Talking to Hubby last night, I asked if he remembered the “rules” of fasting for this week’s Ash Wednesday observance. This is probably the first year I have not been either pregnant or breastfeeding (and so excused from the fasting obligation) in a long while, so I obviously would be forgiven for being forgetful about what the Catholic Church means when they admonish one to fast.
(BTW: The USCCB website states:
“For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.”
Most of my non-Catholic friends are completely baffled by a religion that tells one, among other things, what to eat and when (fish on Fridays during Lent) and makes you quit eating for certain amounts of time! Of course fast and abstinence during Lent has a whole lot more theological significance than just the acts themselves, for which some are needlessly wrapped up in the idea of “stuffy old men in Rome telling me what to do” (to paraphrase a beloved relation of mine).
Observing Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) has, in recent times, become the deepest spiritual experience of my entire year. Because, for me, meditating upon the willing acceptance of Christ’s impending death (and, by association, His Resurrection) and how that coincides with my own existence is both strangely comforting and, at the same time, disturbing.
And disturbing it should be. Lent is about suffering. And sacrifice. And realizing that all the wonderful gifts and blessings in our lives are not things we should ever take for granted.
If you are anything like me, we spend most of our year wrapped up in ourselves, our own lives, our own families, our own rushing around trying to get Something Accomplished. The frustrations we feel and the difficulties we face during the year are needless nuisances. They are unfair. They make us mad. We don’t know why they are happening to us. We’re good people. We don’t deserve this! We soldier on, perhaps getting burnt out with our daily lives. We are trying to Accomplish Something after all. Once we get that raise, once we get that toddler potty-trained, once we take that trip, we will have Arrived. Let’s hurry up and get there. And in the meantime, we have Lost the Point.
For me, Lent helps me to get back where I need to be. To make God #1 in my life where he should be, instead of having fallen pretty dang far down the list.
With God, I know what my priorities are and my goals. His goals, not the world’s goals. I know what is expected of me as a wife, and mother, and woman. I don’t have to fear suffering, because with God, suffering can become beautiful. I sacrifice for Him (in my measly little fasting and abstaining from meat) in celebration of all that His Son did for us. It may be difficult, but it is nothing compared to innocently suffering and dying for a lot of people who didn’t deserve it.
Lent becomes a time of “centering” for my spiritual life. And with life as crazy as it is, I really need it.
So what do we do for Lent in my house?
Well, in addition to the obligatory fasting and abstinence, this year, we are braving the 7pm mass on Ash Wednesday as a family. I
can should be able to count on the kids to behave later than their 8pm bedtime so we can do this as a family.
Luckily, everyone really loves fish so coming up with appetizing meal plans for the Fridays during Lent is easy.
To strengthen my faith in the next 40 days, I have committed to saying a decade of the Rosary every day (which becomes surprisingly smooth after a few weeks) and also….eeek…giving up alcohol (this one is going to be hard!). I figured I could do it for my babies when I was pregnant, I should be able (with God’s help) to do it for Him! I will keep you posted on this one!
I am also going to try harder to offer up my daily “sufferings” and frustrations to the Lord. I am hoping this will make me a less frazzled and resentful homemaker (I hope) and help me to express my love to my family better. Again, I will let you know how that goes!
If you celebrate Lent, what are your traditions or commitments?