Lent is my favorite liturgical season. When else do you get to have an enormous sanctioned pancake supper/chocolate pig-out followed by a fish fry? This season was made for me.
Probably the churchmen who came up with this idea were trying to think of an easy way to make me feel remorseful. Or even more remorseful.
Well, fellas, it backfired. I actually feel giddy knowing that before Lent begins I’m stuffing myself full of treats and delicacies such as fried oysters, fried haddock, fried Oreos, fried chicken fingers, fried mushrooms, fried green beans, fried ice cream, and fried green tomatoes with delicious remoulade, which by the way, contains many more ingredients than you imagine. Then throughout Lent I can think about how I’ll have all of the above again after my 40 days of mindfulness. And calm down my true Catholic friends, I know there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Work with me.
This is where people who are not Catholic have those moments when they think we might be a little crazy. But I say to you: What other religion lets you eat all the fried seafood you want every Friday during Lent (and every other Friday on the calendar for that matter) and loves it when you lift a glass of green beer on St. Patrick’s Day? C’mon, clearly we’re the fun church.
And besides that, we’ve got all those saints. They’re pretty amazing too. Most of them are mystical, magical, and mysterious. What I love most about them though is that a lot of them were major sinners before they became saints. That gives me hope.
I’ve been around the religion block a few times, so I’m familiar with a lot of the criticisms about Catholicism — and believe me, I’ve voiced a few doubts myself over the years. Some people don’t like the regimented, rote responses we like to use on Sunday during Mass. There’s a reason for that. Some people don’t like surprises. Maybe we like to know what’s coming next. The idea that some Christian is going to wave his arms up in the air and yell about how much he loves Jesus in the morning makes us a tad uncomfortable. Especially on Sunday morning after we’ve had a really fun Saturday night. We need calm and quiet for God’s sake.
All of this makes sense to me. The rote responses on Sunday, the great food, the long white tunic the priest wears over last week’s black pants and the black button shirt that has the old spaghetti sauce stains on it from last Friday. People think we’re being fancy when in reality we’re helping the priest out. Catholic school kids, nuns, and priests never really have to worry about what to wear on Monday morning. This, my friends, is a gift, and it gives us more time to focus on memorizing those prayers instead of focusing on our wardrobe and washing our clothes.
What would Jesus do? He’d ease up on the chores and spend some time in quiet contemplation about how magical some people are and how freaking great it is to be loved. If only my message would fit around one of those rubber bracelets. I could start a movement.