We are in the throes of Lent. Forty days and forty nights, commemorating Jesus’ journey into the desert before his death. (40 was s a pretty important number in biblical times. Did you know that Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai with God discussing the commandments and there were 40 days and nights of rain, causing the Great Flood? But I digress…..) Today it appears that during Lent folks are more likely to try to do more good than to give something up—great idea! Though I still remember some of the sacrifices made by me and some of my friends when we were kids.
Attending Catholic school meant several weeks of preparation for Lent. It is the holiest of times for Catholics. Fasting, extra prayers and self-denial in the form of giving up something you like are typical activities. Sister Holy Terror held us accountable every Monday. She would ask each of us to recite what we gave up and whether we were successful over the weekend in holding off the devil. She didn’t really check out whether we were telling the truth (that might be why confession was scheduled early on Mondays), but we kids could figure out who was telling the truth.
Mary Ellen Seleto went into great detail about how she denied herself the jelly beans sitting in a bowl her Mom placed on the coffee table throughout Lent. What a temptation! Somehow she managed to fight off popping ten or fifteen of the sugary candies in her mouth every week. We all know she doesn’t even like jelly beans but you gotta give her kudos for a great story (You also have to wonder if she confessed her deceit?)
Susanne Jolspin, known for her rigorous faith, had the best sacrifice of all. Stories of giving up candy, dessert and sodas paled in comparison. She claimed that all during Lent she slept on the hardwood floor instead of in her bed. “The wood reminds me of the pain Jesus felt on his back on the cross.” It was terribly creative. Of course, Sister should have checked out the pile of used carpet in front of her house the week after Lent started. New carpeting throughout the house and not a wood floor to be had.
I wanted to sacrifice the liver and onions we had every Wednesday for a measly peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My Father, who was a Catholic on Easter and Christmas, figured out the gig and forbade it. Instead he made us eat the fish sticks my Aunt Ruby brought home from the church fish fry every week. Horrible little buggers.
I now side with the folks who try to do something good every day instead of the denial bit. Pay it forward in the McDonald’s line, send a card to someone just to say hi, smile and compliment someone you don’t know…that kind of stuff. It makes confession quicker and easier too.
Share your stories about something you gave up for Lent, or even better, give us some great ideas of how you choose to add more good to the world, right in the comments below.