Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Look at Lent

I am not Catholic. Having said that, I feel perfectly comfortable exploring the vast mystery of Lent. Today, I was listening to a very interesting essay about Lent on NPR. Perhaps you heard it. I believe it was on All Things Considered.

Basically, a guy (a Catholic guy) was sitting in a bar with his Jewish college buddies several weeks before Lent. Somehow, the topic of Lent came up and he explained that you choose to give up something sort of as a representation of penance. He went on to explain that you are spiritually preparing for Easter, blah, blah, blah. His Jewish friends were fascinated by this, but they thought it was odd that folks would choose their own penance. "Wouldn't it make more sense," one of them wondered, "if someone else chose your penance for you?"

This fellow thought about it and realized... yes, that does indeed make a lot of sense. After all, if you WANT the cross to bear, it isn't much of a cross to bear, is it? So he agreed to let his buddies pick what he would sacrifice during that upcoming Lent.

His buddies went easy on him. They deliberated over many things, and threw out beer as a possibility right away, because after all, giving up beer would be impossible. Finally, they decided he should give up orange soda, which was what he subsisted on normally for those late night study sessions.

How brilliant is this? If you are going to celebrate Lent, what a great idea to have a friend choose for you! What a real challenge that would be. It worked so well for this guy, that his buddy called him every year way past college to tell him what his penance was that year. (One year, it was oregano, which must have been kind of like telling someone not to eat salt.)

Anyway, I'm not a super-religious person, but I certainly see how this sort of exercise could be spiritually rewarding. So since I don't actually observe Lent myself, let me know if you would like me to tell you what you should give up for the next six weeks. I'm happy to do it!


Sophie said...

Think of all the things you gave up while pregnant (alchohol, rare meat, ice skating with the Canes, etc...) - seems to me like you've been through 9 months of lent... how about you skip this year?

Brant said...

Hey - self-imposed stuff can be painful. My senior year of college I gave up fried food for Lent. That's right - all fried food. Including burger, fries, fish, bacon, you name it.

It was a rough month and a half.

eaf said...

Ha! I'm not doing Lent at all. I've never done it. (Not that I don't see its value). I'm just offering to decide what's best for OTHERS to give up.

And Brant, I do believe that Burger King would go out of business if I gave up fried food. Plus we'd be overrun by a huge population of shrimp that were not being devoured. Me giving up fried food would hurt both the economy and the environment. I couldn't live with myself.

Brant said...

Notice I didn't say I've done it since then. Just that I did it once and I survived.
And we are Catholic and still rarely give up anything. Tho we do observe the 'no meat on Friday' thing, which tends to limit the choices for Shelli's birthday dinner when we celebrate on a Friday (like htis year), since her birthday is usually during Lent. On the plus side: really good seafood restaurants around here.

Chris said...

Gee, honey, how incredibly noble of you.

A Girl From Texas said...

Yes, I heard that episode last night, too. I thought it was very clever.

By the way, I believe the guy that was telling his story actually became a Jesuit(sp?) Priest.

Jessey said...

I'm "Catholic"

My parents were both raised Catholic, and had such fun with it that following their super duper Catholic wedding, they pretty much quit.
I still consider myself at home in the Catholic church though. I've always celebrated Lent. Sometimes I've given up a whole list of things. Usually it's fast food, soda, that sort of thing.
I'm totally open to suggestion this year though. I'm already off fast food, caffeinated soda and hard liquor (I'm breastfeeding!) and I don't smoke anything, from cigarettes to crack, just FYI.
Please post my Lenten sacrifice here

Amy said...

It works in theory if you know the person well enough to know what would kill them to give up. My hubby the Jew and I had this convo on the way to work this morning. I still have not decided what to give up. He said he knew the perfect thing - the food network. Although I think that was partially for his benefit as well.

eaf said...

Jessey: You are already giving up all the major stuff... but I'll think on it! I don't know you well, so pardon if my choice ends up being lame-o.

Amy: You do have the ideal situation there. And of COURSE he will choose something that benefits himself as well. Human nature, n'est-ce pas?

Bern said...

Jason suggested I should give up watching Gilmore Girls.. BUT they won't be aired till April 11th anyway:))

Katy said...

Hmm... I was raised Catholic, too, and I ALWAYS cheated during Lent!

My favorite rule in my house was the one where, if St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday during Lent (which it does this year), that we were all given a break so we could eat corned beef and cabbage and drink beer!

Lent, Schment, I say. I'm currently sitting here debating whether or not I'm even going to Ash Wednesday service. I might, just because there's a cute guy who goes to my church who might be there.

Know what? I actually just convinced myself.

Cathy said...

I'm Catholic and I usually try to give up cursing every year. (for all the good it does...) One year I gave up meat for the whole 6 weeks, and all my friends agreed that I should NEVER do that again! (I think they got tired of the whining.)

This year, I'm doing something different. I've decided to go out of my way to be kind to people this Lent, especially my co-workers. (which is harder than you would think)

BTW, I found out about 3 years ago that Ash Wednesday is not a "Holy Day of Obligation." So, no foul if you missed getting to services yesterday. (I didn't get there either, and I consider myself a pretty observant Catholic.)

eaf said...


I thought I remembered that you gave up cursing. That's what I ended up prescribing for Jessey. We'll see how she does. I do seem to remember that you always have a tough time with that one.

And yes... never ever EVER give up meat again, please. I think you did that in a year we weren't in the same state, but I still remember some grouchiness... which is really saying something.

Jason said...

I think all married women should give up the right to turn the channel during March. That way, the men can watch the ACC and NCAA tournaments in peace.


eaf said...

And Chris called ME noble. :-)

Amy said...

I would not object to jason's suggestion since I have beat my husband AND picked the champion in the past 3 NCAA tournaments.

Chris said...

Hold on, Jason.. I'm confused. When don't you have control of the remote? I always have control of the remote. ;-)

Jessey said...

I've already totally f*&^ed up Lent.

I've got a few high stress situations going on (wrangling stepmom over inheritance, kicking out degenerate renters, ongoing craziness with toddler) that have seriously undermined my "no cussing" sacrifice.
I'm starting today anew!

Bern said...

Jason does have control over the remote MOST of the time. (except on Tuesday nites when Gilmore Girls is on) :)

Freebird said...

I think in this day and age it would be hard for *anyone* to give up fried food. My poison? Mexican food - but lucky for me I'm not Catholic either. :-)

Chris said...

Yeah, Elizabeth can't resist Mexican food either.