(The Lent 2010 Catholic By Grace Column is reposted here for you. Feel free to hit the share button and pass it on.)
Catholics don’t always understand Catholic faith practices. One Catholic tradition that sometimes perplexes non- Catholics is our Lenten sacrifices. Many years ago, I worked in a restaurant. The owner and all the waitresses were Catholic. My sister and I were the only non- Catholic employees – and we were both the daughters of a Protestant minister. For us, Lent was a time of watching Catholics . . . and wondering.
We served a fair amount of fish during Lent, rather than our usual orders of sandwiches and fried chicken. And our boss and the other waitresses ate the perch, pike and shell fish on Fridays - as did the patrons.
The topic of Lenten sacrifice came up every shift I worked. The other waitresses would poll one another. “What did you give up for Lent?” The answers varied. Some said candy, or Pauline’s homemade pies, or soda.
I have to say, I didn’t get it back then. I thought that Catholics did those things so that they would feel holy. I used to think it was a waste of time and effort. I knew there was little gained from feeling holy. One had to be holy.
I didn’t realize that faithful
Catholics have a simple reason for everything that they do. They know they are not yet holy, but they want to become holy. Their number one desire is to be a saint.
And that’s what Lent is all about.
We die to ourselves, remembering our baptismal promises, and we hope to rise with Jesus Christ when Lent comes to an end. Every prayer, sacrifice, Mass, devotion and offering we make is to embrace the journey of faith that leads to holiness.
These things that we do as
Catholics change us – or more accurately stated, the things that we do become a venue for God to change us. And I realize now that it does work, sometimes so slowly that others can’t detect the changes in the few short weeks of Lent. But it does work . . . in time. And so, Catholics keep at it.
There is a reason why
Catholic schools and hospitals have a crucifix in every room. They help young students to learn to follow Christ in his living; they help the sick and dying to become like Christ in his dying.
There is a reason why the
Catholic calendar takes us from Advent and then into Christmas, from Lent and then into Easter. The faithful want to journey with Christ – in order to rise with Him when it is all said and done.
Catholic family and friends may ask you what you gave up this year. It is possible, likely even, that they are really asking a far different question.
Why do you do all this stuff?
Make sure they know that you do it because you are not yet a saint . . . but if you walk in the footsteps of Our Lord long enough, He will change you. In time, they will see the change in you and begin to understand.
May you find that you are walking in step with Him as you journey to the cross. And may the bystanders see you at the side of Christ and begin to put it together. We are not yet holy, but we are opening every part of our lives to the One who can make us holy.