Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent for the Non-Christian

I  was raised as a good catholic boy. I mean catholic school, 3 masses a week, cross carrying acolyte kind of good catholic boy. Outside of the lingering instilled "Catholic Guilt"(it is a real thing!), most people who know me today would have no idea of that past self. And it's not that I am a law-breaking, raunchy, vice-indulging person now, it's mainly because my views on religion are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the practice of Catholicism. But that's a whole other posts. 

Lent was always a big deal in the catholic church and for me. As a kid who loved punishing himself for my seemingly major, but retrospectively insignificant, indiscretions (things like inappropriate thoughts and not being nice to someone), I loved the idea of 40 days of self-denial. I felt renewed and refreshed by the idea of being able to change who I was by sheer will and faith. I felt powerful and accomplished by the time Easter rolled around. But even back then, it was more about testing the kind of person I was more so than about the religious aspect. So this year, I decided to tap into that transformative power and observe lent in my own way.

This is the actual church that I grew up in. Holy Cross Catholic Church in St. Croix, USVI

Self-denial is all fine and dandy, but somehow it doesn't feel like enough. I am not a man of vices, so giving anything up is not enough of a challenge. I go months without drinking just because I don't feel like it, so that will be easy. I have been vegetarian, pescetarian and vegan for extended periods in my recent past, so giving up meat will be a breeze. As for sex.... my parents may read this so I will refrain for going into detail about my sex-life... But I can give that up too (don't assume that means I am getting it in now, mom). I don't like television, I don't do drugs and I rarely partake in the other common abstentions. So what is the answer?

SUBSTITUTION! Since not doing something is easy for me.. How about actually doing something!? So here is what I have decided on:

Instead of drinking alcohol, I will drink 8 glasses of water a day
Instead of watching TV- I will read at least 30 minutes a day
Instead of talking more, I will listen more
Instead of sex (still not admitting that I do this activity... mom), I will work on strengthening friendships
Instead of lounging idle- I will workout daily
Instead of eating sweets, I will eat fruit
Instead of accumulating any new things, I will purge all the unnecessary clutter from my life

This will be a much more difficult undertaking. But I am relying on a few tools to help me thru.
1. Friends- I am going to rope a few people into doing some of these things with me. 
2. Technology- I downloaded the app "Lift" this morning and it provides goal tracking with a community of people moving toward the same goals. I have thousands of people to be encouraged by and give encouragement to.
3. YOU!- Once I publish this post, all my readers are now holding me accountable. I don't want to be a liar or a failure, so I am more motivated to make this happen simply by putting it out there.

Lent is a "season of spiritual preparation". I believe that such preparation is essential for moving into the next life. I just don't believe that the next life has to happen after we die. In this current existence, we can add the things that serve the grandest idea of who we are and subtract the things that don't. We can evolve on a daily basis. In honor of the Christian believe of Jesus' transforming from the flesh representation to the son of man to the resurrected savior of the human race, I am observing lent. Some may see this as blasphemy since I, myself am not a Christian. But just because I may not believe in the religion, doesn't mean I can't believe in its messages and principles. 

Lent officially starts tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. It will not be easy, but I am counting on that. I would love to hear some of the things you all are giving up for Lent. 

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  1. I was just thinking about what I can give up for Lent. This post really helped. Self-denial is crucial. This will be a great time of reflection and introspection. Also, thanks for sharing your Catholic upbringing; knowing the story behind the man is always a great thing.

    I won't say "good luck" on the Substitutions, but I will say "don't give up". I believe that through dedication we make our own luck. Let's get it!

  2. Thanks for the post ... I remember the days of Catholic school, mass and boy do I know Catholic Guilt is real ! I like the idea of substitutions. I like you don't ascribe to much of the Christian/Catholic teachings of my younger years. Now to come up with my substitutions - things that will enrich my life and of course ways to keep myself accountable. Thanks for this post! You have given me the extra push. Sending positive vibes your way that you'll be successful :-)


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