Sunday, March 20, 2005

What have you given up this lenten season?

Easter week celebration officially begins Monday, unless you're like my aunt who started celebrating 2 weeks ago, her notion of being a devout catholic. But celebratory days are not of merriment, but rather, suffering, as Christ suffered, or so they say. The Lenten season brings about neverending promises of giving up something that one enjoys to show patronage of Christ's suffering. It doesn't even come close, but makes my relatives feel holy and self-righteous.

My aunt, who loves eating rice, has "sacrificed" her rice eating days for three weeks now. Of course, when Easter day rolls around, she will greedily chomp down hoards of rice at our family Easter Day party.

My uncle, who loves ice cream, has given up slurping his favorite, Rocky Road ice cream on a cone, for the sake of atonement for his sins and the identified suffering of Christ, although I suspect he's sneaking spoonfuls when everyone's asleep. How do you account for the large gobs of ice cream "mysteriously" disappearing from the fridge? And nobody gets it! Christ!

My Aunt Maria attends Mass EVERY DAY, rosary beads in hand, at least 10 prayer books, both translated in English and Chamorro. She faithfully stays after Mass for the Ten Stations of the Cross, a long recital where the priest and faithful followers trail around the church, stopping at each Station and praying, which brings back childhood memories when I trailed behind my mother, a miserable kid, who didn't understand why she had to pray AGAIN! after she had just attended Mass services.

On Fridays, you aren't supposed to eat meat, so fish, rice, and other non-carnivore foods graced our table. I admit, a sliver of guilt would overcome me, when during those days, growing up, I would sneak a just-nuked, Hot Pocket pepperoni snack after everyone was in bed.

My Aunt Maria says I'm a disrespectful child (yes, I will always be a child in her eyes). I guess this is because I tease her that if God had not chosen Mary to be the mother of Jesus, she was next on the list. Honestly! This woman is a very devout Catholic, as was my mother.

When I became a born-again christian, attending a fundamental baptist church, then a fundamental baptist college, they were terrified that I would die and surely go straight to hell. No waiting period in purgatory, where most Catholics end up, until they get prayed out of there. (or so I was taught). No, straight to hell.

So Catholics, as well as other denominations, share this deep affinity during the Easter season- the passion of the christ; the resurrection--profound and enduring events in which their belief system is centered. And somewhere... somehow... the Easter bunny with his colorful basket of eggs, appeared...the philosophical overtures of this relevant bit of information is too taxing for me to make sense of it now, so I'll skip it.

To me, growing up, lent has a more profound meaning than a new year's resolution, don't you agree? A new year's resolution is just a politically-correct gesture; a social more, a light-hearted gesture. Lent, however, is a serious business. It's simple. If you digress, you're weak; you've let God down; shame on you! I believe it comes down to inherent guilt that must be atoned in some way, i.e., physical manifestation, and certainly, the Lenten season is the perfect time for absolution. Ah, to be Catholic.

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