365 Days of Random

Random musings about nothing at all

Ash Wednesday

For all you non Catholics out there – the day immediately following Mardi Gras is ASH WEDNESDAY. This is why all of us Catholic walk around with ‘something on our foreheads’. We know it’s there… it’s intentional.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that comment out of the way I do want to say that I don’t expect everyone to just know what the Ashes on the forehead means. It doesn’t offend me or bother me for someone to mention that I have ‘dirt’ on my forehead. I get that people are just trying to be polite and make sure I am aware of the fact that I look a little strange. I appreciate that. But, with the number of Catholics out there I can’t be the only one you’ve seen today that went to mass (and therefore has ashes on his or her forehead). The logical conclusion then would be that some ‘cultural thing’ is going on that perhaps you’re not familiar with. Not that a bunch of people all randomly smudged something on their forehead and are walking around unaware for hours. Feel free to ask me what is on my forehead and why. I will tell you without hesitation that it’s Ash Wednesday. If you don’t know what that is or what it signifies, that’s fine, ask me. I will happily explain. But please, keep your smart ass comments about it to yourself.

Ash Wednesday is the start of the most important season in the Catholic Church. It’s the time we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a time of abstinence and fasting and personal reflection. It’s a time to test your faith and think about all the things in your life that matter the most. To think about your own personal relationship with God. Catholics are marked with Ashes at the beginning of the season of Lent to remind us of the sacrifice made by Jesus – that he gave his life for us. For me this year it’s about trying to find my way back to the spiritual parts of my life.

Faith is something that has been important to me all my life. Admittedly this past year or so I have struggled with it a lot. I guess you can say that I am on a bit of a journey of discovery when it comes to religion and faith and church and all that. I believe it to be a very very personal thing and it’s mostly something that I keep to myself. I have never been a fanatical Catholic. I am not the person that is going to spend hours whacking you over the head with a bible trying to convince you that it’s the ‘one true path’. Frankly I don’t actually believe that. I believe each of us have our own path to walk and they are all taking us to the same ultimate destination. How we get there doesn’t really matter – THAT we get there does.

Catholicism has been the path I’ve walked my entire life – with a few bumps along the way sure – and it’s likely to be the path I walk for the rest of my life. But I love to talk about different religious views, cultures, rituals, practices, and experiences with God and faith. I actually quite enjoy learning about things that I know very little about. It helps me in my own personal journey of faith.

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March 9, 2011 Posted by | Challenges, Faith | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mardi Gras

Yes, today is Mardi Gras – aka – Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Tuesday. It marks the day before the Catholic season of Lent and is traditionally a day of indulgence. In New Orleans people celebrate with days of food and drink and merriment… the true “Mardi Gras” parade. In places in South America (and cities like Toronto with large cultural influence from that region) celebrate “Carnival” – a very colourful and splendid multi day celebration.

I’ve never been to New Orleans but it’s definitely a place that I’d love to check out at some point in time. Mardi Gras in New Orleans would certainly be an experience. Although I am not sure I could take all the ‘crazy’ that occurs. Sometimes I wonder how far people can take the idea of a ‘day of indulgence’. New Orleans certainly seems to have found a way to elevate this idea to a type of art. Carnival I’ve had just a tad more exposure to. But even then only peripheral experience. Before I moved to DC I lived just outside of the city of Toronto. They have a large “Carnival” celebration and from what I’ve heard it’s fairly ‘traditional’ and quite similar to the Brazilian festival. Of course nothing can really compare to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. That’s another experience that I’d love to gain at some point in my lifetime.

Growing up in a small town outside of Ottawa, Mardi Gras was simply called Pancake Tuesday. It was the one day a year that my mom would let us have pancakes for dinner AND cake for dessert. We were allowed to indulge – at least to a certain degree. It was also the day we had to ‘announce’ what we were planning to give up for Lent. As kids it’s really hard to think about and commit to giving something up for 40 days. It seems like a lifetime. But we always managed to do it. For me the hardest part was the my birthday ALWAYS fell within Lent. And without exception I always gave up something that I wanted to have during my birthday party – chocolate, ice cream, chips, candy… But my mom was cool – she ‘exempted’ my birthday so that on that day (or on the day of whatever my party was if I preferred) my sisters and I would  be able to have the thing we’d given up. I respect her for that. Rather than needing to strictly adhere to the rules surrounding Lent she would bend them to allow kids to be kids – at least on my birthday. On the other hand, she didn’t tell us until college that the Catholic church doesn’t count the SUNDAYS during Lent so your ‘fast’ doesn’t apply that day. I guess it was her way of making up for letting us slide for that one day. In the end I’d rather have my birthday exempted anyway so it all worked out.

This year for “Mardi Gras” I celebrated with Rice Krispy treats and hot chocolate for breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t be home to make my traditional “Pancake” dinner so I traded out my meal of indulgence. I spent a couple of hours this evening climbing so I guess the indulgence this year was balanced out more than most.

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Faith | , , , , | Leave a comment