It’s Mardi Gras and my family is getting ready for a feast. We are going to pig out on all the foods we plan on giving up starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. For me, that means scarfing down chocolate, pastries, and those delightful Polish delicacies, paczkis.
I have been giving up something for Lent almost every year since my childhood. It always seems so easy at the start, usually because I’m full from so much gorging on sweets in preparation. But as the six long weeks toward Easter go by, my resolve wavers. Still, I manage to mostly stick to my commitment until Easter and chocolate bunnies arrive.
Some people scoff at the idea of giving something up for Lent. My dad always used to say, “Why give something up? Why not do something good instead?” Why indeed?
My Lenten sacrifice reminds me on a daily basis of the season we are in, one of reflection and penitence. It’s hard and develops a certain discipline in me. But most of all, it connects me with my Catholic heritage.
I have a Jewish friend who once told me that he kept kosher even though he was not particularly religious. He refrained from eating pork and shellfish as a reminder of his Jewish identity.
The physical disciplines of Lent – fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and giving up something I enjoy – all help keep me grounded as a Catholic.
Besides, with any luck, I might lose a few pounds and feel a little healthier when Easter rolls around.