If you follow the Christian calendar, then you plan on attending church today. Or not. Increasingly drive-thru ashes are offered in the parking lot for the faithful who are too inconvenienced to step out of the car and walk into the sanctuary. The devoted may be infirm, cold, or otherwise unwilling to co-mingle with the congregants as Lent begins today.
In the past, my schoolmates, all Catholics, save for me and a few black Baptists, thought long and hard on Lenten obligations, more specifically on what they would give up for the 40 days leading to Easter. Some chose chocolate, or chewing gum, or candy. The zealous chose all three. Since I was Methodist, and in those days, Methodists were more like Baptists, we were free to continue our hedonistic practices. However, my mother has informed me her church now celebrates Lent, and indeed, drive-thru ashes are available at my childhood church. I don’t think she goes in for that sort of thing, as she likes to keep up her appearance. In her mostly Protestant social circle, most would think she’s just a nice old lady with a dirty forehead.
I celebrate Lent, but not religiously. What I meant to say is that some years I practice a form of spiritual self-discipline in these 40 days, and some years, nay. Also, I don’t like the word, religion. In my childhood, good Catholic children went to “religion,” meaning catechism classes after school. That was in middle school. It sounded beastly.
Actually, catechism was taught before regular public school classes when I was in elementary school. When the priest arrived, I had to leave the building as did my black Baptist schoolmates. Heathen were not allowed even to sit on the benches in the hall, even on cold mornings. When the priest pronounced the benediction, we were permitted inside, or as sometime happened, the teachers forgot about the odd few students who had extra recess time, and we hung around until nearly lunchtime, when the lunch ladies saw us outside and scolded us to find our classes.
I suppose today I could fire up the Hyundai, find a church, and get a smear on the head. I doubt if the priest, pastor or bishop would inquire if I completed catechism or was properly confirmed. They would be happy that I joined the line.
No fries, no ketchup. Just ashes. Next please.
One day, maybe tomorrow, I will write a bit about Mardi Gras. It’s not always evil, sinful or craven. Most times, it’s just an eclectic, eccentric, celebration of life. Like any holiday, one can take it out of context or celebrate to excess. No need for that. Just enjoy a bit of life before it passes by as quickly as the parades pass along St. Charles Street.