Growing up, I attended a catholic elementary school called Holy Sepulcher. Some parts of the years were more important than others with regards to heading to mass, which meant that we went more often. I didn’t mind it, and I actually enjoyed getting out of the classroom and into the church. Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, and a time for remembrance, forgiveness, but mostly what people “remember” is to not eat meat on Fridays, and to give something up until Easter. Even then, it is not a huge deal if either falls through.
Growing up, one of my friends dads liked to use a saying for people he only saw twice a year at church. “ChEasters.” He was referring to the huge wave of people that would come in only on Christmas and Easter. I laughed, but it did explain quite a bit. People that didn’t want to lapse too far out of the faith for fear of something, or that wanted to give their family a Christian experience, or to say that “yes, we’re Catholic. We go to Mass” but leave out the detail of how often.
When I first moved up to Maine, I found a nice little parish to attend, and everything was going well. Then the Catholic church decided to improve the translation from the original Latin to English to better meet the original text, and the text that is used more often throughout the rest of the world. Over 2 years later, and a lot of people still need to use the handy booklet, but when you have something ingrained in your memory, it’s difficult to forget. “The Lord be with you.” “And also…errrhhmmm… I mean and with your spirit.” This was readily apparent when I went home for Christmas that year, and went to Christmas eve mass with my family. My grandmother, who is a devout Catholic and goes to church every weekend still had trouble getting it right, and still does, but when you’ve been saying the same phrases in the same order for 90 years, it can be difficult to change.
I’m sure everyone has the best of intentions when they do something religious, such as when they attend church on the rare occasion, or give up fast food for Lent (hint: I’m giving up fast food.) However, this time of year is not just about giving something up. It is about giving something up to bring yourself closer to God. That something could be 15 minutes a day reading the bible, an hour each Sunday through the Lenten season to go to mass, or a few extra dollars to go towards charity. I’m not saying you do not have to give up chocolate this year, or cursing, or pop. I’ve just found that the years that I’ve given something up that I want to (fast food, beer, candy) only went so far. The years that I also gave up a little more of my time to strengthen my relationship with God, those were the years I persevered.