In my pathetic attempt to “be Catholic”, I’m observing the Lenten practice of abstinence by not drinking coffee. That’s a close equivalent to Jesus suffering in the desert for 40 days, right?
You may have thought I was abstaining from writing more posts for eatingatme given how long it’s been since we touched base. Au contraire; I’ve given up keeping my life inordinately quiet which was facilitating the time to write. Quiet life = not enough relevant, current experience to create interesting content for said blog. So I’ve been doing research.
In fact, Lent is the perfect time to introduce regular, social activity to my simple life because it’s the time to do so smartly and quietly. This I’ve learned from the very captivating Irish priest who’s the pastor of the Catholic church I’m attending with my father. I’ve gone old school, folks: Mass every Sunday and usually in Latin. Whoa.
You see, I’ve been in need of some spiritual food. I’ve always been that Catholic who “feels connected” during Christmas (it’s really the aromatherapy of holiday cooking and Christmas tree pine that evokes the giddiness) or when times are exceedingly “tough” (although going to confession always seems tougher, so I don’t). I attended Catholic grammar school and studied the Bible extensively in college (my undergraduate program was rooted in the practice of classical education and the study of the Great Books of Western Civilization). My mother, who I never identified during my childhood as a devout Catholic, woke up one morning in her early forties and attended Mass, never to miss it thereafter. My father, who I’ve always identified as a devout Catholic on the other hand, was the one I rebelled against most, and is now someone I hold very precious to me.
Needless to say, spirituality has played a consistent role in my life but religiosity has never made a regular appearance at Sunday dinner.
My father moved near me at the end of September and first on the priority list was finding him a new religious home. As a dutiful daughter, as he made the transition from the east to west coast, I offered to attend Latin Mass with him. He’s a proud Traditionalist. I’m not. We were both a bit nervous about what would unfold.
A minor miracle, actually. For both of us. This church, and its highly intelligent, well-spoken, strict-yet-relatable priest, has been, well, a Godsend. My father has his home, and I have my weekly feast of meditation, prayer, thanksgiving, education, and…quiet.
Introduce Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter that kick off with Catholics donning ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance for sin and the abrupt ceasing of good times (life without coffee, booze, meat, television, chocolate, or whatever isn’t fun). Lent represents the 40 days Jesus suffered in the desert and was tempted by the Devil, to whom our priest says “Jesus gave a bloody nose in response”. For those who partake, Lent is a time for spiritual spring cleaning, a time for new growth to emerge.
Although I embarked on the year-long cleaning of crap in January, I chose to participate in Lent (I think for the first time ever), to attempt to “be Catholic”. So I’ve given up coffee until Easter. Yes, coffee. My beloved drug of choice.
Surprisingly (and I’m hesitant to admit this), I don’t really miss it. Tea (with and without caffeine) is a fine substitute, and I feel a whole lot better without it.
Aww, man! Is this an example of what happens when we let go and let God?
(I can’t believe I just asked a question as hokey as a “WWJD” bumper sticker, but think about it.)
How many “foods” become unnecessary habit, the easier path, the “But it’s what I’ve always eaten (or done)” excuse? Coffee’s that for me in a way. I seem to think I can’t go to barre class at 6:00am without it. I have at least three cups daily. It’s pretty much what I drink if I’m not drinking alcohol or water (I’m not a juice or soda fan). It’s even my favorite way to close out a meal any time of day.
Coffee is my willing partner in co-dependent bliss. It’s always that which is comfortable and safe. Like staying out of shape. Or holding on to “I’m right, You’re wrong” with fierce determination. Or not sticking my neck out to bite off what I want.
Maybe I should give those up, too. Bloody the Devil’s face up a bit.
So on April 8th, after Mass, I’ll have a big, steaming hot cup of coffee. I’m looking forward to it a lot and the caffeine buzz it’ll bring. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to land on me a bit different than it has all these years. At least I hope so, otherwise what’s the point? I better pray about that.