Some of my friends ask me why I still talk about and participate in the concept of Lenten sacrifice. Most people don’t perceive me to be a “practicing Catholic”. I was is fact born and raised Catholic. I attended an all boys Catholic High School. I still go to Catholic Mass even if it is not on a regular basis. My current views on religion reach into a multitude of faiths and are completely non-exclusionary. My views are also very personal to me. I am not a missionary or a preacher. It is not my personal path.
Many of my friends perceive me to be a very Spiritual person. I wear that as a cloak of honor. Over the years the martial arts and yoga have offered me a glimpse into Eastern based spirituality. In my mind I see way more similarities between the many opportunities of faith out there than I see differences. In the area of Spirituality I am more of an open book. I will never preach about my views but I will gladly share them to those who ask. It is indeed my path.
So why Lent for me then? I can really summarize it in two major points. First, I honor the tradition of making a Lenten sacrifice out of the deep love and respect I have for my late father and his strong faith in the Catholic church. Second, I honor the tradition of making a Lenten sacrifice because each year it offers me a chance to test my self discipline in holding true to giving up something I enjoy. Some years I succeed wildly. Some years I fail miserably. That too is part of the growth in the experience. Last year I failed miserably. This year I will not. Strangely, both last years failure and this years success will be for the exact same reasons. My Father and Richard Harsch.
Over the last few years I have made the same pledge. I give up all desserts. I give up all red meat. I give up all wine and alcohol except on Saturday nights on which day I give myself an exemption for wine with dinner or at social engagements. Last year I held true to my Lenten sacrifice with excellent discipline until Wednesday April 9th, with ten days left in Lent. That night my dear friend Richard died of a massive heart attack and I drank pretty much every night thereafter. I probably ate a steak too. Frankly don’t remember. I didn’t really care much.
I’ve written at length about Richard’s death and how it affected and still affects me. The one point that ties most specifically to this post though, is that Richard’s death tore open many old wounds and unresolved grief over my father’s death. The two men filled very similar roles in my life at very different times. The link between the two was and continues to be very strong as it affects my Spirituality.
This year as I enter Lent I am in a really good place. I have amazing things happening in my life. I have a strong connection to Source right now and I can feel the presence of many who have gone on from this life in my heart inspiring me in so many ways. There is a part of me that thinks I should forgo any type of “sacrifice” and instead pledge to “do” something to spread love, peace and gratitude. The fact of the matter is though I’m pretty much trying to do that 24/7 theses days. Keep in mind I said trying. I didn’t say I’d anywhere near mastered the skill.
So I return to my old standby and get ready to begin the season and honor the traditions of my Father (and now Richard) as I decide what to give up for Lent. Some things will be the same. Some things I’ll have to adjust a bit. I’ve ordered my King cake from Bennison’s bakery in Evanston. This was always Richard’s duty. We will share it at our morning pre-shift at Joe’s on Mardi Gras morning next Tuesday. I’ll give up wine and alcohol with my Saturday exemption. I’ll give up all sweets with no exemption. I’ll probably go out for a steak next Tuesday night and then give up red meat. I could use a good cleanse anyways.
The thing that will change the most about my Lenten sacrifice this year is that I won’t be able to talk about it with Richard. I won’t be able to listen to him bug me for seven weeks about taking Good Friday off so we can do a church tour from 12 pm -3pm. I’ll also start this sacrifice a week earlier this year (which is today) because I’ll end my Lenten sacrifice on Palm Sunday instead of Easter Sunday. Why you ask?
Well this year I will in fact be spending Good Friday and Easter Sunday with Richard. We will spend the Easter weekend in Chartres, France at the cathedral that Richard said made him feel like he was closer to God than any other place on this Earth. My wife Christiana, Richard’s widow Rhonda and I are traveling to Paris and Chartres to honor Richard’s wish that we all go there together some day. The Spiritual form that Richard will be traveling in will have less boundaries that our physical forms, but he will be there. The trip will coincide with Richard’s favorite day of the year – Easter Sunday. It will also be within days of the one year anniversary of his death. Since we will arrive in Paris a week before the end of the Lenten season and since I have every intention of drinking wine while I’m in Paris I’m moving the whole program up a week.
Now for those of you who might be thinking I’m desecrating a tradition I beg you to hold that thought. See to me my Lenten sacrifice is about getting closer to Source, testing my self discipline and honoring the memories of those who have inspired us and gone on beyond this life. I’ve talked it over with Richard and my Father and they both agree that my adjusted program is fine. There are many lessons for me to learn yet. There are many I have been lucky enough to learn. There are many mentors out there for me to find yet. There are many that have come my way already. There is so much peace, love and gratitude to unveil out there yet. There is so much that has already been unveiled in my heart.
If Spirituality is defined as the Faith one finds that brings them closer to their Source, than for all the reason mentioned above, I can only say, “How lucky am I?”