Ash Wednesday is in less than two days so be sure to cram in as much sin and bad behavior into the next 48 hours because at the stroke of midnight on March 8th, its time to get serious!
I’m only marginally kidding. I’m speaking for myself when I say, I don’t know about you, but I tend to get into a lot of “trouble” right before the Holy Seasons of Lent and Advent. Every day should be serious. I should be serious about deepening my faith in Christ 365/24/7. I was struggling with serious temptations Sunday evening.
I could hear that voice in my ear (Satan) saying “Come on, Cathy, you just went to Confession last Thursday and the season of denial is approaching. Come on, you know you want to. You can still cram in a Confession before Wednesday and get right again”
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was starting to think about my Lenten plan and I encouraged my readers (all 8 of you!) to do the same. If your usual Lenten plan of sacrifice and self-denial is along the lines of “I’m going to give up ordering pizza with the cheese in the crust until after Easter!” you may want to seriously ask yourself if that is the best you can offer. I mean it. God sacrificed his only Son so we would all have the opportunity to be saved from our sins and that’s all you’ve got? No where in Lenten or Catholic regulations does it state that to be a Catholic in good standing means you have to be slim and your cholesterol numbers need to be in medically acceptable ranges-thanks be to God or I’d be in trouble!
A few days ago I was reading some “progressive” Catholic musings on Ash Wednesday and how it’s not, strictly a Holy Day of Obligation. I am always astonished how progs manage to remember Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation but seem to forget that Sunday is. They are correct. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. You are not required to go to Church this Wednesday and receive ashes. But, why not? If you are like me and probably going to be starving after work, why not try and forget your hunger pains and remind yourself of what is all about by going to receive some ashes and hear that timeless reminder “Remember Man, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return” (if you hear: "I am the sun, I am the air, I'm only human and I need to be loved" you've wondered into a Smiths concert by mistake). I’m not going to get into the various translations and PC adopted tweaks of that phrase. No, maybe I will a tad….
I heard someone tell me recently that the ashes they will receive on Ash Wednesday are an opportunity for us to anoint ourselves and state we are creation we are spirit and soul and God loves us and I felt a migraine forming behind my eyes. It is true that God is motivated by His love for us in everything He does for us and the culmination of Lent is the ultimate reminder of that Love. But, come on, anoint “ourselves” (do I need to bring my own alabaster jar)? I need to be reminded I’m spirit and soul? I’m creation? Really? I AM CREATION? This is the kind of twisted theology that arises when you “tweak” the prescribed phrases to make them more “meaningful” and less “frightening” Speaking for myself, there should not be anything more meaningful and frightening than the reminder that at the end of all things if you don’t have your self together you are not going to enjoy the Beautific Vision. The alternative is not pleasant. You can be assured that if Ash Wednesday was only about love, multitudes of couples about to be joined in Holy Matrimony would be reciting “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris” because nothing says “I love you” like a ring and multiple references to pulverizing.
Have a plan but make it meaningful. What can you do to deepen your spirituality and your life lived in the Catholic faith? If you’ve never bothered to, or have historically struggled with, following the Lenten regulations for fast and abstinence a good starting point for you this Lent would be to resolve not only to follow them but reflect upon WHY it is a good practice. Don’t just roll your eyes and think it’s bogus. Why is denying yourself and picking up your cross and following the Lord a good idea? How can doing so deepen your spirituality and make this Lent a meaningful one-rather then yet another Lent where you suddenly wake up one day and realize “Oh, crap, it’s Easter Sunday, where did all the time go?”
So, we all know if we are between the ages of 18 and 59 we need to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, right (exceptions are made for people in ill health or who need to eat before taking medications)? Also, if you are 14 years old and above you need to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. I know it’s not easy. Believe me I know. I love to eat. I’m a sensual person. Food is meaningful to me. I enjoy it.
But, we all know, as Catholics, we will struggle with the food Cross together. Why not consider adding a little extra to personalize Lent for you? Maybe you’ve always wanted to attend a Stations of the Cross? Plenty of opportunities in Lent. Maybe you’ve wondered what happens during the daily Mass on Saturday? Why not go during Lent? Maybe you’ve always wanted to read St. John’s Gospel-why not meditate upon it slowly during Lent? Maybe you want to read the Holy Father’s latest book? Is it a coincidence the English publication of his new chapter on Jesus of Nazareth is being released right before Lent? Uh, no, probably not. Maybe you’ve always wanted to serve at a food shelf or a soup kitchen? Why not do that during Lent? Maybe you wish you prayed more? Why not go to Adoration during Lent or even resolve to spend 10 minutes/day in prayer.
The practices you implement for yourself, to deepen your journey in a life with Christ, can last well beyond Lent. Several years ago, one of my Lenten resolutions was to pray the Rosary (all 5 decades) every day. I enjoyed it so much and it became so meaningful to me and helped keep from sin that I never quit doing it.
Friends: Nothing I’ve said above is stuff I’m making up because I have no personal experience of what I’m talking about. It’s not that I’ve never been there. It’s definitely not that I’m holier than everyone else. For ¾ of my life Lent was a meaningless blip on the calendar and so was Easter. I didn’t know what any of it meant. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t bother to learn what any of it meant. I didn’t want to know what any of it meant. To really understand and know what it all meant (and I can be honest with myself now that I into my 4th decade) would mean I’d have to stop doing some of what I was doing and I wasn’t ready to unload the baggage cart and clean up my act-nor did I want to hear about doing so.
My buddy, Angela
picked a 2011 Saint name for me. This is not divination or witchcraft or anything “funky”. It’s an opportunity for a random chance (yeah, maybe it’s a gamble of a sort) at taking an opportunity to learn more about a Saint. The name she chose for me this year was Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I’ve heard of Blessed Pier Giorgio. I know he’s popular with young people but never knew why until I read more about him. Now, I’ve decided I really and truly envy (in a good way) the young Catholics in their 20s-early 30s that I’ve met online-the JPII Catholics if you will. The people who reap the fruits of the reclamation of the Faith started by John Paul II. You, all of you, who are young and living the Faith day in and day out, have what I never had and I envy you. I pray you never know what I did and keep the Faith as it should be-not as I thought it was at the same age you are now.
For those of you who are in your 20s-30s or of any age who are just going thru the motions-if at all-if I can find the Faith later in life so can you. Nothing is impossible with God. This Lent consider opening yourself to His message.