in a hand basket

Palm fronds from Palm Sunday are burned and those ashes are used to mark the foreheads of the pious that attend mass on a particular Wednesday. From this day, for forty days, the pious will relinquish something in their life that will cause them suffering so as to align themselves with Christ. On Fridays, they will go without meat as well, a dietary addition to the suffering.

I am not Catholic and although I was raised as a Christian I have never observed Lent. The giving up of chocolate or sodas or deserts never seemed to me a very religious observance. It all seemed so silly and therefore I never questioned why my church didn’t condone the practice. Chocolate isn’t something that without it, your life will be incomplete. The point of Lent to me would seem that the thing you give up, the thing that will align you with Christ will leave a void in your life. That void will then cause you to reflect and pray and study. Chocolate and sodas, while they can become a habit to be broken, will never leave such a void. They are a desire; a want, not a need and they can easily be replaced by other desires, other wants.

What then, in our world, could we give up that would cause suffering and create a void? How about heat? It seems crazy and silly, but what better way to force piety and reflection? What better way to suffer? I know that this is not what we mean by Lent today. We don’t really want to suffer; we observe it because it has become a tradition. We miss the meaning.

I am not observing Lent this year because I never have and I have only a handful of friends who are. One friend has decided to give up cursing. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. She’s barely Catholic in that she goes to mass on Christmas and Easter and on Ash Wednesday she forgot that she wasn’t suppose to eat meat and she wasn’t upset about it. She’s replaced her curse phrases with “son of a biscuit eater,” and “shut the front door.” She is a kindergarten teacher and while she has never and never would curse in front of the children, she can now use these phrases in class because unless you think she’s trying to curse, you have no idea what she’s talking about.

I’ve been thinking about giving up the f-word. I use it too much. It’s become as common as the word “the.” Well, it’s not that bad but I need to tone it down. I use it with my friends too much, on my blog too much. I’ve become desensitized to bad language. That’s not a good thing. It’s certainly not ladylike. So, for a while at least, I’m saying goodbye to the f-word. He will be surely missed. But maybe his death is not in vain. Maybe his death will keep me from going to h-e-l-l in a hand basket.

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