For almost 6 weeks every year, a sacred veil falls upon our home. It’s a period of reflection and sacrifice, a welcome reprieve from angry crumbs and greasy butter knives left abandoned, indiscriminately, on the kitchen counter.
M is Catholic. His mom was very religious, his dad, not so much. Though M doesn’t attend church or claim to be especially religious, it’s clear that aspects of the faith have made their way in. This, I learned, before we got married, when we were planning the ceremony. Suddenly, he was talking about a priest and a church and rites. These rites mean something to him, having gone through baptism, confirmation, confession. Marriage is another one of these rites, and to be recognized as a marriage in the eyes of the Catholic church, the ceremony must be performed by a priest in a church. Or something like that. Frankly, I’m a bit unclear on the official protocol, not to mention how rites and sacraments differ or if they’re the same thing. M isn’t much help clarifying. His most vivid memories around religion are of walking miles to church with his mom on sweaty summer days, wearing an itchy wool suit and covertly listening to his transistor radio during services.
But for 40 days every year, M observes Lent and gives up something. This something is supposed to represent, among other things, the sacrifices Jesus endured, so your something better be, you know, a sacrifice. M usually chooses bread.
Trust me, eliminating bread is a big deal for M and, by association, for me and, by further association, for our kitchen and our entire home! Those morning slices of toast slathered with butter or butter substitute (and sometimes STICKY JAM!) are my pet peeve, my Achilles heel. Appearing in the role of Hansel, M leaves a trail of crumbs all over the condo, each barefooted step collecting and redistributing the tiny irritating particles. If only he had the gene that enabled him to see (and FEEL) the mess. If only I didn’t.
During Lent, I am liberated and so is our vacuum. Except on pizza night. M doesn’t consider pizza to be a bread product. Well, he does, he just doesn’t include it in his sacrifice. He’ll forgo his beloved hamburgers and will even eat bun-less hotdogs, but pizza is off the list. According to my Lent research, it’s inappropriate to judge the piety of another’s practice, since it’s a very personal choice and not a competition. Even with the pizza, I’m impressed that M can abstain from eating bread for 40 days.
I’m not sure how spiritual Lent is for him, but I no longer question his wanting to do it. Religion is a curious thing. We may take it, we may leave it and, at different points in our lives, may find our way back to it. If we filter our spiritual practice to suit our needs and beliefs, and perhaps turn to it only periodically, so be it. It’s tempting to get all judgey when it comes to religion, especially when folks get too preachy, but that applies to anything doesn’t it? If observing Lent means that M loses a few pounds and gains some peace of mind, I say, “Huzzah!”
I’ve been both fascinated and suspicious of (and a little freaked out by), religion my entire life. I can’t think of many other things that can impact a person the way religion can. I think that’s the part that scares me, the degree of power and influence. Plus, the Damian-Excorsisty movies I watched as a kid haven’t helped (talk about being scarred for life).
At the same time, I’m captivated by the pomp and protocol and reverence. I love churches – from small village rooms to grand and ornate cathedrals. I’ve also been in several synagogues and am curious about other places of worship. There’s something so mesmerizing about watching people in prayer – the kneeling and whispering and crossing – and everyone knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. All these different aged and shaped bodies moving and speaking in “choreographed” synchronicity together. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.
40 blissful days have passed for another year. I only wish there were more occasions to sacrifice other kinds of things, like dirty socks balled up by the man-chair or splatters of teeth-brushing residue on the bathroom mirror.
Clearly, Jesus has more influence on M than his nagging wife.