OK. Here’s how it happened.
I’m a Catholic, a lawyer and as of a few years ago, an empty nester. What that meant was I had free time and physical space that had been devoted to rearing our truly wonderful children for oh-so-many years. Every night was date night. The mother of our children was mine again.
Life was good. There was time for reflection. For seeing myself in our children. For seeing my parents in me. Connecting the dots.
The advent of Lent that first year brought just such an experience.
Remember as a kid, when you had to pick your favorite thing and do without it for the whole Lenten season to honor Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert? It couldn’t just be one thing, like chocolate milk. It had to be a whole category like “sweets,” which in my family included soft drinks and desserts as well as candy.
So what was I going to give up?
I know. That approach to Lent was passé, but it’s what I grew up with. It’s what I knew. From Ash Wednesday to Easter morning, I had to give “it” up for the whole 40 days.
But for some reason I did the math. Ash Wednesday through Easter Eve is 46 days. Where did the extra six days come from? I’m used to knowing the rules and how things are supposed to work. That’s what I do for a living.
How had I missed that fact for all these many years? So I did what we all do. I asked the question of my two most knowledgeable friends, one of whom is a regular in Bible study and the other an ordained deacon.
They confirmed the math and the fact that I had missed an important point in catechism: the six Sundays of Lent do not count. Sunday is man’s day of rest. Mystery solved. Except, I grew up in a Catholic family. How did this get by my own parents?
Uncertain, I faced my Maker and asked the question. No, not Him … my mother. That’s tougher.
Her answer was very matter of fact: “That may be true, but that’s not how we do it in our family.”
That’s when the lawyer started asking questions. If Sundays don’t count, when does Sunday start? Seems like a trick question, huh? But for Catholics, Sunday can start as early as 4 p.m. on Saturday. It is the earliest that you can attend an “anticipated” Sunday mass. So, playing by those same rules, Sundays in Lent start on Saturday at 4 p.m.
What then was I to do with this newfound insight?
That’s when I came full circle. The Lenten fast. I valued the memories of the struggle to maintain the fast for the full Lenten season and the satisfaction of that accomplishment.
Giving up the adult equivalent of “sweets” means no “adult” beverages. But let’s be serious. This is south Louisiana. You tell someone you gave up drinking and their reaction will be “BS” while they get your favorite beverage.
But it is different if you give up drinking for Lent. It is a great way to get yourself back in shape from the Holiday and Mardi Gras seasons. You get to relive a wonderful childhood experience. And everyone honors the commitment. Bottoms up.
Ben E. Nebriated is the pseudonym of a Lafayette attorney who believes a liturgical confession should properly be an act of anonymity.