I often pray to God, but he never seems to answer my prayers. What am I doing wrong?
St. Augustine, in his writings on the Sermon on the Mount — one of the places in Scripture Jesus encourages us to ask, seek and knock for the Father's answer to our needs in prayer — comments on why God does not seem to answer our prayers. He lists four reasons.
One image of purgatory that was presented during my time in the seminary has stuck in my mind due to its vibrant, fearful image. In it, Mary is pictured with a scapular fishing souls out of purgatory, which is depicted as a sea of fire tormenting those occupying it. Needless to say, such an image wouldn't inspire anyone to want to go there.
While no one wants to go there, purgatory remains a truth that we can't escape. Popularly speaking, God is often viewed as too good to permit anyone to go to hell, let alone purgatory. This thought is only partially true, though.
The purpose of symbols is to move our minds to think about the reality being represented. For instance, the waters of baptism call to mind the washing away of sin that occurs in this sacrament. When we fail to understand the meaning of a symbol, it becomes a meaningless gesture. To question the meaning of a symbol, then, is a good thing. It helps us understand what it means and how it is to move our minds and hearts.
You raise a valid point, to wit, that the penitential nature of these two days ought not to be compromised.
However, there are a couple of points:
• Church law does define Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as days on which Catholics must fast, but not all Catholics. Only those aged 18-59 are obligated to fast, and even then, those whose health would be seriously injured by a strict fast are allowed to consume as much food as necessary.