Sorry, I've forgotten how many OEN members are Christian and may
be interested in reading my post on Lent. Well, for those who are --I just
had to share a wonderful piece regarding it in last year's Catholic Digest.
What does Lent conjure up in Christian minds? If you are an older Latin
Rite Catholic, you might recall that fasting was required on certain
days when you could only have one full meal and 2 smaller ones. I think
that has changed, but I don't know because I am a Byzantine Catholic.
We have been more into abstinence rather than fasting, though of course,
personal fasting was always encouraged. This past Sunday was Meatfare
Sunday for us and the Byzantine Christian people of Eastern Europe in days
gone by would observe this Sunday with their last meat meal until Easter.
This Sunday is Cheesefare, and all dairy products would disappear until Easter
as well. Pretty hard penance - you'll agree. But do we do it today? No, not
unless you are a vegan like myself, and as far as I know, I am the only vegan
in my small Byzantine church. But I've heard that there are some Greek
Orthodox who do observe this strict practice. I am impressed.
Of course, for me it is no penance at all. Veganism is a way of life for
me and I have to look for other ways to do penance. And, Colleen Shaddox's
"My Hardest Lent Ever" (Catholic Digest Feb. 08) gave me plenty to think
about. You may recognize her name. Her essays have been featured by
National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and Woman's Day.
This is the first time I read one of her essays and I enjoyed it very much.
From the very beginning she made me laugh. When thinking about what to do
for Lent, she recalled that there was always a kid in catechism class who would raise his hand and ask if he could give up homework for Lent. I just know there are more kids like him today, and I knew then that she would have something worthwhile to say --so I eagerly began to read her article. I wasn't disappointed.
She said for each Lent she dug deep to find the thing whose absence would
torture her most, and this, she said, was usually chocolate. I, too, gave up chocolate for many Lents before I became vegan. Now, since chocolates usually have dairy, I can't eat them anyway.
One Lent she said she gave up coffee, which she observed nearly killed her body but had no discernible effect on her soul. Remember this she said: "....it was pretty grandiose to suppose that God would care about my caffeine intake."
On her 33rd Lent she was receiving chemotherapy, and had a hard time keepinganything down. So this Lent she didn't have to worry about giving up anything sheenjoyed to eat or drink. But immitating "her" smart alec friend from catechism class who wanted to give up homework for Lent, she said that she would give up dying for Lent.
I really liked her idea on doing something positive one Lenten season instead of giving up something. During this Lenten season she spent those 40 days productively by giving up her lunch hour every day to write letters for Amnesty International. I thought that was a fantastic idea.
But her hardest Lent ever was she when she resolved to stop saying unkind
things. She admitted it would be harder than giving up coffee, soda, and candy all at once. She viewed this as her greatest flaw which was compounded by growing up in a large family where wit was highly valued - even sometimes at the expense of kindness.
During this Lent she would carry with her a large coffee can into which she
dropped a quarter every time she said something unkind --and even more than one if it was really bad. When people asked her what she was doing she explained her penance. When they asked what would she do with the money after Lent - she impishly said she would build a hospital in Peru.
Her can grew weighty and a burden to carry around. She sometimes made light of her jingling change and the noise it made by saying "Here comes a nasty
woman." She collected $47 and then added more to round the sum up a bit. It was not nearly enough for a hosptial in Peru, but with it she established afund in memory of her friend Sam whom she had met in a cancer support group.
This --her hardest Lent ever-- did teach her to curb the acerbic side of her
personality a bit. Today she observes that she is much slower to utter an
unkind remark, though she admits it happens from time to time. She ends her article with "But this only shows that I am a soul in progress. It's a good incentive,I figure, for God to keep me around for a few more Lents."
I really enjoyed her reflections on "My Hardest Lent Ever." Though it was her hardest, I believe it was the one which pleased MOST the Jesus who inspired it.