taylor “struck Det. Tarafa in the back of his head with a bullhorn. Det. Tarafa then attempted to detain the Defendant [Taylor] and was punched in the face with a closed fist.”

During the altercation additional uniformed police officers converged on the scene. Dinkla is recorded shouting for other students to intervene, saying: “You fools, you get involved! Bystander effect!”

After both students have been subdued Taylor continues to shout at the police, saying; “Are you f---ing insane?” and “You’re defending people who come here and harass people?”

Taylor is now facing two felony charges for battery of a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, along with a misdemeanor charge of resisting without violence for interfering with a lawful arrest.

Dinkla is also facing two charges for robbery by sudden snatching and resisting an officer with violence. University of Florida Police documentation states that he “knowingly and willfully resisted, by doing violence to Det. Tarafa, by forcefully pushing him away, and then pulling away once Det. Tarafa placed his hands on Dinkla.”

Created Equal’s president Mark Harrington told CNA that harassment, vandalism, and theft against their pro-life efforts is “commonplace.”

“As you can imagine, going to a college campus and presenting a pro-life message is generally not very welcomed on a campus,” Harrington said. “Doing it the way we do, which is to show the victims of abortion, often brings even a higher level of opposition.”

“We face this kind of opposition everywhere we go. We will never back down or cower to these types of tactics by abortion advocates. It only emboldens us to continue on with the mission,” Harrington said. “There are a large number of students who are interested in discussing with us about abortion and that’s why we’re there.”

In a March 10 statement on Facebook, Harrington said: “It is no surprise that those who advocate for the killing of preborn humans resort to violence towards those with whom they disagree … We are grateful no staff members were injured in this incident. We also appreciate the efforts of the university and its law enforcement officers to protect the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights.”

The University of Florida confirmed with CNA that both Taylor and Dinkla are enrolled as students and that the school is currently conducting a disciplinary review.

Though the school could not disclose what type of disciplinary action the students could be facing, university spokesman Steve Orlando told CNA that “the University of Florida will be absolutely clear about these two things: Speech is protected, and violence is not tolerated.”

“Everyone — regardless of their views — can exercise their First Amendment rights on this campus, and nobody has a right to violence,” Orlando said. “Violent behavior and resisting arrest are unacceptable.”

Graduate Assistants United, a graduate employees’ labor union at the University of Florida of which Taylor is a member, took to Twitter in defense of the arrested students and asked for donations to pay their bail.

The group tweeted:

“!!NEED SOLIDARITY AND HELP!! 2 friends, GAs were arrested today while protesting in Turlington Plaza for women’s rights. Court support needed, Bail Money needed” and “Please share, show up, and help in any way. We will not be intimidated.”

Both Taylor and Dinkla have since been released, with Taylor being released on the condition she cannot return to the University of Florida campus during her trial, according to local news outlet WCJB.

WCJB reported that a crowd of nearly 100 protesters showed up at the county courthouse to demonstrate their support for Taylor and Dinkla.

This comes as pro-life groups and churches across the U.S. face a spate of vandalism and harassment since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

CNA has tracked and mapped more than 100 incidents of pro-abortion vandalism across the U.S., including at least 56 at pregnancy centers and 33 at churches of various denominations. 

Members of Congress have criticized the Department of Justice under the Biden administration for largely failing to respond to these crimes against pro-life groups and churches.

On Jan. 11, a resolution by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, condemning the attacks against pro-lifers and calling for the administration to act in their defense passed the House in a 222-209 vote.

The image of the Virgin Mary that wept tears of blood on St. Patrick’s Day

The image of the Virgin of Ireland in the Cathedral of Gyor, Hungary. / Credit: Diocese of Gyor

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 17, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

On March 17, 1697, on the feast day of St. Patrick and in the same year penal laws were enacted in Ireland banning Catholic bishops and priests from the country, an image of the Virgin Mary known as the Weeping Irish Madonna shed tears of blood for three hours.

The painting is now kept in the cathedral of Gyor, Hungary, where it was taken by the bishop of Clonfert, Walter Lynch, when he fled from Ireland due to the English persecution of the Catholic Church led by Oliver Cromwell. 

The image, whose original name was Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted, shows the Mother of God with her hands folded in prayer as she looks down upon the Infant Jesus, who is lying in a little bed.

Bishop Lynch removed the image from the Clonfert cathedral to keep it out of impious hands and fled with it to Vienna, Austria, where he met the bishop of Gyor, Hungary, who invited him to serve as his auxiliary bishop there.

The Irish prelate accepted the invitation and remained in Hungary until his death in 1663.

More than 30 years after Lynch’s death, on March 17, 1697, the image, which was in the Gyor cathedral, began to weep blood during the 6 a.m. Mass, which was attested to by many.

A piece of linen was used to wipe the Virgin’s face, but the tears and blood continued to flow for about three hours.

The image was removed from its frame and examined, but no explanation could be given as to what had happened.

The linen cloth, noted Ireland’s Independent Westmeath newspaper, is kept in a glass and silver case in the Gyor cathedral, where it can be seen and venerated to this day.

There is also a parchment in the cathedral signed by the priests and faithful present that day, as well as some Lutheran Protestants, Calvinists, and a rabbi from a Jewish synagogue who attested to the miracle.

Great celebrations commemorating the miraculous occurrence took place in 1797 on the 100th anniversary and again in 1897. In 1947, on the 250th anniversary of the prodigy, about 100,000 pilgrims came to venerate the image.

In 1913, the then-bishop of Toledo, Ohio, Joseph Schrembs, visited Gyor and had a copy of the image made for the Irish Catholics of his diocese.

This year, the Diocese of Gyor has scheduled a series of celebrations and pilgrimages from March 17 to 19.

JPII and the Weeping Irish Madonna

St. John Paul II elevated the Gyor cathedral to a basilica and visited it on Sept. 7, 1996, in an encounter with representatives of the local diocese.

“I am happy to meet you on today’s feast of the three holy martyrs of Kassa and in this cathedral so dear to you all for the presence not only of the miraculous image of the Mother of God but also of the venerated relic of the holy king Ladislaus, as well as the tomb of the Servant of God, Bishop Vilmos Apor,” the Holy Father said on that occasion.

“Your task becomes ever more urgent in the face of the new possibilities of participating in public life. In this context, the Christian layman, animated by the conviction that the growth of the Kingdom of God constitutes, at the same time, a gift and a commitment, will shun any form of fundamentalism and adopt an attitude of dialogue and service, in full respect of the dignity of every person, which always remains the aim of every social action,” the pontiff said.

After encouraging everyone to become “builders of hope,” St. John Paul II  stressed that “Christ the Redeemer, center of your life, is with you! May the ‘Magna Domina Hungarorum,’ Our Lady of Gyor, the holy king Ladislaus, the martyrs of Kassa, and all the Hungarian saints assist you.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.