Ashes to Ashes

The Lenten season is a time for reflection and sacrifice on our part in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Some people give up their favorite foods, or activities for the forty-some days.

I myself gave up ice cream. I love ice cream. I scream for ice cream. Normally it isn’t a problem, I just don’t buy it. But my husband came home from the store on Sunday with a package of Klondike Heath flavored ice cream bars. I mentioned I had given up ice cream for Lent and he just looked at me blankly, and said “I didn’t.” So far I have not caved.

In the vein of reflection, I am reading the Bible, deciding to start with Genesis and going right to the end. I have never read the Bible cover to cover. I have made it to Joshua. I am officially a God-fearing woman. Clearly, God does not have a sense of humor, which is not good news for me. (As I type this, I am bobbing and weaving to avoid the lightening bolts.)

How is it, you might ask, that a 58 year old woman has not managed to read the Bible in her life-time? Don’t forget that I am of the Catholic persuasion and we are not big Bible-benders. I learned about God from the Baltimore Catechism and filled in the blanks. God is Love they say. The God in the Old Testament is a little harsher than that. Poor Moses led all those people out in the desert, got them to the edge of the Promised Land and lost his job to Joshua over some water issue. Boom, you’re dead. Thank you very much. Okay.

The Son of God is more my speed. He is a kinder, gentler, God. I can relate to him. He walked a mile in our shoes and knows about our weaknesses. What is really confusing for me is that he is part of the Trinity, so really they are all the same entity. My head hurts.

But it takes more than just loving the Lord to get to Heaven. As Father Larry Richards tells us, “God is not Barney”, you know I love you, you love me. We must accept the fact that he died for our sins and be grateful and live a thankful life. And hopefully he will be a little more understanding than his Father when we fail.

I have to go now, the hand basket for my ride to hell is here.

Drop That Chicken Leg

Back in the day when we were growing up, I remember meal times in particular. Maybe because it was the time we were all together with Dad and Mom or maybe it was something else.

Our parents grew up during the depression and always were mindful of not having enough to eat. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t spend money needlessly. I think they budgeted their money and always saved a portion of Dad’s check. Treats were few and far between. We only drank soda when we had company. There were treats in the house sometimes, but we saved them most for company and Dad’s lunch.

We always had meat on the table (if it wasn’t Friday) albeit a limited amount. There was an unwritten rule that if there was not enough for everyone to have two pieces, Mom and I only had one piece, so my Dad and Brothers could have an extra piece. If I was still hungry, I filled up on bread and butter and potatoes. (Evidenced now in my large hips.)

When we had chicken, Mom usually fixed two frying chickens for the family. My Dad loved the dark meat. So did us kids and we were constantly being told to save the dark meat for Dad. For those of you who did not know our Father, he would eat until all the food was gone. We used to kid him about having a hollow leg where he put the extra food. So if there was an extra drumstick on the plate, we would have to ask Dad if he wanted it, before we could have it. More often than not he would say he was full and we could have it. To this day, I eat like I am in a race.

On a serious note though, my Mom was the consummate recycler. She never wasted anything. If we had ham, she made soup out of the bone, turkey, yep, soup again. She reused aluminum foil, plastic bags, bread bags, and oh my gosh, tea bags until they would scream for mercy. She wanted Dad to build something out of those “odd pieces of lumber” out in the barn, instead of buying new for a project.

Mom didn’t work much outside the home until I was in high school, but she is the reason that they were able to make the money Dad brought home go farther. To this day she refuses to throw anything that has any life left in it away. It always gets donated, or used as a rag. I still remember her going through the dumpster at my house when we were getting ready to move out west and pulling things out that someone else could use.

You gotta love her. Saint Delores, Patron Saint of Recycling. I love you Mom.

Get Your Indulgences Here

I have been going back and forth about writing this article for several weeks and finally decided to go ahead and do it. So here goes.

A few weeks ago I was reading the New York Times when I came across an article about how the Catholic Church is re-emphasizing Indulgences among its members. In an effort to get more of their flock back into confessionals they now are bringing indulgences to the fore front, reminding us that if we are in a state of grace (going to Confession, free of both mortal and venial sin, and receiving Holy Communion) we are eligible for a Plenary Indulgence, if while in this state we do things like recite the Rosary in church with a group of people or as a family in our home.

I also read in our church bulletin that the Pope has granted a Plenary Indulgence for a pious visit to St.Paul’s Basilica in Rome during this Year of Saint Paul. If you can’t make it to the Eternal City of Rome, you may visit a designated holy place named for St. Paul to fulfill the condition of a pilgrimage.

What is a Plenary Indulgence, you might ask. Well, come to find out, when you go to confession and you are absolved of your sins by the priest, you still face punishment for sins committed. This punishment is done in a place called Purgatory. But..if you receive a Plenary Indulgence and do not sin again before you die, you have a one way ticket to Heaven. Okay………..

Here’s where I have a problem. First of all, when you look up the word absolution, it not only means forgiveness, but redemption, you know, “off the hook”. I am very confused by this religion I call mine. There are too many levels up there, it’s like a video game for Pete’s sake. Don’t even get me started on Partial Indulgences. That is time off for good deeds done. They don’t tell you how much time, because, duh, it’s Eternity! Oh and by the way, you have to ask for an indulgence or You Don’t Get One!! I thought the whole idea of doing good was not asking for anything in return.

I am officially confused. In the last 58 years we have dropped St. Christopher, said it was okay to eat meat on Friday, okay to miss Sunday Mass (as long as we had a good reason), bid farewell to the Mass in Latin, and countless other things we believed in.

So I practice something called Cafeteria Catholicism. I take what I can stomach and leave the rest. I love the Lord and I was born into this Religion, and quite frankly don’t see anything else out there that appeals to me. But every once in a while I have to sound off.