Happy Lent to you all.
Yes, saying “happy” and “Lent” in the same sentence may appear to be a misnomer when discussing the time we turn inward to reflect on our faith and actions, but there are many, many reasons to embrace the 40 days of the season.
I am a Christian, raised as a Catholic, so I have war stories about Lent. I’m sure you do as well, especially from your childhood. Telling children that they will be better off spiritually by giving up candy for 40 long days and dealing with the whining and complaining should qualify parents for some level of sainthood.
My parents raised six children and endured for decades seemingly endless whining about the depravity and abuse of giving up pop or candy. As bad as the cacophonous wailing was about no Snickers candy bars, it was truly nothing compared to the reaction to meat-less Friday meals.
Catholics after the Vatican II conference were allowed to eat meat on Fridays, except during Lent. While this was a tremendous boon to meat lovers, fish haters found yet another reason to be miserable during Lent.
My mother, rest her soul, did her best to keep us happy and follow doctrine. It was far from easy on both fronts, but we children knew that Mom would always err on the side of the church. No one was soiling their soul because they wanted meat Friday, not on her watch.
So we had fish sticks. Lots of fish sticks. To mix it up we had what I liked to call “rich people’s breakfast” for dinner — pancakes and eggs. Lots of macaroni and cheese as well. I was never a fan of fish, but eating those awful fish sticks in the 1970s has scarred me for life. I can recall looking at Sizzlean, a faux bacon of the time, hoping beyond hope that it was meatless, only to learn it had pork.
It was a sad realization.
As an adult, I realize that having a period of time where we become introspective about our lives, our actions and our faith is a healthy thing. In our instant gratification, spilt-second attention span world, slowing down and denying ourselves things we are accustomed to having actually makes us appreciate them more when we have an opportunity to enjoy them again.
Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Christ had many doubts about the next phase in his life. Up until this point he was able to live a normal life and enjoy the world as much as the son of God can do. Like us, he had to make choices and sacrifices. Lent is an annual time to renew our commitment to our faith and simplify our lives.
I didn’t mean to jam religion down your throats, gentle reader. The arrival of Lent as the last terrible part of winter arrives gives us hope that the rebirth and renewal of spring, glorious spring, is just around the corner.
We can put up with some sacrifices and tough out the time until Easter arrives. We can then truly enjoy the celebration, safe in the knowledge that we have once again abided and done our part.
Until then, tough out the fish sticks.
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