Friday, February 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: It’s Not Just the Meat

You all know by now that the one consistent thing about my blog is that I don’t seem to have a filter. Which means I often tell you the most ridiculous, idiotic things about myself.

Today will be no exception.

First of all, it wasn’t until quite late in life that I realized Lenten obligations was a Catholic thing. I was in college before I realized that not all Christians prayed the rosary. In other words, I may have lived a bit of a sheltered life. But Lent was such a big deal in our lives growing up, and since I went to a Catholic school and most (if not all) of my friends were Catholic… it just never really occurred to me that it didn’t hold the same requirements in all Christian denominations.

When I was little the thing I remember most about Lent wasn’t necessarily what we gave up (candy, gum, pop, etc.), it was more about the way we would eat. On Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent there was no eating meat and no eating in between meals. And when you’re a kid and eating supper, thinking about not eating again until breakfast seemed like the most insane notion in the world.

We were a family that had snacks in the evening… ice cream or popcorn or something… so dinner time turned into extended sessions as we all took just one more helping of this or one more helping of that. The rule was that once you left the table you were done, so it was often the dilemma of deciding to go in the other room to watch Dallas and Falcon Crest… or show of all shows, Knots Landing… or stay at the table for one more helping of tuna casserole to tide us over for the rest of the night.

We maybe needed a refresher course about the starving children in Africa, but at the time we saw it as a huge sacrifice.

Not eating meat wasn’t as difficult because we happened to love salmon patties and tuna casserole and creamed asparagus over toast. No, not eating meat was only a problem when I wasn’t sure what meat was.

There was one Friday in Lent when my brother Jerry and I were in town and stopped by McDonald’s for supper. He reminded me it was Friday and that we couldn’t eat meat, we went inside, ordered and went to the car with our bags of food. He pulled out his fish sandwich and looked at me funny when I pulled out my chicken sandwich.

I told you it’s Friday and not to order meat,” he scolded.

“I didn’t!” I exclaimed. “I ordered chicken!”


[This obviously would be another one of those idiot moments… I swear to God I’ve never been blonde. Although at least then I’d have an excuse…]

I choked down the chicken sandwich and worried the rest of the night about the “meat” now sitting in my stomach. A few extra Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s were inevitably said that night… I was a kid that did not suffer guilt lightly.

The great thing about our household is that we didn’t follow rules without knowing why. Mom and Dad were good at talking to us about how we should decide what to do for Lent. We understood that we needed to give up something that wouldn’t be easy, that would be an actual sacrifice, so that we could keep ourselves more mindful of the sacrifices Jesus made for us. A little rumble in our bellies was a good way to bring our focus back to the reason it was rumbling… giving up ice cream or chocolate wasn’t just something we all compared notes about at school, it was something that reminded us every time we reached for it and pulled our hands back that our sacrifice was small compared to His.

As I got older, the things that were given up for Lent were more to bring focus on ways to better myself… things that could be let go of and not picked back up after 40 days was the intention… ways to better my life and keep me on course for better living. And some years it wasn’t about giving up, but rather doing something… or both. There were years I joined a bible study or helped in the kitchen at the Catholic Worker House or became more dedicated to praying the rosary every night. Some of those habits I still continue and some fell by the wayside, but every Lenten season is a chance to more purposefully recognize the suffering on the cross and the ways our own lives could be changed to be more reflective of Jesus.

This year I’m not giving anything up, but there are things I want to work on that I have had a hard time committing to up to this point. For my physical self: physical therapy. For my spiritual self: scheduled, set-aside time with specific prayer for others rather than just random moments. For service: ways I plan to be more present to others who may need encouragement.

This year I’m making it about doing, becoming and reaching out. I know (now) that a Lenten sacrifice isn’t an obligation for everyone, but if any of you want to make a commitment of your own until Easter, leave your comment with your intentions and I’ll put you on my list to pray for.

And remember, it’s Friday. NO CHICKEN.


  1. I was not raised Catholic but I do like the idea of sacrificing something. It seems like a good thing to help me be mindful of the price paid for me. So, I don't KNOW what it should be. Maybe you could pray for clarity about that for me. And I thank you for that committment.

    One thing I have loved about blogging and joining this world is how it opened up a window I didn't realize was closed - a window to some wonderful people and the opportunity to share in their lives and pray for them. SO GLAD our paths crossed.

    Recent blog post: Homeschooling: An Insider's View - Lacks Humor

  2. Your experience is so much like mine that I feel like I'm reading about my growing up years....truly! I'm giving up chocolate.....well, in part, anyway. Mine is all about self-denial this year, but is not just limited to sweet's denial of all things I find myself desiring or craving, and to do so for the same reason you be mindful of just how much Jesus sacrificed for us.

    Also, to pray the rosary daily on my drive to work for special intentions. You will be included as one of those intentions.

    Thank you, in advance, for your prayers, dear Gitz! You have a kind and generous heart! Blessings!

  3. i love the way you explained the heart behind lent.

    thank you, fritz-friend!

    Recent blog post: explainless in columbus

  4. I love hearing you map it all out for me. Not being Catholic I've never truly understood it all.
    I'm doing this Beth Moore Bible Study right now, Believing God, and in this study she asks everyone to prayerfully give up something during the study time.
    I've been thinking I should try coming off sugar since October, so this is what I've given up(sugar in junk food)
    This has been physically painful and I've messed up 1 time a week for the past 3 weeks...Ahhhhh, I hate to mess up but Gitz, you know my sister how darn difficult this is for me. (I live off the sweet stuff)

    Recent blog post: ~Ahhhh, Order Restores Creativity~

  5. This post takes me back. I wasn't raised Catholic and remember being so mean to my Catholic friend growing up. As she gave up her candy/chocolate/gum each year, I ate mine in front of her--somehow thinking WE were better because we didn't have to do that. Am in a church now where I'm learning all about Lent--what it means. I'm working on changing my insides for these 40 days.

    Great post.

  6. Growing up, I never understood Lent or my classmates who would only eat fish on Friday. ewwww. lol. I thought it was strange to restrict your diet for something that, to me, made no sense.

    Now, in my faith walk, at different times I have given up different foods, habits, or desires. This year, it's more about changing my heart and thinking. I've posted it on my blog. Hope you have time to stop by and check it out. Blessings, Susan

    Recent blog post: The Beginning of the End, of the Beginning!

  7. I was raised United Methodist and we celebrated Lent growing up too. It was a little different (we didn't have to give up meat, but I always loved fish sandwich and mac & cheese day when I was teaching in a predominantly Catholic area), but we often gave up candy, soda, and things of that nature. I'm trying to get back into reading the Bible more--my girls make sitting down with a book difficult, so I'm using on on-line version. I'd like to make it through the next forty days, reading every day.

    I'll be praying for your success too!

    Recent blog post: The Blessing of Children (part I)

  8. Creamed asparagus on toast? Really? That's a new one on me!

    I'm Catholic, and I can't remember being completely successful at giving anything up for the entire 40 days as a child. But I'm not sure I had my heart in it to begin with.

    As an adult, I tend to try to add things or change things about myself, rather than give things up. This year I am trying to give up complaining and replace critical remarks with something more positive. I've already botched it, so I could use the prayers, lol! But I have 40 days to cement a new way of acting into my heart and mind, and I think it will be a gift to my friends and family it I keep trying.

    Recent blog post: Tired Just Thinking About Tuesday

  9. Sara,

    You crack me up!! Love the whole "chicken isn't meat thing!" Too cute. I, as well as you, am going to do my very best to commit to spending a more consistent time in prayer and not just at random times. I almost feel as if my life has just gotten so hectic that I don't pray as often as I should or would like to. And I know that that is NOT how it should be and it's time I did something about it! So, thank you for your post and to get back on track with things that matter most!

    Have a fabulous Friday!

    Jess :)

    Recent blog post: Who Do You Wish Was Here With You?

  10. I have found such power in fasting, and would have made a great Catholic since most meat doesn't appeal to me. I'm ok until I run into a blood vessel, or the "running gears" on a chicken leg. Ugh. Then I thought about the Daniel Fast but the most I've ever done is a week and I didn't want to set myself up to fall flat on my face. My sacrifice of repentance this year is Blood:WaterMission which sadly won't be as much sacrifice as I thought. But I'm only a few days into it, too. I hope I'll be tested.

    How ironic my last blog post is....chicken.

    Recent blog post: A Day of Drama: Smells Like Chicken

  11. I, too, went to a private school growing up, and thought that everyone was a Christian. A baptist. A God-fearing soul!

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. At book club the other night, one of the woman said her husband remembered me from high school and that I had dated someone from his catholic high school... gosh was that a flood of memories! I too learned about advent in an entirely new way for the first time. I just had a friend email that she was going computer-less for lent... I thought that was a unique sacrifice.

    I've followed other's and refrained from things, but I like the idea of adding something purposeful.

    Thank you Sara for giving me a fresh perspective and something to think about!

    Recent blog post: A boy's life.

  13. I taught 3rd grade at a Christian (not Catholic) school from 1999-2000. Our kids wore uniforms. One spring Friday, we took them on a "field trip" to a nursing home to sing for the older folks. We stopped at Burger King on the way back to school.

    A lady came up to me HORRIFIED. "I cannot BELIEVE you would bring Catholic school children to BURGER KING on a Lenten FRIDAY!"

    I was unfamiliar with Lent and really had no idea what she was even talking about, but I quickly reassured her we weren't a Catholic school. "Oh," she said, all red-faced and headed back to her cheeseburger. She wasn't even Catholic herself apparently--not sure why she was so worked up about it. :-P

    Recent blog post: i hope it hurts for awhile

  14. What a great post! I went to Catholic school for 13 years and definitely would consider myself a "practicing Catholic", but when I couldn't explain Ash Wednesday to my co-workers this week, I knew I needed to do something about the way I looked at Lent. So, last night, I turned to my trusty friend "Google" and did some searching. I think I have come up with some ideas on how to make this Lent more meaningful. I too want to spend more meaningful time in prayer and with the Bible (and found something called "Day by Day Through Lent--Fasting From Our Clutter" which I think will be a nice focus).

    Thanks for the reminder about chicken being meat :o)

    Have a great Friday!

  15. "A little rumble in our bellies...our sacrifice was small compared to His." -that little section right there is a great example of why I love your writing so much.

    I think I'm going to follow your lead and institute a discipline. It feels personal, so I'm not going to say it, but I am going to say thank you. This post was just what the (Heavenly) doctor ordered.

    Recent blog post: Audrey Hepburn's Beauty Tips

  16. I was raised Southern Baptist, yet a lot of my friends now and growing up were/are Catholic. In elementary school I always thought it was the "cool" thing to do--give something up for Lent. It wasn't until I got older that I realized exactly what it all meant.

    This was a great post, Sara. Like always!

    Recent blog post: Yay!!!!!

  17. Er. Uh. Yeah. I had the 'chicken is meat?!' moment, too. And the guilt. OH THE GUILT! *LOL*

    My freshman year of high school I gave up swearing for Lent. Not an easy task, having spent the previous two years in a school where the standard of speech was some pretty wretched swearing. I kept track of how many times I messed up (it was a lot). It really helped me be more aware of my language :)

    It also helped stave off some of the embarassment of unconsciously swearing in front of the wrong people :P

  18. Fridays during Lent are so hard for my dad! He thinks the world is coming to an end everytime he has to give up meat. My favorite Lenten memory growing up was staying up late with him on Friday nights. We'd order a pepperoni and sausage pizza around 11:30pm, and by the time it was delivered, it would be after midnight...and technically no longer Friday. Kind of defeated the purpose, but that man sure felt he was making a huge sacrifice anyway!

  19. prayer for clarity, it is :)

  20. my rosary includes you, too, Laura. thanks for all you do for me! [Tell Dave thanks again for trying to fix Riley's gate... he's just such a sneaky stinker!]

  21. thank you, my-alece, for asking the question to begin with.

  22. does that mean no micro-s'mores? you have both my prayers and my admiration :) i had never heard of beth moore before i started blogging, but i really want to do one of her bible studies someday.

  23. i was lucky i went to catholic school so we were all in the same boat :) i hope it's a good 40 days for you...

  24. i'll head over there in a bit... anxious to read what you have to say :)

  25. thanks, kristy! i started a chronological bible in january where you read every day and will have the whole bible read in a year. i'm really liking it; hope the next 40 days will be the same for you.

  26. wow, jan, that is a great commitment. i would imagine it would take some practice on my part, too, but am sure the next 40 days will make a huge difference for you.

    and yes, creamed asparagus over toast. de.lic.ious.

  27. i know exactly what you mean; i'm not good at scheduling that time, and I think i can really tell. i'll definitely be thinking of you when i do.

  28. i have a friend who has the same problem with chicken :) i'll have to look up the daniel fast; i'm not sure what that is... and pretty much every time I think chicken now i think of your blog post of drama. i hope lucky's doing ok...

  29. i know exactly what you mean!

  30. my pleasure :) i almost find it harder to add something rather than take away... forming new habits is a challenge, but a good one I've found.

  31. uhmm... maybe someone should have informed her that you can get fish sandwiches at Burger King :)

  32. i was just talking with a friend about this today... she was questioned about her faith and had to think of a right way to answer so she was understood. kind of good to be challenged every once in awhile to make us think!

  33. as long as some doctor is prescribing you something, I'm happy :) hope that crick in your neck is getting better...

  34. 8-) i love thinking that i was once cool by your standards :)

  35. moment of truth: i've tried so many times to give up swearing... and it never stuck. some habits die really really hard!

    and thank you for letting me know i'm not the only one with chicken confusion :)

  36. I LOVE THAT!!!! I mean, I know meaning-wise it's kinda bad, but what a cool memory with your dad. makes me want to go order a pizza with you :)

  37. My own moment of truth: I really need to try this again. I've slipped back so far into it it's embarrassing! *LOL* Yup, those habits are amazingly persistent, the nasty little buggers.

    Hey, I really like the new comment format!! It must do your own heart good to be able to respond directly to someone. Just be careful what you're getting yourself into - your blog is growing so fast we're going to overwhelm you soon! (yay, you! :D )

  38. Oh, I forgot to sign in. Sorry 'bout that!

  39. I've done 3 online studies of hers, they're at love it. There are videos and a workbook which you can either download or print cost about 20.00
    Also at (I think that's it) there are free radio teachings you can listen to, I do these for my morning quiet time once a week or so, but they aren't a good as the Bible study online!!! Smooch

  40. Daniel Fast. Lucky is trying to tell us something - we just don't know if it's "I love you" or "Let me go." Ugh :'(

    Recent blog post: A Day of Drama: Smells Like Chicken

  41. LOL. You got me. It took that one a long time to land. Thanks for the well wishes. I am improving pretty steadily. How's my Sara?

  42. *Thanks Gitz! Was praying for you this morning too. God just brought you
    across my heart so distinctly. :) Blessings my new friend, Robynn*

  43. I so had the same issues when I was younger. You mean not everyone has to go to confession? WAIT- not everyone walks around thinking about GUILT?! Geesh.

  44. Hi Gitz! Love your blog. I never met a Cathlolic until I went to college, and I still don't completely understand some of the practices. Why don't Catholics consider fish a meat?

    Recent blog post: Happy Valentine's Day