Marti Gras has come and gone and it is now time to do penance. Especially if you celebrated Marti Gras the way it was intended.
The proper celebration of Marti Gras includes a healthy dose of debauchery. The kind of stuff that when you go to confession, the priest wonders whether you are repenting or bragging.
Now that I am 45-years-old, I don't debauch very well. It requires too much energy and hurts too much the next day. About the best I can do these days is drink a six pack of beer and stay up past 10:30.
Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent; the 40 day period of fasting and abstinence in preparation for the celebration of Easter. This is done in imitation of Christ spending 40 days in the desert after his baptism in preparation for his public ministry.
Ever wonder why every fast food joint starts advertizing fish specials every February? For we of the Catholic persuasion, Lent means no meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday until Easter. There is also an obligation to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The late Catholic actor, comedian, film director, television producer, chef, and author Dom Deluise related how on his way home from high school one day, he bought a hot dog from a New York City street vender and took a big bite then remembered it was Friday. What to do? He could spit it out and be sinless. He could eat only the portion in his mouth and commit a venial sin. Or he could eat the whole thing and commit a mortal sin. He went for the mortal!
Some of us add other sacrifices to these obligations. I have known people who have given up broccoli and spinach. A favorite of mine is giving up self-denial. Having done the bare minimum to making big sacrifices in years gone buy, it truly makes Easter more joyful when you have completed a time of large sacrifice.
The purpose of making personal sacrifices is to teach self-discipline and enhance the ability to resist the temptation to sin and strive for virtue and purity. While virtue pays dividends down the road, sin pays off right now. That's why sin is so tempting. Having heard the rumor that God needs to negotiate with the Devil when he needs a lawyer, I had better make some big sacrifices.
While I am sure that it is just a nasty rumor, Catholics have a reputation for being drinkers. No doubt, it is a mere coincidence that many Catholics give up drinking for Lent. God must have a cruel streak to have put St. Patrick's day in the middle of Lent.
My beloved has also decided to give something up for lent. Unfortunately, what she chose to give up gets to become a lenten sacrifice for me as well. As it turns out, I can't wait until Easter!