Thursday, March 5, 2009

God Help Us

I notice a few of my blogger friends have been posting about the value of Lent in their "spring healthy lifestyle" tactics. And, of course, I say whatever works - though they do tend to give up the most painful things! From the perspective of habit creation, 40 days is a terrific time frame. And, when you give yourself a limited - but significant time spans- unlike, say with "this is the new me" January resolutions, you're increasing the likelihood of succeeding.

I also note with interest - though not surprise - that many of the Lenten self-deniers (aka healthful habit changers) are being all Lent-positive in a completely agnostic fashion.

Now, I was raised horrendously Catholic. My parents are first generation Italian and Puerto Rican from New York (yes, it is like West Side Story without the non-diagetic music) and there was not a holy day I could escape. I have been christened, first holy communioned, confirmed. Despite this - or maybe because of it - I never truly got with organized religion - the overriding, phallocentric philosophy of Catholicism grated particularly. But my extremely traditional father would hear none of it.

In his words (also like something out of West Side Story): As long as you live under my roof (or till you're 18 - whichever comes first) you go to mass.

You gotta know he was a hard ass. And a very principled man. He continues to go to church ever Sunday, God love him.

You know, I still haven't seen the end of Sybil, a movie which positively hooked me back in 1982 for its "modern take" on multiple personality disorder. My father made me turn off the TV and leave for church 20 minutes before it was over. (Daddy, if you're reading this: I told you I would never forget!)

Reactionism is a mysterious thing. The day I turned 18, I turned my back on the Catholic church. Oh, I've stopped in a couple of times to make my grandmother happy, but I have never felt the lure to return. (Allow me to detour briefly to say that my self-ex-communication from religion in no way contradicts my overriding spiritual beliefs. Not that it's particularly relevant here...)

My daughter has not been christened, does not attend church. We try to teach her about pan-religiosity to the extent that we understand, and continue to learn about, other belief systems. And we absolutely espouse morality and values and respect for everyone. I only wish the edicts of the Catholic faith did more of that. Please note, also, that this is no dis to the religious peeps - Catholic or otherwise. Believe as you do. I am a good person today for all of my life experience - Catholicism included.

But, sure as hell, I'm not observing Lent.

Maybe I should round up this rant with a little amusing tale of the kiddie variety, hmmm?

Last spring, I got an anxious call from the director of M's daycare. It appears that, very accidentally, one of the caregivers had purchased some craft supplies that were in some way notably christian. My child, on seeing them, first admired the beautiful colour scheme and then advised: "My mother isn't going to be happy about this. She really doesn't approve of Jesus." When the teachers then scuffled to round up the craft stuff stat - it is a specifically non partisan organization - M told them not to worry, that she was making her craft on behalf of her American Girl doll who "has religion". Phew...

Of course, I wouldn't have said a thing about the craft supplies. I really don't care if they are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic or anything else. I'm just glad the daycare puts together thoughtful aftercare programs and treats the kids with openness and respect.

But Jesus, kids say the damnedest things.


  1. K-Line.. Lent, OH My gosh...what is lent? Seriously, I totally forgot. Oh my gosh I have to wikipedia it now... = (

  2. I love that M's doll "has religion." Something about that phrase just feels right. Like some of us have it, some of us don't. Along the lines of blue eyes or perfect pitch.

    I'll be sure to send you one of Husband Mike's Lent cards. ;)

  3. As a Protestant, we don't do Lent. Well, I guess Episcopalians do, but they're almost Catholic anyway. But I agree: most of the friends I know who observe it aren't at all religious and use Lent as more of a New Year's resolution thing. I never understood Lent. That, and why you eat fish on Fridays...

  4. V. funny!! As a contrarian, whenever anyone tells me to give up anything, I cling to it all the more tightly. Lent is not my style.

  5. omg M IS GENIUS!!!!!'s funny, I just read a post about what "she" was going to give up for Lent on Ash Wednesday ...and I commented that I gave up Ash Wednesday and it's the only thing that stuck! ...I too am an ex-Catholic and loving every minute of it!

  6. I was raised like you, but you had more luck, I hadn't the part "or till you're 18 - whichever comes first".

    I don't do lent, I've a life philosophy that's for all year, and being a vegetarian...


  7. While I have quite hypocritically baptized and communioned both Bratty and Boo, I did it as a ritual that pressed all the buttons for me but without recourse to a named deity (in my own mind)

    As a proddy Mum married to an atheist Dad, I did it also to involve the in-laws and give them a chance to celebrate their grandchildren/nieces/nephew in a way they understood. I would have just as happily mitzvahed them if that was what suited too.

    But as for learning catchetizm? I tell people that we had trouble enough with Santa, without going into the whole Jesus thing, Us Auties are just pure Darwinian I am afraid.
    Boo has learned a great deal about the bible from Reverend Lovejoy and The Simpsons. And that's good enough for me.

    And Lent Schment! We enjoy half price fillet steak, Ben and Jerry's and Twirls at this time of year. YUM!

    As for Good Friday, supposedly the peak of denial. Try finding a table at the Sydney Fish Market on Good Friday when the devout enjoy great platters of Lobster, Prawns, Calamari and Sashimi with thick cut chips and lashings of Eden Valley Riesling to wash it all down.



  8. I was raised Catholic -- baptized, communioned, confirmed. I went through the Catholic school system in Ontario, although my high school was liberal for a religious school (not like the kind you see in movies). Anyway, we were never overly religious -- we attended church sporadically when we were little (I don't think my dad ever went since he doesn't believe) and sometime in high school I started questioning this religious and stopped believing in it.

    We've never really practiced the religion at home though. My mother's not super religious anyway. When we were younger, we might not have eaten meat on Good Friday. That was about as religious as we ever got at home.

    Your daughter is so funny :)

  9. My experience is almost exactly the same as yulanda, although post-high school questioning, I still somehow came out a believer. Despite that, I'm far from religious and only attend mass for Christmas and Easter (when I remember). Lent however is way too much for my memory to deal with. Sure I remember Pancake Tuesday, but everything after that is just a blur. Perhaps I should start praying for a better memory :D

  10. sybil!! oh wow, that movie traumatized me when i 1st saw it.

  11. As a child who spent every week attending about four different church services, I am now mother to a little girl who thinks that churches are castles where Princesses live. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

    Love the story. I think the whole giving up something for Lent and Spring time coinciding for you in the Northern Hemisphere must make it an even bigger deal. We always get the whole "cleansing / detox" fervor when spring comes on, but Lent goes fairly unnoticed. The only thing that annoys me about it is how much they jack up the price of my Atlantic Salmon over the coming month. Well, at least the chocolate is prevalent.

  12. It's always amazed me how religious the blogsphere can be. Or maybe it's just because it's different from the culture I live in here.

  13. GJ: You really have got out of the hang of Catholicism :-)

    D.: You're coming back with some pretty amusing comments lately :-)

    E: It's funny cuz it's true.

    Sal: :-) It is funny that she would use that turn of phrase...

    Janet: Lent used to depress me big time. And I've always disliked Easter.

    Miss C: One of those things we have in common!

    Maegan: Ex Catholics have much more fun, I suspect, than practicing ones :-)

    Seeker: I love that "living your philosophy throughout the year" idea. So good.

    Hammie: My kid "learns" from Reverend Lovejoy too! :-) Scary. And I think that baptism as a promoter of community is a lovely idea. Just don't let your priest know you aren't keeping up!

    Y: I can't believe we've never talked about this. Fascinating.

    Ms. U: LOL. Memory is good.

    -h: Trauma indeed. But it was riveting (at least till the last 20 minutes!)

    SKM: I love that. Your daughter sounds excellent. Just keep a lot of chocolate on hand and you can promote the princess theme all the more :-)

    Imogen: It is interesting...