Are you giving anything up for Lent? - Lapsed Catholic
A long time a go I whittled down my vices to beer and masturbation. Such small indulgences, it didn’t seem noteworthy to go without either for any extended period of time.
Well that and it has been more than a few years since I have done anything more Catholic than a Mardi Gras bowl of gumbo. Yet, the slightly obsessive part of me, likes reading about hunger, fasting and what moves people to go without. Lent, or at least the idea of Lent, the 40 day period leading up to the Easter holiday commemorating Christ’s time in the wilderness; ideally, theoretically is devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence is fascinating.
What's off limits during a fast? And from a catholic perspective that has truly been a moveable feast. Enter our buddy Galen, he of the humoral theories. Despite the fact Galen was a Roman citizen (of Greek origin who lived in Turkey before the time of Christ - why shouldn’t his demonstratively wrong theories on food dictate modernish Christian practices). According to Galen, Fat was considered hot (that’s Galen hot; not Paris Hilton hot) and should be avoided. While fish, because it came from water was considered cold and okay. And depending on the era, waterfowl was either okay or not cool during Lent.
Two staples of vegetarians - eggs and butter have been classified as meat or meat analogue for centuries, long before vegans took up the debate. What is Lenten fare is an issue that have kept Popes and theologians busy for lifetimes. I always suggest the Catholic Church is at its best when it extols the virtues of its faith and suffers when it decides to get all lawyerly on issues - heliocentrism, insurance coverage and inquisitions. Which is why giving up something for 40 days can be viewed as a truer expression of denial than abstaining form meat while indulging in eggs cooked in butter on a Friday morning and ordering Peking Duck later that evening.
Without trying to work through the big questions of what is fat and lean, I have been thinking about forgoing white flour and refined sugar, but not because I am steeped in theology. Every winter I add a few pounds - yeah, not being skinny does make those cold damp days more bearable. I call this layer of built in insulation ‘my protective bratwurst layer’, in truth though it’s pure carbohydrate. And here is the problem, I add 15 pounds over the course of the cold months then each spring I drop 12-13 pounds. After 10 years the math is catching up.
What if I could go 40 days without white bread and sugar, get started on my post-Easter slimming regiment. I love them both dearly, so going without would actually be in the spirit of lean days. Except I am not off to a great start - Such a good sandwich on Ash Wednesday and yesterday some pretty okay m & m’s (truth be told I wasn’t expecting too much out of them). Okay, so a month and some change with no bread pudding for sure, but what about pizza, white flour? Ice cream? Switching to multigrain buns is easy and probably a good idea, but how do I bind myself to a goal without religion or a meaningful oath to bind me?
Lenten sacrifice? Eating less baguette for a month isn’t going to get me beatified but I still think I will try it.