Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food, Fast, and Lent.

The memory of Lent, for those of us raised Catholic in the
50's and 60's, is surrounded by a gray hue. Lent was to be endured, like the end of winter itself, before one reached the joy, sunshine, and candy of Easter. On Lent's first gray day, appropriately named Ash Wednesday, a commitment was made to give up some food-related snack. For the kids of my parish school, St. Mary Magdalen's, it meant giving up something sweet.

A certain amount of pride was taken in putting aside for those 40 days something especially liked, something special. Conversation between friends on Ash Wednesday centered on comparing the difficulty of competing items like popcorn or chocolate. A particularly delicious choice, say ice cream, got a certain amount of cachet. But one had to temper the desire for good-standing with the long 40 days of deprivation.

I decided, on the first Lent that I can recall, to give up peanut brittle -- not sweets, not chocolate, just peanut brittle. Why, I do not know. I loved peanut brittle, I know that, and I guess being too specific in the sweets category would have eliminated Hershey Bars, jaw breakers, and ice cream. I saw no sense getting too carried away with this fasting thing. But I fasted those 40 days of Lent and made it all the way. My friends who gave up ice cream or some general category item rarely made it to Easter before giving in to temptation.

I'm sure my parents had a few good laughs over this, but the old nuns weren't as dumb as you think. In good years and bad for the rest of my life, Ash Wednesday begins this obligation of some self-denial.

What's the point? What good does the sacrifice do besides knocking off a few pounds?

I do not know for certain. I mean, I feel no better or worse at the end of Lent, than I did before.

But I remember, a few years ago, meeting a family in a hospital waiting room whose 21 year old daughter had contracted a staff infection. She was close to death in a room just yards away. The father, mother, sister and boyfriend took turns waiting -- around the clock, someone was always there. The sick girl was not conscious, the family was not noticeably praying, they had little reason to be there. But they were -- there. Probably without understanding all the reasons, they were, for certain, identifying with the suffering of one of their own.

Kind of like Lent.


Tyler Awesome Coolage said...

I'm giving up cokes and smokes for Lent. Haven't got the shakes yet, but I expect them soon enough.

Francis Shivone said...

I'm glad you said cokesssss.