Ashes On My Head Can Only Mean One Thing

by Elizabeth on March 9, 2011 · 5 comments

in It's hard out here for a Christian, Lent, vegetarianism

As I sat in the hospital’s worship service today, I was still worrying about what I was going to give up for Lent. 
Yes, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  I rarely talk about religion here because I don’t want to offend or discourage anyone from thinking I’m not open to your thoughts and opinions no matter your beliefs.  (Note: I’m very open to whatever you have to say about anything, not just religion.)  But since today is such an important day, I thought it was appropriate to talk a little about Ash Wednesday, Lent, and what it all means to me.
If you clicked on either of the above links, you’ve probably realized that they refer you to information about Catholicism.  I was raised Catholic and it’s the denomination I continue to practice today.  I have never and will never be a very devout Catholic, nor do I adhere to many of the Church’s more conservative teachings and practices.  But I believe in the Catholic interpretation of the Bible and I prefer the Catholic service (I do like me some tradition.).  And I’ve always participated in Lent. 
Which is why I found myself sitting in the chapel at the hospital.  I couldn’t leave work today to go to mass, but I needed to go to a service and listen.  I needed to pray in preparation for the season and get my ashes on my forehead.  And I needed to get my mind off of how incredibly hungry I was (I did the Catholic thing and fasted this morning). 
Lent is about sacrifice, both your own personal sacrifice and remembering the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us when he died on the cross.  Your Lenten sacrifice should call to mind Christ’s sacrifice. 
I’ve given up a variety of things over the years for Lent.  Fast food, chocolate, soft drinks, butter, caffeine, and swearing are some that I can think of off the top of my head.  Some I failed miserably before the first week was over (I don’t even think I made it through the first 24 hours without caffeine), but some really changed me.  I used to put butter on everything from ordinary things like bread and potatoes to PopTarts and every vegetable imaginable.  Now I rarely butter anything but my bread, preferring to enjoy the taste of the food as opposed to the taste of the butter.
But this year I couldn’t think of anything. 
I mean, I thought of a lot of things, like Diet Coke, coffee, sweets, and pasta, but none of those were things that I really felt like I could actually give up.  Even reminding myself that my sacrifice is nowhere near as difficult as Christ’s was would help.  Especially with the Diet Coke.  I couldn’t have made it a week. 
But then it hit me, right there while the AME chaplain was singing the hymn (It’s a Baptist hospital in an urban neighborhood – no one is Catholic around here).  Catholics always abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.  (It should be noted that “meat” does not mean fish or shellfish.  Meat refers to red meats, poultry, and pork.)  And I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for budget reasons, but have resisted because I really do love meat. 
So I’m giving up meat (as in the Catholic definition of meat) for Lent.  It’s a sacrifice because I eat out a good bit with friends and it’s always hard to find vegetarian options on the menu and it’s a sacrifice because I’m tempted to eat meat and cook with meat all the time.  But it’s also something that’s going to be good for my body and for my wallet.  I’m pretty excited about it. 
Do you participate in Lent?  If so, what are you sacrificing? 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Braegan March 10, 2011 at 12:53 am

I gave up meat last year for Lent and remained vegetarian until around September or so when I added poultry (and then only about 3 meals a week). I've found that I eat healthier, lighter meals, and look forward to trying new vegetarian recipes. One tip I have is to browse the bargain-priced section at Barnes and Noble. They often have vegetarian cookbooks there for cheap (between $5-10).
I haven't decided what to give up this year. I figure it's still Ash Wednesday for a few more hours so I have some time to decide.
Looking forward to reading about your experience going vegetarian!


2 withduckandgoose March 10, 2011 at 1:36 am

Well, I was going to give up chocolate until I decided that it was kind of a cop-out since I don't entirely care for chocolate to begin with. I usually voluntarily give up something for Lent because as a Lutheran, it isn't a traditional thing, but I see significance in it.

Perhaps I shall join you on the meatless wagon. I still have 3.5 hours to decide, right? LOL.


3 Megg March 10, 2011 at 1:39 am

I'm giving up meat too! Well…I'm doing it on Fridays anyway. It's my way of reminding myself that we're in the Lenten season. I'm not sure I can/want to do it every day during Lent, but I do like the idea of actively preparing and remember not to eat meat once a week.


4 Elizabeth March 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

@Braegan – thanks for the tip! I don't have any vegetarian cookbooks, so I'll have to make a stop at B&N (such a hardship!) and look for one.

@DuckandGoose – I thought you didn't each much meat to begin with? I'm using your protein list to help me get through this!

@Megg – I think it's going to be really hard, especially when I eat out, but I think I can do it. Good luck with your Fridays!


5 amber March 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of Lent until I met you. I remember the first time I saw you with the ashes and I was so confused!

At any rate, as I am trying to be more spiritually open, I have decided to participate in Lent this year, and I am giving up candy, which is one of my main food groups. I've done well so far… but it has only been 2 days :/


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