There's a new traddy-masculinist meme going around called Nineveh 90, a sort of exercise in group discipline for overcoming habitual sin and preparing for the centennial of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin in Portugal. It is being organized by a certain priest, Richard Heilman. I'm not one to look down on these "Let's build good habits together" movements, and the tie to the Fatima devotion is not a terrible way to set something up, but I couldn't help notice that the N90 Challenge begins Feb. 13, the day after Septuagesima Sunday, and ends May 13, the day before the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Now, I understand that the building of good habits takes time, effort, and repetition, but the 90-day commitment includes penances like avoiding alcohol, sweets, television, and non-uplifting music, whatever that means. (Why not include abstinence from the marriage bed—a popular medieval penance—while they're at it?) It's all well and good for Catholic men to be using the season of Lent for their penitential overtures, but Easter is celebrated on April 16 this year. Will they continue their penitential habit-building while the rest of the Church is feasting the Resurrection of Our Lord? Or will they be doing extra penances when Lent starts, and only cease those at Easter?
Compounding this confusion is the reference to God's judgment that the prophet Jonas preached against the wicked city of Nineveh: "In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown." I fear that Fr. Heilman has let the findings of pop-psychology get the better of him by ignoring the number of penitential days in the very text he bases this meme upon!
I would not care much about N90 if I didn't know many Catholics trying to talk me into joining them. It's disheartening that I cannot yet convince them that the liturgical year takes precedence over psychological trends and devotions to private revelations. Will they be doing penance during Eastertide? On Easter Sunday itself? Somehow, I do not think that Our Lady of Fatima would be pleased.
And besides, nobody's going to convince me to start wearing the miniature Carmelite habit again.