The season of Lent is here. Hooray?
I am Catholic. I was raised Catholic, attended twelve years of Catholic education, and am now completing the circle of life by sending my daughter to a parochial school so she too will know the wonder of plaid polyester. And only owning two pairs of “layman’s” pants.
As Catholics, we repent during Lent and wait for the joy and celebration of Easter. This means, we give up something we really like, then bitch about it for forty days.
Taking stock on all the goings on around me during this time, I have come to a conclusion: I suck at Lent.
I think it has something to do with being a veteran Catholic; I was born into this religion. There are many New Catholic (NC) converts at our church, and they are really making us craggy Catholics look bad.
Let me demonstrate:
1) Sacrifice. One must give up something (e.g. a vice) during this time.
- Veteran: Oh I give up alright, by literally giving up. I have been doing this so long that I have given up everything except air. Us oldies don’t like to tell others what we are doing because if we screw up (inevitably) others will know and shame us. Then we feel terrible for messing up. It’s the cycle we grew up with: Shame-Guilt-Shame-Guilt. You get the picture.
- New Catholic: Some newbies like to post on Facebok what they are giving up for Lent. This flabbergasts me. Do they hope to be nominated as “Most Devoted Person Who Gave Up Sprite During Lent”? No shame involved whatsoever.
2) Stations of the Cross. A series of prayers said in reverence to the Passion of the Christ. There are fourteen stations.
- Veteran: I feel like a ninety-eight year old war Vet who smokes Pal Malls every time someone mentions the Stations of the Cross: “Stations of the Cross? I can’t go back there. Back in the sixth grade, Billy Moyer passed out right in front of me. It was station eight. The incense got ‘em.”
In grade school we had to attend the Stations during Religion class. They were long, extremely sad, and always right before lunch.
- New Catholics: They take their small children to the Stations and eat a communal dinner beforehand. Apparently it is a glorious affair. They probably get a lot more out of the service since they have full bellies and are not being graded by Sister Rose.
3) Penance. Lent is a time to slow down and repent for our sins.
- Veteran: While I enjoy the act now, as a child I was scared out of my gourd to go to Confession. We had those old school confessionals where the little face box slid open and the priest’s voice was muffled – like Oz. He always handed out four hundred Our Father’s for eating a piece of candy during Lent. Also, it was encouraged to look sad and hungry during this time. Maybe black out an eye if we had a chance.
- New Catholic: They attend group penance services where other people can actually hear their sins. That’s guts people.
4) Suffering. We reflect on Jesus’ suffering and dying for us, because of his love for us.
- Veteran: I fell like a major a**hole for forty days. I can’t even hand out spare change to the panhandler who hangs out under the I-35 bridge. The guy with one foot.
- New Catholic: So. Much. Volunteering. Then discussing the volunteering.
5) Meatless Fridays and Fasting. During Lent, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday. Fasting and abstaining are encouraged throughout Lent.
- Veteran: As a kid, this meant frozen fish sticks from the school cafeteria and tuna noodle casserole for dinner. Every. Single. Friday. I began to rue Fridays. The only thing to look forward to was watching the Love Boat on Fridays. Unless I had given up television. Which I usually had.
- New Catholic: We have been attending the community Fish Fry. The food is delicious, there is cake, and beer. This changes everything.
So does new equal better in this situation? Not necessarily. I think we need each other.
I love my religion, but clearly I could use a little pep in my step from the NCs. They can re-teach me all the stuff I forgot about while taking a nap during Freshman year Theology. We oldies can confirm that nuns are not a myth like the Yeti; they are real and we were taught by them.
So this season, I am willing to keep an open mind, like the New Catholics. Maybe I can remove the shame, help out more, and be more communal.
Right after I flog myself for eating this Kit Kat bar.