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
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...