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Forty days and forty nights…such is the length of the Lenten season.

However, if you were Catholic in Kentucky in 1937, you really didn’t have to observe Lent…at the least not in the regular way for the normal set of Lenten laws was dispensed with all together.

Why?

Because of the 1937 flood.

The floodwaters not only threw Paducah into mayhem but much of the state as well. Thus, Bishop J.A. Floersh of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Louisville (which Paducah was a part of at the time) issued a letter to all the pastors granting a dispensation from Lent in order to relieve the stress of the flood. The letter states in part, “Irrespective, therefore, of their age, or of the work in which they are engaged, all the faithful this year may eat three full meals a day during Lent, may eat between meals, and may make use of flesh meat, the same as they do during the rest of the year. Furthermore, you will please advise them that, on account of the difficulty to get suitable substitutes for fresh meat, they are also dispensed, until further notice, from the obligation of abstaining from meat on Fridays.”

While Bishop Floersh did dispense with the normal set of laws, he noted in his letter that this didn’t give the faithful permission to go nuts. Instead, he further advised that the faithful “should be urged to increase their daily prayers…abstain from superfluous amusements…and contribute liberally towards the aid of those seriously affected by the flood. Let one and all learn from this sad experience to practice greater charity towards one another.”

To learn more about the 1937 flood, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.