As a baby, I was baptized into the Catholic faith. Honestly, I don’t know why I was since my mother was a single mother and had me out of wedlock; if I’m not mistaken, this is a rarity. But, my mother was born and raised in that faith, along with the rest of my maternal family (minus my grandfather who was raised in some other faith or another, but has proven to be the most devout Catholic of the whole lot). They are all either lapsed or faithful Catholics to this day. I, however, was never raised in it.
I often thought of it as a very interesting religion, but a religion that I had no access to as my mother is very much in the “lapsed” category. I learned a few things for weddings and funerals: how to properly cross myself; some of the saints and what to pray to them for; how to say their Lord’s Prayer as it does differ from the Methodist one; things of that nature. I always wanted to learn the Hail Mary, though not the Our Father, because it was something my mother would say whenever we would travel somewhere and that ritual was something I was intrigued in.
All in all, my interest in my mother’s homegrown faith had more to do with the ritual aspects to that faith and the beauty that those rituals can entail.
I will admit here that I’ve always been very intrigued by the rituals of the older Christian faiths, anyway. I could spend hours as a teenager, perusing image searches from the Russian Orthodox rituals as well as some of the older imagery as shown from the Catholic churches. Honestly? My art hard-on may be showing but The idolatric beauty of Russian Orthodoxy? I was so there. The ceremonial beauty of Greek Orthodoxy? I was definitely all over that. And the ability of Catholicism to just keep on flourishing? Mind fucking boggling. And while it is my fondest wish to one day have a ritual basis that can be as glorified as what I saw in imagery as a child, I know that no matter what I end up with, it will never even equate [in my mind] to those image searches. In the mean time, I’m left wandering and puttering about in that whole ritual world.
At this point, though, my puttering about as left me with the curious need to fulfill an OTHER™’s desire to observe Lent this year. Color my mother’s shock and surprise when I announced that I was giving up chocolate for the next forty days as an act of sacrifice. You could have knocked me over with a feather when it first entered my mind the morning of Lent.
I was driving by the Saint Catherine of Sienna Parish church when I was cut off by a car exiting the overly filled parking lot. What an oddity, I mused as I did my morning, angry-driver duty of cursing loudly at the car that had cut me off. That parking lot was never so full in the morning, so what… And that’s when I realized that it was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I don’t really know why I knew that, either, because I don’t pay very much attention to any of the Catholic holidays now that I’m not working in a public forum. But, my mind slipped into that and that’s when I felt someone say to me, “You should observe this.”
I had never felt the essence of the lwa asking, so I don’t know who it is that was requesting this of me. Instead of immediately just ignoring the impulse, I began pondering about what I could give up. This is completely unheard of in my world. I almost immediately question every possible response I have to something. This keeps, I feel, everything in check so that I can always claim, “I’m completely sane,” at my trial. But, I just went with the flow and settled on chocolate within a minute or two of pondering what to give up. (I debated coffee for two-point-five seconds before laughing at such a silly thing. If I’m going to be brewing coffee for Legba every day, then there’s no way I’m giving it up.)
Honestly, I really don’t know why I’m being asked this. I know what quarter the asking is coming from – this stems from the lwa and that particular part of my religious life – but I’m not really sure why I should observe this holiday. I’ve been very careful about not incorporating the Catholic aspects of that religion into my world. I haven’t quite figured out how to work it into what I currently practice. I mean, in all reality, how do I incorporate religious holidays from a monotheistic faith into the reconstruction of a polytheistic faith?
Obviously, it looks like I’m going to find out.
And I begin with giving up chocolate for Lent.