I'm craving meat.
I gave it up for Lent, you see. Not fish though. My friend Mario was wondering what the hell the creatures of the sea ever did to me to warrent such exclusion. I just don't include fish in the 'meat' category - 'meat' to me is all things terrestrial. Fish is fish.
I know it's a weird distinction, and wrong on all sorts of levels - but there you have it.
So yes. I gave meat up for Lent. So I've managed to go a whopping four days without it, and already I'm ready to chew off my own hand and sautee it with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Make a lovely pasta dish with it, perhaps.
Everyone asks me the same thing - why on earth would I give up something that I'd miss so much? Especially since I can't partake in all those lovely meat-substitutes made out of tofu (I'm allergic to soy)?
Well, the answer is twofold:
Lent is, and always has been, one of my favorite times in the Catholic Church. I revel in the ceremonies, and the traditions. They link me to the rest of the Church, and to the people in centuries past that engaged in the same sorts of traditions. I never really "got it" when I was a kid - I mostly just always figured that it was dumb and stupid and I'd much rather be out playing than sitting in some dumb church listening to some old guy preach on and on about sin and redemption. So when I did "get it," I started researching it.
And what I found kind of blew my mind.
There was a reason behind all of it! Golly gee wilikers, they hadn't been lying to me thoughout my fourteen years of good ole' guilt-inducing Catholic schooling.
I began to research the symbolism behind the Catholic faith, and what it really means to be catholic. To me, faith is something that is innately personal, and I had never really understood why anyone would want to worship in a congregation-type setting.
I still consider my faith to be a deeply personal thing, but I also see the validity in group worship. It's a way to stay connected to one another, to know that you belong to something that's bigger than yourself. It's a community.
To me, this is most evident during the season of Lent. Don't be surprised if you start seeing religion pop up into my posts here and now - I'm afraid that it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately.
You see, me and the Church have a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I was raised Catholic, and I feel almost "at home" during mass. It's familiar to me, and I agree with the majority of the values behind the preachings.
However, I find that I almost kind of fall into a grey area. I am a (at times rabid) supporter of gay marriage, I believe in evolution, and I think that sometimes religion can cloud a person's judgement on what is right and what is wrong. I had a mini-falling out with the Church about two years ago.
I was on top of the world. I was a leader and youth minister to the high-school portion of our youth group, I was teaching confirmation classes, I was even starting up a brand-new group for the young adults of our parish. I was an "insider," someone who was privvy to the inner-workings of the parish.
And then it all went to shit. I began to see that the people around me - the leaders of the parish, all those people that I had idolized as a child - were flawed. They were petty and they gossiped and they engaged in behavior that was less-than-Godly.
They were human.
After a series of incidents that left a bitter taste in my mouth concerning the Church, I left.
And now I'm back. We're going to be starting a young adult ministry - something I was trying to get off the ground before I left. I spent eight months with my partner planning it - writing out lesson plans and coming up with material - since there was no published material that I could find on teaching and exploring Catholicism with young adults. And now they want both me and my partner back. And so I've gone back, and realized that I missed the Church while I was away.
Whatever happens, I think it was meant to be this way. I think that I should do this, if not for myself then for my kids (most of whom now fall into the over-18 crowd now - I feel so old!).
So here's hoping that this works out. :)
**Big thanks to Augapfel for letting me use the above image :)