Ash Wednesday

I grew up Catholic.

Well, I grew up going to Catholic school 1st grade through 12th.

My parents were not particularly Church goers or particularly devout. I remember my baptism..I was 6, my sister 3 and I had a newly born brother, and we were all baptised at the same time, so I guess there was no hurry in my parents mind (thank god I didn’t die and was consigned to limbo all these years!)  When I was in 2nd grade and preparing for my First Holy Communion I had what I thought (and still do think) was a very good question. I asked what kind of sin a 7 year old could possibly commit and have to go to confession for?  My parents were called in and I learned to lie in confession..”I hit my brother”,  “I ate too many cookies”…whatever.  At 11 preparing for Confirmation I had had it, and would not say any vows concerning my future behaviour as far as drinking went (funny in retrospect) and that was basically the end for me.

But I enjoyed Ash Wednesday. There was something so cool about having that big streak of dirt on your forehead, announcing to the world that you were a believer and a sinner and that you were going to give up something for 40 days to repent for those sins. I liked when people would look at me. Some would smile knowingly, others looked confused…any and all recognition and drama was good for me.  I usually gave up chocolate or ice cream or some silly thing that I could nobly turn down as my “Lenten sacrifice”, and as soon as Lent was over all bets were off. Of course, oftentimes during the 40 days there might be a little slip, a drop of chocolate might fall into my mouth by accident, but I had no accountability. I hid my indiscretions from all, not that anyone cared.

Here’s an aside : My mother gave up drinking every year for Lent. For 40 days out of 365 she wouldn’t drink, EXCEPT….she was Irish. And, as we all know, St. Patrick’s day falls right there some time in Lent and she was GOOD Irish, so she had an exemption for every March 17. I remember those days, surely she never did.

OH, another aside:  I have a good friend who gave up drinking for Lent one year (many ago). Oh, god! He was so miserable and so mean and crabby we were all practically begging him to drink again by day 10. He did stick it out, but I’m pretty sure he  never made that choice of lenten abstinence again. The relief was palpable on the part of all of his friends on Easter Sunday as he poured a big glass of wine.


Anyway. I was pretty godless and certainly church-less through most of my life, but there was a period when I attended  a Christian Church regularly, and it was a big part of my life.  Tom and I had joined because we liked the people, he had a choir to sing in, we wanted to have some sort of religion for our child to completely rebel against and..I don’t know. I once again fell in love with Lent though, for two reasons. One was because the pastor there gave essentially the same sermon every Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday. In it he set out the idea that instead of giving up something for Lent, we add in something, a good habit, extra generosity, random acts of kindness, whatever. That resonated with me and I have always remembered it. NOT always done it, but it’s in my mind, and the times I have done it I liked it. I never put too much pressure on myself about it, but little habits can change in 40 days and it’s a good practice. The second reason was that Easter Sunday was always a blast.: incredible music at Church ending with a congregational singing of the hallelujah Chorus, followed by a big dinner and party at dear friends of ours, one of my favorite holidays.

All of this is a long way round to saying that I feel like celebrating Lent again. And I mean that, celebrating. It doesn’t feel like a time of abstinence for me (god knows there’s been plenty of that lately!). It feels like a time that I can add in something positive to my life. I am putting it out here for accountability, really just to myself, but I like the idea of marking it. I intend to start a meditation practice. Slowly. 10 minutes a day. Staying with the breath. EVERY day.

I have been telling myself for a long time that I wanted to do this, but there is always something…and there always will be something standing in the way making it HARD.  It is NOT hard to sit still, quietly, for 10 minutes a day. Seriously? Hard? No more excuses.  I have no idea what will come of it, I know people who swear by it and say it has “changed their lives”.

Yeah. Well, I’m just gonna see what happens, that’s how I roll. Jump in and check it out and not expect too much. Though I do have a precedent to work from, my Sunday night yoga class. That has actually changed me in many ways and so maybe I do actually believe that a little daily meditation practice could be good for me. It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

In a time of change and uncertainty it’s very interesting how our minds, my mind, goes back to an old practice. Even though I am turning it on it’s ear, and changing the religious to the spiritual and the lack to the abundance, it’s the same old Lenten practice. For a new age, for a new me.

Every day, 10 minutes. On this Ash Wednesday I am accountable.



Add yours →

  1. I like your use of ritual to better your own life.

    Saw hundreds of people today when I took public transport downtown. Only one had ashes on her forehead. I thought for awhile she was praying, but she turned out to be looking at her tablet…though I suppose she could’ve been reading prayers on her tablet.

    How about if everyone gave up their portable electronic devices for Lent and started talking to each other?

  2. we wanted to have some sort of religion for our child to completely rebel against

    Bahahaha! Brilliantly stated, Mish.

    I love the idea of adding something positive instead of just taking away a negative. I’ve learned that I must add something when I remove something (for example: when I do inventory I not only list my defects, but my assets too).

    Got my wheels turnin’ girl and good on you for taking on the big M. Step 11 is so yummy, why not do a little everyday? After all, that’s what OPEN people do, right?


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