From “The Liturgical Year” By Dom Gueranger
The fifteenth century, also, furnishes us with instances of applications to the holy See for Lenten dispensations. We will cite the brief addressed by Sixtus IV., in 1483, to James III., king of Scotland, in which he grants him permission to eat meat on days of abstinence, provided his confessor considers the dispensation needed. In the following century, we have Julius II. granting a like dispensation to John, king of Denmark, and to his queen Christina; and, a few years later, Clement VII. giving one to the emperor Charles V., and again, to Henry II. of Navarre, and to his queen Margaret. Thus were princes themselves treated, three centuries ago, when they sought for a dispensation from the sacred law of Lent. What are we to think of the present indifference wherewith it is kept? What comparison can be made between the Christians of former times, who, deeply impressed with the fear of God's judgments and with the spirit of penance, cheerfully went through these forty days of mortification, and those of our own days, when love of pleasure and self- indulgence are for ever lessening man's horror for sin? Where there is little or no fear of having to penance ourselves for sin, there is so much the less restraint to keep us from committing it. Where is now that simple and innocent joy at Easter, which our forefathers used to show, when, after their severe fast of Lent. They partook of substantial and savoury food? The peace, which long and sharp mortification ever brings to the conscience, gave them the capability, not to say the right, of being light-hearted as they returned to the comforts of life, which they had denied themselves in order to spend forty days in penance, recollection, and retirement from the world.