Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Give it up for Lent, the four letter word

Baba Rose
I was raised Polish Roman Catholic and my grandma (Baba) Rose was a stickler about Lent and all it's traditions of deprivation and denial proclaiming it a very old practice.  Yes, Lent as a 40 day season began sometime in the  4th century, legalized by the church at the Council of Nicea in 313 AD, that's ancient.  As a toddler I could not comprehend why in the world I had  to do without whatever I wanted at the moment and it was a shock to hear that four letter word, "lent."   As I recall, I was between three and four when I was told the first time  that I couldn't have what I wanted  for Lent,  a long time.  It was likely something sweet to eat. Baba Rose said, "Patty, it's Lent and  we give up something we like to sacrifice, no more until Easter." 

What?  That must have been the first time something was denied me because my grandparents  made it their business to ensure that  whatever I wanted I had. I did not make sense of the time span, "until Easter" but I went about my business with a frown and  then forgot all about it until the next time I was denied. Still I did not dwell on these things and yet the lesson continued.  "Someday you will be glad you did without...."  

Granpap Teofil
It wasn't just me, either; granpap Teofil had to give up too; I remember asking him to conspire with me,  to buy something at the store when Baba wasn't looking, candy maybe.  But he laughed and just shook his head while saying, "oh no not while it's Lent, those are the rules." Granpap never had much to say about church or rules, so I well knew this was Baba's doing but for him to comply it must have been important without any way out.  
Me about 4 years old
Nevertheless, I absorbed my disappointment but again  not let it sink in  because  I  recall hearing  what I called the "not for Lent" words repeatedly. To me, Lent was not good, something to be avoided; in my child's mind Lent became a four letter word, don't say it.   Baba assured me that I would learn all about this when I went to Catechism and I would always be glad after the giving up.   Later as a child  I would offer to give up something I didn't care all that much about but that would not do while Rose or the nuns inquired about my Lenten sacrifice, "it has to be something you like." 

Although I  left the Catholic religion which today beckons me for the spiritual comfort, a Lenten tradition of deprivation became my annual ritual.  I used to be a chocoholic, there was not a place I did not stash chocolate, it went where I did; my co-workers could always find a supply in my office. While I am unsure of the exact year, sometime in  the early 1990's  I decided to make the ultimate Lenten sacrifice and give up chocolate; Roberta, who was most devout and my closest friend questioned me about the severity of my choice, would I be able to do that.,really?   It certainly was one of the most difficult deprivations I ever experienced but a miracle emerged just like Easter, I lost my extreme fondness for chocolate; not something I was looking for but something I  have now recognized as a blessing. I have never again been consumed by chocolate.  Today I enjoy some  dark chocolate now and then but I can take it or leave it.  It's not something that I crave or need and I am amazed thinking back to how I had to eat chocolate at least once a day then.  Lent the four letter word rewarded me at the end of it all, just as promised by my grandma so long ago.  

Today it is really difficult for me to think of giving up something I would miss eating; I am not a
Me today leaner and healthier
sweet eater and really not much for snacking a lot either.  If I do it is usually an apple, some pretzels, something healthy.  .My recent  weight loss and healthy  eating lifestyle leave nothing I can identify to offer as a sacrifice.  Well I suppose I could offer my almost  daily glass of wine but even Jesus had wine with meals and I attribute a glass of wine to healthy practices.  My doctor agrees.  Besides I do not drink every day and Lenten sacrifice is to make us mindful so the occasional will not do..   

So what to give up  for Lent in 2014?   Something that will be a daily reminder in denial.  I have determined it is another four letter word, one I've been  saying out loud in response to annoyance, rubbish, or other non likable things that happen.  No, it's not that "f" word although I admit to evoking it in absolute frustration, for especially bad news like death, cancers, etc.  I was unaware that I used this other word so frequently until Jerry mentioned something one day and then I attempted to disguise it using the Polish for it. Bad habits start with such unawareness.   This  word is not pleasant and not nice and not something I recall saying much in the past,  it starts with "s" may be preceded with another 4 letters, "bull."     So for Lent, the cuss jar appears.  When ever I say that word it's $1 to the jar; further, each time I think it it's 50 cents.  If I am dutiful and persevere, this bad habit will be gone in 40 days when the joy of Easter returns.  The money will go to the Salvation Army, one of my favorite charities and one that I support financially all the time.   

What are you giving up for Lent or do you?  


  1. "I left the Catholic religion which today beckons me for the spiritual comfort".
    Are you being called back? You won't regret it if you do.
    I am giving some things up, but I am also adding some things in - a bit of daily spiritual reading and less social media. Last year I gave up FB entirely, but right now, I really need that connection and comfort since I lost my cats so recently.
    I will think of you this Lent, Pat, and trust that your faith will be renewed.

    1. thanks Kat, I have struggled over this decision for several years. I should have heeded it long ago in CA when my bestest friend Roberta passed and her priest assured me that I could return to the Church. I thought of giving up FB too but it is for me like you a connection. I am decreasing my time there though. And for Lent praying a daily rosary, something I have not done forever, using Roberta's rosary.

  2. Your idea is good all around. I wonder how much money will be in the jar for the Salvation Army, when Lent is done. If you are being called back to the Catholic Church I hope you will heed the call. It is a joy to have a church home :)

  3. as another FB comment: doesn't always mean giving up you can also do some good works

  4. I am delighted to hear that, Pat. You know, I think my faith is most firmly rooted in the hymns, and that is why I get great fulfillment from singing with our choir. I am working on my prayer-life - the rosary is something I need to be way more consistent with. You can't go wrong with your Lenten plan! Kat x

  5. Lovely post! I can understand how you're returning to the Catholic Church. Although I'm Protestant, hub's Catholic (Catholic schools, etc. all the way up) but a lapsed one who's looking at the Church with fresh eyes now that Pope Francis is there . . . as am I . . . I'm so turned off by all this evangelicalism . . . and so delighted by Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has become a refreshing haven as to what Christianity's all about.

    Hmm, I've never understood the big deal over chocolate.

    1. Kittie, oh yes and there will always likely be some things with which I disagree in catholicism...but the local Methodists where we live now have never appealed to me, I do not relate. The church "service" has degenerated into a community activity center with children running the show and running all around too. The pastor has good messages but they manage to keep that to a minimum and continue with their circus activities. Something else my grandma told me before she died "no matter what you think, Patty, you will always be catholic."in response to my saying I was not Catholic anymore. Even though masses have changed significantly from when I grew up (Latin and Polish) at least there is a basic liturgy on which one can rely.

  6. Pat, there were so many common threads in this post. I too recall giving up material things, especially food items, as a child. Somehow stopped doing so in adulthood, but recently read a very good post by a fellow blogger, Charlotte (Butterbean Row) about fasting from things such as gossip being a much better idea. Also, Pat and I were both raised in the Roman Catholic faith. I attended Catholic school thru hs as well. We tried the local Methodist church for several years. It did not hold anything spiritual for me, so we stopped attending services. All those people we had met never once inquired as to "why" and said they missed seeing us if we saw them at the local post office or grocery store and some even stooped associating with us. The minister's only concern was to ask if it was something he said. In a way it was as we found his messages never meant anything. While we are now not church goers, we do pray within our own home and try not to badmouth others, swear, cheat, etc. actions do speak louder than words. Many so-called Christians are only so in name one day a week. I did not mean this as a rant, just wanted to reply to your post and agree with most of the previous comments. I may yet return to the Catholic church and do believe your grandma was right.

  7. Bea, I hae he same experience here ith hese methodists of MN. they care less if they see you or not, no follow up, etc. I attribute this to their "norwegian/swedish" culture because it was not this way in CA. I feel the same, they carry on like Christians all over the place, but really? NaH.

    The cuss jar is getting pretty filled up...I seem to do better giving up food than that word. Of course ately here is much to use it with. sigh