Reflections On Lent And Life

by Happy Daze

Occasionally I catch myself acting like an old man. I’m looking at pictures from Carnevale in Rio, arguably the wildest of the Pre-Lenten celebrations in the world. Buxom Samba dancers parade by wearing nothing but a brooch in the crack of their ass, and I’m impressed by the scale and detail of the FLOATS! Kill me now.

Speaking of Lent, I remember when Catholics used to give up booze, cigarettes, and sex for Lent. Now they can skate by with giving up chocolate and insults.

Has the church gotten soft? I’m not a Catholic. I’m not even a believer, but if you’re going to believe something, don’t do it half ass. I come from a small town in Southern Ohio. We had one Catholic family in town, and I think the nearest Catholic church was an hour away, so we never got to see their faith in practice. In reality, I never “knew” any Catholics.

When I was twelve we moved to Florida. The neighbors across the street were Irish Catholic from New England. My family was hard core fundamentalists, and probably viewed the Papacy with suspicion. Plus, no one in church drank or smoked, so I was absolutely fascinated with the neighbors. The dad, Pete, was a beer distributor, and the priest, Father Bob, hung out drinking Miller and smoking cigs. You’d never see a Church of Christ minister doing that.

Maxine epitomized the Catholic woman. I mean, she LOVED being Catholic. After the youngest son’s First Communion, we were treated to a video. Then we had to watch film (VHS was in its infancy) of the older sons and their first communion, look through scrapbooks of baptisms and whatnot. She volunteered for everything the church did.

Even then Maxine bemoaned how liberal the Catholic Church was getting. “I remember I was past my due date and STILL had to stand for the Easter Mass.” Apparently, some woman who had just had a baby had been allowed to sit through the most recent Easter service. Catholics seemed to be made of sterner stuff. At least Maxine was.

My wife convinced me to take the kids to the Christmas Eve Mass at the only church in town that still holds the Mass in Latin. Again, we’re not believers, but have always encouraged the kids to experience as much as they can. I’d never been to a service before, so I didn’t know about all the kneel-stand-sit routine. They had these leather pads to kneel on, but calling them pads was a stretch. I think they’d been around since the 1930’s. Hard as bricks. There was an old woman sitting near us who went through the entire service kneeling. She was dressed in black and had a rosary, and I swear she was in her 80’s. That service went on for a couple hours at least. No idea how she did it. Sterner stuff, indeed.

Even in my heathen household Lent has always been a special time. My wife was a seafood wholesaler, and Lent was always a busy and profitable period. Many area churches have their Friday Fish Frys and we always had to make some kind of appearance for the sake of public relations, although as a Southern Ohioan I love fried fish. In my hometown we used to have a Little League Tournament every 4th of July. Jamup Davis used to fry the fish, and everyone in a 20 mile radius had to get one of his fish sandwiches (served on rye, of course). To this day I can still taste it. I suppose the reason I frequent the fish frys is because I’m chasing, like a junkie, that first time rush, that cherry high, of Jamup’s fish sandwich. But I know I’ll never find it.

Jamup has passed on. He probably never knew how many fond memories he created that live on after him. Maxine is still with us. She probably never had any idea how much she taught me about conviction, and toughness. You never know the effect you will have on others from the seemingly inconsequential events of life. I wonder if I’ll ever leave someone with a fond memory, or a lesson learned, years from now, or after I’m gone.

Oh, hell, there I go again, sounding like an old man. Kill me now!