Short Shrift

Shrove TuesdayShrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday. The day is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, who are called to make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with – and then carry those reflections into the season of Lent.

The archaic verb shrive means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday derives from that linguistic root. The idiom “short shrift” shares that same heritage. In its original form short shrift referred to a brief period of penance granted to a person condemned to death so he or she could be cured of immorality before execution. This original meaning has little relation to the modern sense of short shrift, which usually bears negative connotations – brief and unsympathetic treatment. One usually does not want to be given short shrift.

This Shrove Tuesday, may we priests not give “short shrift” to penitents seeking to draw closer to God. May all of God’s faithful not give “short shrift” to their reflections and on-going conversion in this Lenten season.  May we all find the time and place to “shrive” during Lent.

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