Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent condition

Lent is now upon us, and every year I wonder about it.

The Lenten season is the Catholic version of what many religions practice — fasting. I’m told by those who know better that the point of fasting is to sacrifice, hence people saying they will give something up for Lent.

For the devout, it’s things like meat-minus-fish, which leads to interesting circumstances, especially in south Louisiana. One of my local friends, who is a conservative and practicing Catholic, once raised an interesting question: If Lent is about sacrifice, why can he eat an elaborate seafood dish on Friday, but a bologna sandwich is forbidden? That’s a really good question. How can a Catholic vegetarian sacrifice during Lent? What if you’re a teetotaling, broke guy like me?

Really, I wonder about any sanctioned sacrifice. In some respects, it’s a luxury. You hear a lot about people and companies who give back, and they deserve credit for doing so. But they’re able to do so because they have the resources. And that brings up good questions: is sacrifice always noble? Is it always selfish not to sacrifice (such as, if you’re poor)?

Two years ago, I donated $150 to the Boys & Girls Club so I could attend a dinner honoring Drew Brees. That was the minimum price just to get in the door, but for me it was a substantial chunk — about two weeks’ worth of groceries. Conversely, others at the event were throwing around thousands of dollars, and threw down thousands more right in front of Drew so he’d take pictures with them and give them an autographed jersey. And while that makes sense on a bottom-line level, is it really a greater sacrifice for millionaires to give up $4,000 than someone who scrapes up $150 at a time when he’s one paycheck away from being a beneficiary himself?

What exactly giving up chocolate or your iPod or whatever for 40 days is supposed to accomplish, I’m not sure. But if that’s what you’re in a position to give up, more power to you. And if you give to the less fortunate for Lent, that goes double.

No matter who we are or what we believe, let’s all be better people. At least until Easter Sunday. Then, screw it.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Those people who think that Lent is only about sacrifice are doing it wrong. Lent is supposed to be a season of penitence and preparation, characterized by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. "Giving up" something for Lent might technically satisfy the precept for fasting, but only superficially. And you're also not supposed to talk about what you give up (if you do: personally, I gave up giving up things for Lent decades ago; I'd rather do more good things than usual than try to find something to give up): that whole "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" and "do not perform acts of faith for people to see" thing that's right there in the Gospel passage read out on Ash Wednesday every year, but which everybody seems to forget about a microsecond after it's finished.