Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From Fear to Trust

“Tell me your name,” the priest said to me.

I hesitated for a second. I’ve been doing the Ash Wednesday routine for a long time now and no priest has ever asked me to identify myself.

Was he going to hit me up for a donation? Or enter my name into some kind of sinners logbook that I suspect all priests have hidden in their cassocks?

Being from Brooklyn, I was within my rights to snarl “what’s it to ya?”

But I didn’t. I answered like a good little Catholic boy, even though we were in an Episcopal church.

And all the man did was personalize the line from Genesis about remembering “thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.”

As I do every year, I quickly forgot I was wearing ashes so whenever I looked in the mirror today I had a split-second freak-out as I wondered what the hell was on my forehead.

Yes, it’s all a ritual, but it’s my ritual and Lent has taken on a special significance for me this year.

Father Mark at Trinity Church described Lent as “a most exciting time of the year.” This contrasts sharply with my grade school experience where we had to “give up” something for Lent or risk going to hell.

Come to think of it, just about everything back then seemed to involve going to hell, which is about as exciting as you can get.

I think I tried giving up candy one year when I was a kid and you’ll never guess how that worked out. Will I really suffer eternal damnation over a Hershey Bar?

Give It Up

Regrettably I didn’t have time to attend mass today. The Lenten mass is longer than the usual daily service and I didn’t want to sit in church worrying about getting back to the office.

I must say, however, that the pews at Trinity were packed today, unlike most weekday masses, where we have a hard time putting together a baseball game. Some people just show up for the big ones.

A dear friend of mine introduced me to an alternative to the “dust to dust” quote. She, instead, favors the line from Mark: “Repent and receive the good news.”

Some people may not see much difference between the two, but I need all the good news I can get.

I saw a Facebook posting that proclaimed Lent as a time of spiritual renewal, “rather than a time of deprivation.” When you look at it that way, Lent takes on an entirely different meaning.

I will admit it is strange to see people walking around in the 21st Century with soot on their foreheads. But I am so glad this tradition still continues in these days of skyscrapers and smartphones.

I’m feeling in need of a bit of spiritual renewal right about now. I’m still working on being more mindful and I’m not satisfied with my lack of progress.

I am getting better at catching myself slipping into the past or worrying about the future, but I'm still wasting brain cells on this behavior and it's a bit disappointing.

I know the dangers of sweeping declarations so I will not make any. I'm not going to vow to give up anything, except, perhaps, I'll give up making vows I can't keep.

I’m only seeking to renew my spirit.

I'm going to be taking some time off. I'll try and keep up with all your blogs, but don't hate me if I fall behind. See you soon.


Jay at The Depp Effect said...

That's a great way to look at Lent. I used to do the deprivation thing, too, and feel a horrible failure if I slipped, but at least (not having had a Catholic upbringing) I didn't fear eternal damnation over it. Gosh, the damage that the Catholic church has done to millions of young psyches over the years ...

I haven't given myself a challenge this year, except the big one: '2013 is The Year of Not Worrying'. But in more recent years I took a different approach and tried to do something positive each day instead of depriving myself. Threats of hellfire and self-flagellation are not really in the Quaker lexicon, I'm thankful to say.

Hate you for not doing the rounds? Hahahahahaha!! Don't be silly. ;)

Take all the time you need to do what you must. Renewal of the spirit is such an important thing, and I wish you a good journey.

Rob K said...

Jay, you could brighten my day even if it were the middle of the night. I could use you for a lamp!

" Gosh, the damage that the Catholic church has done to millions of young psyches over the years ... "

I am one of many witnesses to that damage and I have scores of friends who will testify to the same thing. Hellfire and self-flagellation were part of the package.

I shouldn't let that experience define me, though, and it has not turned me away from religion. It's just a little hard to forget.

The Year of Not Worrying vow is a great step toward a happier life.

I read a quote that said "worry is a waste of imagination" and I couldn't agree more. Stick with it!

Take care.

Ron said...

Bravo, Rob...what an FLAWLESS post!!!

And it's funny you posted this because I had completely forgotten that Ash Wednesday was yesterday, so when I saw people walking around town with ashes on their foreheads, I went..."Duh, it's Ash Wednesday!"

Everything you shared in this post is spot on! And being someone who attended Catholic school myself, I HEAR you.

"I know the dangers of sweeping declarations so I will not make any. I'm not going to vow to give up anything, except, perhaps, I'll give up making vows I can't keep.

I’m only seeking to renew my spirit."


No worries about taking some time off, buddy. We will be here when you return, for sure!

Enjoy your time off, and see ya soon!

Rob K said...

Hey, buddy, thanks a lot! I figured as a recovering Catholic you'd understand what I was talking about. Take care and I''ll see you soon!

Calamity Jen said...

Don't beat yourself up over your "lack of progress." Who says your progress should be rapid? As my counsellor recently told me, "You shouldn't 'should' on yourself when there are so many people out there who are all too eager to 'should' all over you."

Positive change takes time. I hear it's worth the work and the wait.

Rob K said...

Yes, the should-heads are out in full force. And they should be studiously ignored. Thanks for stopping by, Jen!

Bijoux said...

Hi Rob! I'm stopping over from Ron's place.

Beng a Protestant, I've always struggled with an understanding of giving up something for Lent. We have too many songs about grace, I guess! It just seems that if Jesus paid the ultimate price, who am I to try to pretend not eating chocolate for a little while is anything comparable or necessary to God?

Rob K said...

Hi, Bijoux, thanks for stopping by! I think you raise an excellent question.

How does skipping a few Mars bars compare with the suffering and death that Christ endured for us?

I think things we should "give up" are all the toxic emotions that plauge us--hate, fear, envy, anger, etc.

I have a loooooooong way to go in achieving these goals, but I know it's the best thing for me...and anyone who has to hang around me!

Thanks again and do take care!