Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent. Many churches, both Catholic and Protestant, use these 40 days before Easter as a time to reflect on the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. It is a very deep and meaningful time of reflection and sacrifice. It is also something I have not practiced in a long, long time.
Growing up Catholic, I remember certain things about Lent. We would not eat meat on Fridays, and we had to give up something we liked as a sacrifice to God. I went to Catholic School, so on Ash Wednesday we would go to mass and get the ashes to symbolize death and repentance. All I remember is hoping the priest wouldn’t make the cross on my forehead too big with thick ashes. The nuns would always yell at me because my hands are forever in my hair, and I would rub off the ashes “by accident”.
I looked forward to Friday night dinners because it was usually fish sticks and tater tots, or we would get to go to McDonalds for the filet-o-fish meal. I’m sure we had other things like pasta or tuna casserole, but when you are a kid french fries and tater tots win every time. I think we would also get pizza for lunch in school. We did not normally have food from a school cafeteria. We always brought lunch from home, ate at our desks and was given a small milk carton to drink. But if I remember correctly, we would get to have Ellio’s cheese pizza on Fridays during Lent. Are there any other Catholics out there who can confirm this for me? I know all schools are different, but we moved a lot, so I went to several schools in my elementary years. Let me know in the comments.
For Lent we would also have to give up something as a symbol of sacrifice. I don’t remember what I gave up, but knowing me, it was probably something I could do without anyway. What I do remember is my grandmother. Nan would give up the same thing every year…ice cream. She loved it and every night while watching television she would have a small scoop or two. But when Lent rolled around, she was so good about giving it up. As a family we stopped participating in Lent when we started going to a Protestant church when I hit middle school. I had forgotten all about it but knew my grandmother still did it. I went to visit her one Sunday in spring. We were hanging out and she offered me some ice cream…all of a sudden it hit me…it was Lent! I was like, what are you doing? Didn’t you give that up? She laughed and told me that since all Sundays were feast days, you did not have to sacrifice on that day. I really didn’t believe her, I thought she was using me being there as an excuse to sneak in some Breyer’s, but I looked it up and of course she was right. I don’t think I ever knew that…hmmmm…did my mother not tell us on purpose? Maybe, just maybe.
Anyway, it hit me this year that I miss participating in a more structured liturgical year. I love my church. We are a non-denominational church and we do not go through the year like that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do certain things on my own. I don’t know about the no meat on Fridays thing and I know I will not be getting ashes, but I can certainly give up something. I can offer this up as a sacrifice to God and I won’t even do it on Sundays. Any guesses what it may be? I am going to give up smoking for Lent. I have tried a lot of times in my life to quit, but I have never really been serious about it. But, I know I should quit, so that is what I am going to do. And yes, it will be a sacrifice, because even though it is bad for my health, blah, blah, blah…I like to smoke, I enjoy smoking. (for those of you wondering…I am talking cigarettes. Just the smell of the other gives me a migraine)
So, as we go through the season, if you are a church goer, maybe spend some time in reflection of what Lent is all about. It doesn’t have to be hardcore fasting and a bunch of rules, but Jesus gave us the greatest sacrifice, so the question is what little thing can we do for Him.
***Question for the comments…Have you ever participated in Lent? What do you remember about the experience? Do you participate now?
***Please subscribe, like, comment, repost and share with a friend. Thanks for being here.
***Blog posts on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.