For many years, I ceased giving up anything for Lent. I came to regard the Lenten fast as a sort of second shot at one’s New Year’s resolution or an attempt to lose weight. For the past three years, however, I have been more diligent about observing Lent through fasting. I’m certain that my marrying a Catholic has something to do with this.
The first year of our marriage, I gave up meat on Fridays during Lent. It wasn’t really that big of a deal to me, as I quickly discovered that I could replace “meat” with unreasonable amounts of fried fish and beer (thanks, Milwaukee). The second and third year, we gave up meat altogether. This proved more challenging, as you can probably imagine. While we weren’t (and aren’t) “over the top” meat-eaters by any means, planning our meals around vegetables was a wholly different experience for both of us.
This year, we decided that giving up meat altogether was something that we were actually looking forward to…in my mind, an eagerness to embark on a fast because it makes you feel good calls the practice into question. Fasts should be difficult, right?
While we continue to observe the no meat on Fridays “rule,” we decided to really go for the gold regarding our “primary” fast. WE GAVE UP COFFEE. That’s right, we put our beloved coffee beans on the top shelf in the kitchen, and we switched to tea. The first week was tough, as a cup of tea in the morning really doesn’t have the same kick as a cup of coffee. What is more, both of us enjoy the taste of coffee so much that tea leaves us wanting. Thus, my current longing for Easter is greater than anything I could express in words.
But the upside of celebrating Lent with a Catholic is that you get to benefit from the “loopholes” that are built into Lent…Catholics call them “feast days,” but whatever. Basically, because every Sunday is a feast of the resurrection, you get to indulge in what you’re supposed to be fasting from and have a little foretaste of the Easter season. And, as my beloved wife (and Catholic friends) have pointed out, if you include Sundays in Lent, you actually end up with something like 46 days. So, on Sunday mornings, I wake up to the smell of coffee brewing downstairs, and nothing says “resurrection” like the aroma of coffee.
But Sundays are not the only loopholes…you also get to “indulge” on a few other days. Today, for example, is the Feast of St. Joseph, so we don’t have to observe our Lenten fast. Thus, I am drinking coffee as I type this. In short, I have found that celebrating Lent like a Catholic is not all bad.