Smash Wednesday

by Rachel on February 17, 2010

Put your top on and take off your beads. Digest that paczki and wash your face to remove the plethora of dried, unknown substances.

The fun is over. Mardi Gras is done and Lent is upon us.

I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools for the majority of my life, so I am quite familiar with this time of year. Forty days and forty nights of restraint and self-denial. And today is Ash Wednesday, the big kick-off to the whole season.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a pretty fallen (okay, practically excommunicated) Catholic. But given my upbringing, most of my best friends are Catholic, so they’ll be taking part in the major Lenty traditions: not eating meat on Ash Wednesday or on any Fridays throughout Lent and giving something up.

Here is my beef with Lent. Actually, it’s a no-meat day, so let me rephrase that. Here is my tofu with Lent: So many Catholics I know refuse — seriously, refuse — to eat meat on Fridays. Fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But then they just go out and sin every other way possible!

“Oops, hey, it’s Friday — can’t eat that cheeseburger! But I gotta go — Imma go smoke a joint and then blow this dude. Catch ya later, Rach!”

Wait…what!?

My family is really bad about this. They are so lapsed, I wouldn’t even call them Creaster Catholics, but during Lent, our house becomes the Bible Belt.

Do what you want to do, I just find it hard to believe that they’re saving a place in the seventh layer of hell next to murderers and child molesters for a girl who hasn’t gone to church in five years but ate meat on a Friday.

I remember sitting at lunch in my sorority house in college on Ash Wednesday. I heard many discussions about when people were attending Ash Wednesday services, whether or not dinner would be meat-free, and what people were giving up.

Oh and the usual stuff: Binge drinking, random sex, dancing on elevated surfaces, pregnancy tests, coveting thy neighbor’s BF. Typical stuff.

Wait, wait, wait….you can do all these things and still be Catholic?

Oh, but you have to give something up! That’s right! People were talking about giving up:

Chocolate. French fries. Pizza. Soda. Ice cream.

Hmmm. So, here’s the deal. No meat once a week (but sushi is cool). No fatty foods. All the “Girls Gone Wild” behavior you can muster. Some ashes on your forehead. Ticket to Heaven.

One time it was a Friday during Lent and I was out with my friend and her mom, who are both Catholic. They got fish. This is the same friend who, on Ash Wednesday that same year, told her mom she was going to church, rubbed a little mascara on her forehead, and then took a secret road trip to MSU smoke pot with another friend. I’m no Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure if you consume copious amounts of alcohol, do drugs, and have sex, no amount of salmon is going to save your soul.

Then there are the people who give something up by going on a diet. “I’m just going to eat healthier during Lent,” they’ll say. “I just want to look good on Spring Break.”

Again, you can check in with the Vatican on this one, but using Lent as an excuse to get ready for your wet T-shirt contest somehow seems wrong.

But they insist upon getting closer to God by getting closer to a size four.

However, I’m beginning to see that the religion of my youth might be perfect for me! Since I rarely eat meat, I’ve pretty much absolved myself of responsibility for sins. I eat fish on Fridays…I actually might already be going to Heaven! The whole reason I dropped out of Catholicism is because I thought I could never win. Catholics, OMG (literally “G”!!)…you sucked me back in!

Oh but can someone just tell me if meatless Fridays will get me some leeway when it comes to sleeping with Jews? Because I forgot that that personality trait might be the other reason I stopped being Catholic.

P.S. Last night my mom asked me sarcastically why I wasn’t out drinking and celebrating Mardi Gras. I screamed, “WooooOOOOooo!” and flashed her. The look on her face was priceless. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in weeks.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 J February 17, 2010 at 11:04 am

I don’t usually comment, but I felt compelled to respond to this posting.

I agree with your suggestion that fasting or abstinence from meat has lost some of its spiritual meaning. Pope Benedict XVI actually addressed this very problem in his 2009 Message for Lent. In his words, fasting is meant to heal all that prevents believers from conformity to the will of God. And for those of us who strive, albeit (VERY) imperfectly to ‘conform’ to His will, fasting is a good reminder of all that is ‘amiss’ in our day-to-day lives.

To be very clear, I think where your post gets it ‘wrong’ is your idea that ‘sinners’ cannot partake in the blessings of fasting and abstinence from meat. And to that idea, I have a number of things you should consider. First, the Church never says that obeying or not obeying the Lenten observances will guarantee or will forbid Heaven. “[E]ach of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:1-13). Second, abstaining from meat, in a ritualistic sense, is a reminder of the communal aspect of Christianity–as a unified community, we join together to fast and/or abstain. This gesture echoes our unification in the Kingdom of Heaven. Third, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live around the world. And, fourth, you do not have to be perfect or sinless to find meaning in Lenten traditions. To invoke the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Church will always welcome with open arms sinners. Please do not think that if you have experience with “binge drinking, random sex, dancing on elevated surfaces, pregnancy tests, coveting thy neighbor’s BF” you are not welcome in the Church or cannot participate in the Church’s observances–God is so forgiving. Sometimes the smallest of steps lead us in the right direction.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for The Lord is able to make him stand.”
Romans 14:1-4

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2 Jennifer February 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

You actually crack me up. I just read this at work and had to hide my smile when I read that you flashed your mom!!

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3 Lauren February 17, 2010 at 11:44 am

No offense, but this blog is obviously suppossed to be taken with a grain of salt. I really don’t think that Rachel was suggesting that “sinners” were not welcome in the church. I mean, come on. While you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, I don’t think it’s fair to call Rachel’s “wrong.”

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4 Julia February 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I get what you’re saying, Rachel, and I’m glad you wrote this. While their are plenty of people that take Lent seriously and make an effort to connect to their faith during the season, I think the population of people you talk about do come across as disingenuous. It makes you question whether they are truly observing Lent or fasting just for the sake of fasting – is there any meaning behind it for them? And yes, God is forgiving, but Christians are also supposed to strive to be good, generous, and caring people – not act however they please and follow it up with a fish fry on Friday in an effort to make up for it.

Also, as a side note, the church does not accept all sinners with open arms. It accepts all heterosexual sinners with open arms.

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5 Teri [a foodie stays fit] February 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

hahahahah, oh this was hilarious. I’m not Catholic or of any religion that celebrates Lent, but so many of these general themes pop up in my religion all the time. I’m going to hell for drinking coffee [caffeine = SIN] but everyone can drink Diet Coke in Costco-sizej amounts? Hmmm…. look at big picture people! :)
.-= Teri [a foodie stays fit]´s last blog ..Whole Wheat Flax Bread – Karlee, this one’s for you =-.

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6 FoodCents February 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Ohhhh sweet Hooker, this was so very refreshing to read. Thank you………

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7 Dori February 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm

To the first commenter, I don’t think you got the point. This was humor writing made funny by the absurdity behind the words. All Rachel did was point out what is absurd and word it in a way to make all of us laugh and appreciate the hilarious connections Rachel can make.

Rachel — this was one of your best pieced of writing. I think this should be submitted somewhere. You really do have a talent in humor writing and finding the ridiculous in every situation while making astute observations, and I say this as someone who received a grade of “Pass” in the Gotham Writers Workshop’s Humor Writing I course, so I would know.

I love you for lines like this: “I’m gonna go blow this dude and then do some blow.”
.-= Dori´s last blog ..Core Fusion with Meghann and Missy =-.

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8 heather February 17, 2010 at 7:26 pm

i love Jesus.
and I love you.
so much.
and every bit of your blog.
so much.

:) the end.

[p.s. intoxicated. this is drummenting]
.-= heather´s last blog ..Tweetox =-.

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9 Michelle @ Eatingjourney February 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm

This is why I find it very hard to announce that I am a Christian at times. Because let’s be honest I will say things like ‘God I could use a good f–k right now’ or ‘Yeah, giving head isn’t the worst thing’ or ‘If I did a drug, I’d do cocaine’ or ‘I will probably burn when I walk through the doors of church’.

However, what it boils down to..and I get through my day..with the knoweledge that my faith is my faith journey. There are rules and regulations..and yet people won’t follow them. Some people will follow them to a T…but not live the life that, Jesus per say, would have lived.

It’s a hard balance. One whereby I don’t know how many boxes I will tick in being a ‘good christian’. However, I know that I have a relationship … and that’s all that matters to me.

Thanks for sharing..your story is pretty much every single Australian I have met who says their Catholic.
.-= Michelle @ Eatingjourney´s last blog ..Diets Aren’t Working For Me =-.

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10 Dori February 17, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Michelle — You’re going about this all wrong. Pot is where it’s at…
.-= Dori´s last blog ..Core Fusion with Meghann and Missy =-.

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11 Clarice February 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

If you haven’t seen this Jim Gaffigan clip about religion, you should. Whenever he says Shiite Catholic, I always crack up. Enjoy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k_9mXpNdgU

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12 Elizabeth February 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Dori – Pot IS where it’s at. (I’m Rachel’s friend who smeared mascara on her forehead that fateful Ash Wednesday years ago… I wasn’t ashed, but I did get stoned ;)

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13 Caitlin@TheTwentyFifthYear February 17, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Having been raised Catholic as well, you got several smirks out of me on this one. I completely agree – what some people consider to be “giving up” or trying to improve on during Lent leaves something to be desired. I especially loved the college stories with the mascara – classic.
.-= Caitlin@TheTwentyFifthYear´s last blog ..The Salad Dressing Theory =-.

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14 E February 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you, Rachel. I agree with the above commenter- you should publish this somewhere.
I felt this all through college – during Lent, my Catholic and super conservative Christian friends would ask what I’m giving up for Lent. I would say “I’m not Christian,” and they would just look at me sadly, while the guy they brought home from the bar while they were shit fucking drunk the night before leaves out the side door.

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15 Carrie February 19, 2010 at 10:22 am

OMG (literally G!). As a lapsed Catholic who always gives something up for Lent (because I find it challenging and fun, I know, I have issues) this made me laugh so, so hard. I was totally the girl in college who left Ash Wednesday service and went directly to a bar, and then home with a dude.

Hilarious!
.-= Carrie´s last blog ..Tofu Epiphanies =-.

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16 Anne February 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I gave up on Lent a long time ago. When I was in middle school forever ago my mom and I would go to Ash Wednesday service [we actually sang in the choir, shh] and give up something for Lent. Without fail every single Friday my mother would make me a salami sandwich for lunch. I would be halfway through when I would realize what day it was. :) This happened several years in a row, then we just gave up.

Now, my dad is a converted Jew. I currently live in the Bible Belt and Catholics are looked at as if we have 2 heads. You can imagine the looks I get when I say I was raised Catholic and now my dad is Jewish. It’s just fun!
.-= Anne´s last blog ..Let Me Tell You What I Think. Can You Smell The Smoke? =-.

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17 Rachel February 23, 2010 at 9:15 am

HA! I love it…I’m sure they’re freaking out, but that’s just awesome.

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18 Joey April 7, 2010 at 10:11 am

I love this post! That is one of the biggest reasons I don’t call myself Catholic anymore.. the hypocrisy in so many situations exactly like this one!

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19 Selina April 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I just read this post and I have to agree with you (as I am/was raised a Catholic myself…Catholic school and all). I have another spin for you though…the big discussion down here in the South is the whole “don’t eat meat” thing. Well, when you live around a plethora of GREAT seafood, not eating meat on Fridays isn’t difficult, or much of a sacrifice at all!! I, personally, think it is more of a sacrifice to fix myself a turkey sandwich than to go to a local restaurant and eat crawfish etouffee, seafood gumbo, fried catfish, boiled crabs, crabcakes, etc…you get the picture. If Lent is supposed to be about sacrifice, then stuffing my face with seafood, isn’t a sacrifice at all. :)

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20 Warren Dostie March 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Well, my wife and I pretty much gave up red meat years ago, so I guess we got a lot of free sinnin acrued by now. Gotta get to work on it… :)

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