Look at me! Look at me!

I’ve got a big smudge on my forehead.  Acutally I don’t.  And that’s because I can no longer participate in the Annual This-Lapsed-Catholic-Finally-Braved-The-Cold-To-Attend-A-Non-Holy-Day-Mass Parade.  This reflects even more poorly on me than it does on our lapsed friends.  But I can’t do it anymore.  Lent begins without the fanfare for me.  Last year, I felt a little guilty about it, as if maybe my motives were secretly that people might not think me a crazy Catholic Kook.  But I’m way beyond that now.  For better or for worse.  I don’t want anything to do with it.

Now, onto what I really wanted to say, which is that this post at First Things is spot-on.  I have also noted that it is quite trendy, even among Catholics, these days to not give up stuff for Lent.  I know I even fell prey to it for a while.  Instead of giving something up, why not take something on, the story goes.  And it is certainly noble to take up some kind of spritual exercise during Lent.  But do give someting up too!  Even if it is something “silly” like candy.  I remember we Prots used to enjoy our amusement at the expense of those works-riddled Catholics.  How silly they were giving up candy.  As if God cares about candy.  Never noticing, mind you, that the Catholics were the ones giving something up.  We were fat and happy.  Those who never give up candy have no idea how hard it is to give up candy.  And to be honest, I think we often used our jokes specifically to ensure that we would never have to try.  Because we knew we couldn’t.

Take this morning.  It’s Ash Wednesday.  Fast and abstinence.  Which cracks me up, first of all, because you would think that fasting would de facto cover the abstinence part too.  But we works-riddled Catholics have also found a way to circumvent our fasting, so that we get to eat while fasting!  Ha!  Pharisees!  So we need to add abstinence to to our fasting, to make sure that we don’t eat too much during our fasts.  Gluttonous Pharisees!!!

Anyway, back on point, fast and abstinence.  That means I wake up today and can’t go through my normal routine.  I really really love my routine.  And my cereal, juice, two pieces of raisin toast, and my cup of tea.  I love all of it.  But I had to change it.  And I sat there, literally, for minutes, depressed at the fact that I could only have one piece of toast, no cereal, a smidge of juice, and my cup of tea.  I mean, heck, I didn’t even change that much.  But it was enough to knock me into a depression.  And then I come into work and the left-over Mardi Gras donuts are still out.  Come on, guys!

And this is the genius of giving things up.  You realize how attached you are.  How enslaved you are.  And not just to candy or raisin toast, but to everything.  We say we would give up all to follow our Lord.  But even the thought of giving up an extra piece of toast for him is too much.  Or the routine.  Even for just a day.  Thank God for the wisdom of Mother Church, forcing us to come face to face with the reality of our attachments.  “Awake, sleeper.”

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~ by Rob on February 25, 2009.

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