In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock or you haven’t noticed that fish fry season has officially started, today marks the beginning of Lent. I’m not much on religious politics so I ignorantly have no idea if any other religions besides the Catholic Church participate in the observance. I would assume that most Christian foundations follow it in one way or another but that’s another topic that I’m not really interested in diving into right now.
When I was young, we were always asked what we were going to “give up” for Lent. Our answers would always be nearly the same. No pop or candy. If our parents were lucky, we’d say no TV but God himself only knows that wasn’t going to last. Not until I was in Junior High did someone ask me what I was going to “do” for Lent as in “do more of.” Until that 7th grade year of religious education, I, as a brand name obsessed tween, didn’t know that I had the choice! In my adolescent brain I’m sure I was thrilled knowing that as long as I could promise to be kinder to my brothers or take the garbage out without my mom asking that I’d be doing good for the Lenten season.
As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to a split realization. To some, it’s almost like a do-over for the New Years resolutions that we flopped on by January 5th. We decide to do or give up something ridiculous and it lasts until the 2nd or 3rd fish fry. And on the other hand, I see that people actually do make a point of doing their best. In the world we live in, although it’d be ideal, it’s harder than ever to actually unplug or quit cold turkey on caffeine. It’s much “easier” for lack of a better term to do more. To be better. To contribute.
The Easter season as I refer to it, is my favorite time of the year. Although I haven’t really been involved in the Catholic community since the day I was confirmed, it still is the foundation for many of the morals and memories that I hold dear to my heart. My favorite days out of the entire Catholic year were always Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday.
I don’t know if it was ambiance of Ash Wednesday or what but I always felt a sense of calmness. Walking into church at 5:00 PM on that Wednesday every year made me feel free and sinless. It made me forget about the mean kids in school or the fights with my brothers. It made me forget missing my dad because of his job or watching my mom try to breathe through the pains in the asses that we were as kids. Ash Wednesday was peaceful. From the moment we walked in and sat in the pews to the sign of the cross on our foreheads, I was reminded that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. I miss that.
And Palm Sunday, it’s the best isn’t it? I have only ever celebrated Palm Sunday in the basement of Sacred Heart in Roseau, MN except for the three years during my confirmation. The entire congregation would gather in the basement. Every single person there would receive their palms. I always wanted to be in the front so I could be hit with whatever it was in that water shaker. I always felt that whoever got wet were the ones that were the most blessed. After the moments of prayer and worship my mom would always show us how to braid our palms. We’d usually braid them into crosses or hearts. They’d be kept with us or sometimes on the calendar or near the mirror at home. To this day whenever I see a palm, I’m reminded of the happiness that the Easter season brings.
I don’t often think of the Lenten season to be one where Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights. I think it’s because although he sacrificed so many things for us; that we’ve always been reminded to be grateful and happy with our life. To not dwell on the hardships of the past and instead to celebrate a new future.
Reflecting back on what I’ve written and remembering some pretty special moments in my past; I know that when I have babies of my own that I will raise them with an education in religion. I’m not sure what or where it will come from. I’m not sure if we will be regular church go-ers or dive into all realms of the religions around the world but I do know one thing; I will share the kindness and importance that Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday hold in my heart.
Happy 40 Days, everyone.