After a whopping 16 years of Catholic education, there are a few things that will never leave me. On the rare occasions I do go to Mass, my favorite part is still the Sign of Peace. (Everyone turns to his neighbors, shakes hands and says, “Peace be with you.” It is very friendly and personal and sweet.) I can still recite the Hail Mary in French. (Je vous salut Marie, pleine de grace.) And I always give up something for Lent.
As we learned from the charming and sensitive film 40 Days and 40 Nights, Lent is a 40-day fasting period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. (In elementary school, Ash Wednesday was the bomb — it takes a while for everyone to go through not only the Communion line but through the ash-getting line, which ate up a delightfully large portion of the school day. Plus, it was entertaining to see everyone, including teachers, with huge black smears on their foreheads, and convincing girls with bangs who’d inadvertantly wiped their ashes off that they’d pretty much punched a one-way ticket to hell by disrespecting God.) This fasting has popularly devolved into the practice of “giving something up for Lent.” Catholics forgoe an indulgence — be it a food or a hobby or a habit or sex with Shannyn Sossssamynnn– for the whole 40 days.
Some people donate the money they would have spent on the habit to a charity; others just use it as a reminder of the season. (Step 1. Reach for chocolate bar 2. Remember you gave up chocolate for Lent so it’s forbidden. 3. Curse softly to yourself. 4. Think about how He gave up His mortal LIFE for you and your sins, so maybe you can show some respect and lay off the Dove bars for a few weeks, OK?)
My Lenten sacrifice is always food. Last year it was my namesake, the mighty potato: no French fries, no chips, no home fries, and a surprising amount of soups. I did pretty well. The year I gave up soda was a disaster. Diet Pepsi, you are my dark, bubbly master. I literally betrayed Jesus for you. At least Judas got 30 pieces of silver.
This year, I’m kickin’ it pre-Vatican II style, and giving up meat. I am an enthusiastic carnivore, so this should be interesting. The next six (or so) AHH stops will have an emphasis on places that serve things that did not have parents. The forthcoming “C” restaurant has some mean vegetarian paninis, or so I hear.