Hello! Your resident Catholic Librarian reporting in for guest posting duty. *feels important* I am so excited and pleased to be participating on Cristina’s blog. 🙂 Cristina and I met virtually last summer and have bonded gleefully over Catholic nerd stuff galore. Her writing has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me, and so I have big shoes to fill! This is part of our 7 posts in 7 days blogging challenge collaboration for Lent that we have been twittering with excitement about all week. 🙂
Since Cristina is writing at my place as an adult convert to the faith, she asked me to write a bit about my personal experience of Lent as a cradle Catholic. And so here I am, hoping that my aging brain cells come through and actually provide some, you know, *memories.* It’s no easy feat when I’m pretty certain that my children have stolen aforementioned brain cells and stashed them somewhere in their toy boxes, which always seem full regardless of my attempts to weed and donate, but yet when you’re desperately trying to distract them so that you can do important things, like spend quality time on Twitter, “there’s nothing to play with!!” So, let’s see…
*there will be no admission forthcoming as to HOW FAR BACK this time actually reaches*
Ah hem. Growing up, my earliest memories of anything faith related was “church school.” That’s what my family called the CCD program at our local parish. I was never too big a fan of church school. I perceived it as boring, and I resented the time that I had to spend there. At our public school, the district actually had an early dismissal on Tuesday afternoons to accommodate the CCD program for all the Catholic children. Odd, but true, in my very Catholic corner of western New York.
Hence, some of my classmates happily went home an hour early, while I was delivered most unhappily to our parish school. I did not not feel very connected to my faith throughout that time, and so I put little into the experience, naturally receiving little back in return. We never really talked about our faith at home, and so I didn’t put it in a place of prominence in my life. Hence, church school felt like an unwanted drain on my time.
Thus, imagine Tiffany with a very grumpy face, and then Lent comes along.
“Is sacrifice and self-denial supposed to make me like this church school thing MORE, because if so, it’s clearly not working.”
We were encouraged to “give something up” for Lent, and I notice amongst fellow Catholics of my generation that people hang on to this notion, even those that do not actively practice their faith anymore. I remember thinking about this each year, because it seemed a nice thing to do. I would often give up sweets or something similar, almost always involving food. I certainly did not think about trying to work on my prayer life, since I really did not have an active prayer life at that time. Just exclamatory prayers whenever something happened that I worried about.
My most vivid memory of childhood Lent in church school is of these little cardboard boxes the teachers would give us each year. They would come flat, and we would have to fold them and insert the little paper tabs to form the shape of a box with a slot in the top. We were supposed to save our coins in there and then donate everything at the end of Lent, as a form of almsgiving. I remember enjoying putting money in there and then turning it in during Holy Week.
I never thought more deeply about Lent until I was in my 20’s and came into a much richer understanding of, and appreciation for, my faith. At that point, I stopped thinking about “giving something up” for Lent, and more about “adding something in” to my spiritual life. This practice has served me well. I will try to develop a deeper prayer routine, or frequent the sacraments more, instead.
Two years ago, one of my best friends entered the Church at the Easter vigil. She came from a background of no faith at all, and was both baptized and confirmed during the Mass. (You can read about it here, you’ll just have to skip past all the late pregnancy and Henry poo woes information at the beginning of the post, so sorry about that. :0 As a “life blog,” my ramblings are always no drama withheld, real life stories for the Church Militant, to be sure.) Her progression through RCIA that Lent were SO special for me, especially as a cradle Catholic who had never paid much attention to the process of adult conversion to the faith. I’m her Godmother *beams*, but she lives about an 8 hour drive from me, and so I couldn’t be there for all of the different rites throughout Lent, sadly. But at 36 weeks pregnant, I drove to New York City for her Easter Vigil, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. That was probably the most meaningful Lent of my life. I had prayed for her for so long, and to think that God heard my prayers and somehow worked in her heart to draw her to Himself – that’s just a staggering and beautiful thing.
Each year I now approach Lent with excitement and no lack of planning. I see it as a time for reflection and preparation, and I love the structure that it provides me to assess my spiritual life. Are you a cradle Catholic or a convert? What is your first memory of Lent? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to check back with Cristina and I tomorrow, when we’ll be blogging about Lent and family life! It was very nice chatting with you all today. 🙂
I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.