Are you ready for some salmon?

It's February. Do you feel the pending doom, the deflating feeling when you sit down to that dry-rub barbequed rib basket, the realization that the party is basically over, and will be for another two-ish month?

It's time for Lent. Bring me my sackcloth and meat-free ashes.

Please hear the latent sarcasm in this childish and utterly epicurean attitude toward what is, by all accounts, the most beautiful liturgical season of the year.

I remember the first time it occurred to me, maybe 10 or so years ago, that while Christmas and Advent held all the bright lights, the spiritual and (oh boy) material promise of gifts to come and a beautiful message heard the world over, it was Easter, not Christmas, that held the place as the highest holy day of the Church. It is the Nativity that brings the Son of God to us; it is the Resurrection that allows us to spend eternity with Him.

Speaking of eternities.

Lent brings with it both recommended and required abstinence and fasting (and those long, loooong Fridays and Holy Days of curtailing our meals). Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that this year, as a pregnant woman, I'll be somewhat exempt from the normal requirements. Which is a good thing, considering my record.

Lent 2006: I fasted for most of the day on Good Friday, then had a brunch meeting with a certain high-fashion, wonderful Jesuit friend (GU kids, you know who) on the morning of Holy Saturday. After a delectable sandwich and shoestring fries at a classy cafe, I found my self mid-sentence with him, 45 minutes later, in some of the worst abdominal pain of my life--which inevitably compelled me to make the first of several trips to the loo. I'll stop that narrative there and let you imagine the ego-sinking embarrassment.

Lent 2008: My family had made the twice-a-year trek to visit us from California for Easter. I, again, stuck to fasting on Good Friday--just the regular, two-smalls-and-a-regular-plus-no-snacks fasting. By the evening, I was so collapsed from fatigue and an empty stomach cramped in on itself, I couldn't even spend one of our precious family nights together.

0 for 2 on successful fasting that leads to self-mortification. Or maybe led to more than I bargained for.

So this year, we're easing into Lent by practicing, before Lent begins, what the Church (and American bishops) recommend: abstaining from meat on Fridays.

I've done the reading on the topic, both from the Canon and the USCCB. In short, the Canon calls us to do some kind of Friday fast (generally prescribed from meat) but leaves the specifics up to the bishops:

Canon 1251—Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1253—It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

And our bishops, then, put the ball back in our court (emphasis mine):

19. Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace.

20. Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential.

What gets me, though, is that while meat has indeed become "commonplace," that makes it even more difficult for me to avoid, even for just one day a week.

Blame it on a possible iron deficiency in pregnancy (at least, that's what I'm blaming it on), but what do I want in the morning? Bacon. What do I want for lunch? Big, honking turkey sandwich, preferably with bacon. Afternoon snack? Chicken taquito! Dinner? Steak. Please. If you love me, make it a steak.

Switching out meat for pastas, fruits, cheeses, legumes and shrimp may not mean that I'm sacrificing my taste buds, but I am sacrificing the convenience that meat affords, at nearly every hour of the day.

And that, to me, for the Fridays before Lent, is my sacrifice.

Now. Off to find a rotisserie chicken.

1 comment:

  1. Mary -- Love your blog. I just started following it and your crazy wit always makes me laugh. I share your dismay during meatless Fridays. Kevin and I try to practice it throughout the year and I always struggle to come up with dinner entrees that meet the meatless requirement. It's hard! I have to prowl the not-so-vegan North Dakota supermarkets for tofu and specialty beans and grains and then try to make them into something that my husband and very hard to please toddler will actually eat. I think it's funny that the bishops have exempted us from meatless Fridays because meat is now "commonplace." That's precisely why IT'S SO HARD to do. Now, onto my weekly meal plan...breakfast for dinner on Friday!