Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Imposter

Fat Tuesday sneaks up on me every single year. One moment I'm ripping off bows, slugging shots while the ball drops, and huddled around a 50" plasma watching commercials with dogs barking the Star Wars theme and the next moment...BAM!...it's Fat Tuesday. And there is not a king cake or beignet to be found. This is how I end up not being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I promise myself every end of February that next year I will be hanging over the railing, sloshing beer on the unsuspecting, and collecting my beads the married way...with cold hard cash at the t-shirt shops. And yet, here I sit. With a bowl of Fiber One bran flakes and a lukewarm cup of coffee. Wahoo! Taking my turn on the Sin Wagon!

But more than nursing a hangover the size of Dixie, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent for me. It has always been the beginning of Lent, even as a Southern Baptist. I show up at noon for ashes and then ignore sideways glances from the non-Catholic population who think I got into a fight with the ass-end of a pencil and lost. Protestants often think I'm flaunting my piety by not wiping them off...as in clearly you want everyone to know that you skipped your lunch hour so that you could line up with a slew of other holy rollers and get marked by the beast priest. But that's not it at all. For starters, the ashes itch. And once the priest marks the sign of the cross, you aren't supposed to touch them...although with bangs, that's borderline impossible. The idea is that they disintegrate naturally. So, I spend the whole day trying not to touch/scratch/wipe/prop up my forehead. I end up being more obsessed with the skin above my eyes than the reason why I got them.

Then there's Lent, proper. Traditionally, it's a season of fasting. For Catholics, it equates to sacrificing meat on Fridays (which is synonymous with a church basement fish fry and all the fixins) and attending Stations of the Cross. OK, there's a lot more to it...Holy Feast Days and vigils...but when I was left at the alter by my Catholic ex, I quit keeping track of most traditions and days of obligations. Actually, ex-fiance #3 is how I came to convert to Catholicism. And although I find it impossible to reconcile my beliefs on gay marriage, abortion, and The Pope to the Catholic way, I find an unexplainable comfort in the routine of mass, a season of fasting and reflecting, and praying the rosary. I am, as Mama Virgo is fond of saying, a cafeteria Catholic. I pick and choose my sides, leaving out that which doesn't fall into place with my value system.

Which is why I've decided to quit proclaiming myself as Catholic. I'm sure it's offensive to Catholics who live and die by the sacraments. I got married on a beach, not in a Catholic church. Obviously the foundations of the church carry little weight with me. And what's worse than that chick who shows up for ashes on a Wednesday and fish on a Friday? I carry with me some of the practices of Catholicism as they have become part of me, but I haven't been to confession in 7 years. Probably time to stop eating the bread and drinking from the cup.

I'll keep Lent, though, because I feel like it forces me to stop and reflect on the time of year that I celebrate my one true belief...that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me. Regardless of what religion I happen to be practicing, my faith is unchanging. The brick and mortar may say Methodist or Lutheran or Interdenominational Church of Everyone, but my heart says Jesus is my Savior...the end. The Facebook statuses will be flying tomorrow with updates on what is being given up. There are always a few frontrunners...chocolate, alcohol, sex, Facebook. And then there people who celebrate Lent by taking on a self-help task...exercising, volunteering, recognizing Lent. Sometimes we last 40 days and 40 nights and sometimes we just can't quite stay awake while Jesus is on the mount.

If you haven't read Kallay's Lenten post today, I strongly encourage you to do so. It's witty, it's succinct, and it's a challenge to us all...to reach past what's easy and commit ourselves fully to our faith. I know I'll continue to pray the rosary, attend Stations of the Cross, fry some fish on Fridays, and give up or take on something for the Easter season. But I do it as a woman of faith and not under the cloak of being a Catholic. I no longer walk that path and I apologize for faking it for so long.

How do you feel about Lent? Do you sacrifice something or take on something? Have you read Kallay's post yet? You really should...


9 comments:

  1. So I used to be Catholic, until I was 7 or so. So I guess I wasn't MUCH of a Catholic. And then I was really nothing--faith, but more like, confused faith. Now I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things, but finding a church where I belong is feeling difficult. So in the meantime, I'll be reading my little bible on my own. And I don't see anything wrong with that.
    Thanks for this post--just what I needed today.

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  2. Whenever I talk about what I'm giving up for lent (sweets and debating fries, we'll see) everyone just assumes I'm Catholic. Not even remotely. But you're right it is the one time of the year (outside of maybe Easter) where the spiritual side of me gets to peek out from wherever it hibernates.

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  3. Well spoken my friend. For me, denominations are out the window. My faith as a Christian began when I was 14 and has never waivered, only been pushed and strengthened.

    For me if I simply "love God, love people" & do ALL that comes with these four words, I am headed down the right path.

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  4. Like I told you already, I love the bravery in this post. I know how hard it must be to step out and say, hey guess what, I'm not really (insert lifestyle here). I love the journey that faith takes us on, especially when it leads us somewhere we never thought we'd go and it ends up being better than we ever would have imagined. Three cheers for a silent and faith based Lent.

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  5. I kept tying and retyping a response to this post... I was definitely having a hard time with it. I think I was raised with a broad understanding of religion (with a Protestant mother and Jewish father who converted to Protestantism after marrying my mom) and of course I went through that Buddhism stage in college, but I can't say I know too much about any one religion... Though of the three, I would have to say that Buddhism is my favorite. I suppose because picking and choosing what you wish to follow is perfectly acceptable.

    That being said, I see absolutely nothing wrong with you doing what works best for you. I like that you don't try to define yourself by any particular title. This is a pretty spectacular post, my dear. It's nice to see you again. I feel so guilty I haven't checked in in so long. And I dunno if that's my Jewish guilt or your Catholic guilt rubbing off on me :) XOXO

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  6. I do nothing for Lent. Why set myself up for failure? And I'm not Catholic...don't we get a pass??

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  7. This is such an Ally-post - honest and open. Proud of you, Girl. The true freedom of being an American is the freedom to follow the religion of your choice, be it Anglican or Zen, something in between, or something individual that fits you perfectly. Many of us have walked the path of self discovery and moved from one house of worship to another, or even out of them altogether. That's true freedom of spirit.

    Ain't do doubt in my mind that you will go to Heaven - whatever that means to you - and it don't make no nevermind what any of the rest of us believes ... for you. A period of reflection and thoughtfulness - whether we call it Lent or "doodah" [or how about we call it Ramadan?] can't hurt any of us. The sooner we start accepting folks for all their good points and stop worrying about how they pray, the sooner we will improve as a society. Wow, webb, get off the soap box.

    Happy Fat Tuesday! xoxo

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  8. Really well said. I suppose in some ways I'm a cafeteria Catholic, but I was raised by a theologian and in a very liberal, intellectual Catholic tradition. The sacraments mean the world to me, even if I only make it to Mass once a month... but I think the Church has, socially, a great big stick up it's butt that is going to take a long time to get pulled out. =/

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  9. Hey lady! So I grew up Non-denominational charismatc Christian. This means a lot of things but it also means that I had no direct knowledge of Lent. Period. Never heard of it. Lent-who? When I was in college my roommate was Catholic. I had the token Catholic boyfriend as well. Now I sort of want to celebrate or participate in Lent. But I think its because I just want to be in the club. In my heart I don't think its really something that matters to your salvation. Catholics don't kill me for saying that. Its just my personal opinion. So I won't be getting my Lent on. But kuddo's to all those who do. I hope you all rock it out with your Lent.

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That's it, let it all out....