In return, I get to answer all sorts of questions about Catholic traditions that they don't understand. This encompasses everything from Advent (not just a way for kids to get candy) to fish fries (they actually have nothing to do with Wisconsin and/or beer batter) and most recently, Ash Wednesday (and consequently Lent, Easter, etc.) (I referred them to Jesus Christ Superstar for a decent synopsis of the whole Passion story.)
This brings up my own personal feelings on the 40 days of Lent. I was explaining to someone yesterday that the main reason that I participate in Lent is not (really) to fast or and reflect on my relationship with God or any of that other stuff, but more for me to get a "redo" on my New Year's Resolutions.
Yeah, I know it's not the true meaning of the season, but it works for me. Besides, my fellow Catholics make it easy to stay on track, because conversations frequently arise about the status of our Lenten resolutions, and updates are easily made. I can't think of a time (other than perhaps within the first 10 days of each year) where folks discuss, even in depth, their progress on their new year's resolutions.
When I refuse a soda or some candy or whatever it is I have chosen to give up, while stating that "I gave that up for Lent," no one questions me or tries to push the evil candy bar on me; whereas if I was offered the same candy bar on January 14 and politely declined, I would be harassed into eating it.
Oh, and that good old Catholic guilt is a pretty good motivation too.
But, in staying with the tradition of Lent, I am able to remind myself that the for this fast is to attain the goal of renewal and self-betterment. Catholics don't just give up candy bars or TV so we can be miserable for 40 days (although some will have you believe that is why); we give it up because we will be rewarded in the end when we realize that we are better for it. We are stronger for withstanding temptation, and our lives (and waistlines?) have improved because of what we learned by going without some unnecessary treat.
So, before I get too preachy (though I fear I already have), below is what I'm giving up for Lent:
1. Eating crap that is bad for me. This may or may not be limited to:
- ranch dressing
- excessive alcohol intake
- deep fried anything
- things made with lots of sugar
- things made with lots of cheese
2. Doing crap that is bad for me, such as:
- Spending too much time in smokey bars (Meghan, I might be with you on the giving up smokey bars thing)
- Not getting enough sleep
- Procrastinating (work, home, wherever)
- Spending $ on lots of stuff (at last, an opportunity for me to save up fro Paris!)
So, dear friends, wish me luck. And be nice. It's going to be a long 40 days, but I am looking forward not only to the challenge, but to the kind of person I will be at the end of it.