Lenten Practices: How Public, How Private?

A question I’ve always wrestled with. When I was a boy, it was fairly difficult to hide my eating sacrifices from my mother, who looked after our diets like … well, a mother. One Lent I attempted to refrain from all liquids except water. It was a true toughie, as I really liked milk (and still do). Mom got the notion of what I was doing when I started drinking water at dinner time, which was a rarity in our home. Dad had a beer. My brother and I would have whole milk. My sister would lobby for soda, but often have to settle for chocolate milk or juice, on occasion.

Long story short: my mother must have thought I was not going to endure a Lent without milk, so at first, she said little. Hints, of course. Then one night just as dinner was hitting the table, she slammed a large glass next to my plate, filled it with luscious cow juice, and said, “‘Honor your mother’ trumps Lent, so drink up, buster!”

Once I kept a fast for Triduum, but my perceptive friend Tom noticed when we went to celebrate Easter Vigil with the Trappists. “I can see it in your eyes,” he said. “They’re bright.”

I take Matthew 6 with due seriousness, but I think some practices may be shared. At our home, Brittany said she wanted to give up chocolate. And since there’s a greater chance I will attend an indult Mass than eat sweets during Lent, my dear wife realized that she might want to give up chocolate as well to make it easier on Brittany. So the family shares an abstinence, and that’s fine, I think.

I mentioned turning off the car radio and waking up on time–two minor things, really. I think such sharings might serve as mutual encouragement for us St Bloggers. I know I was struck by the not-lazing-in-bed-during-Lent idea. That’s just an excellent idea. For me, at any rate.

Taking a cue from my childhood, there are certain abstinences I do not share with anyone, unless my perceptive spouse asks me point blank. And there are practices I will add and these are for my “room with the door closed.” But a parent is enough of a teacher that children should, I think, have a sense of what Mom and Dad are doing for Lent. But some things should be kept to oneself.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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