So, what is Lent? Lent is a part of the Catholic calender that is, essentially, a forty-day warm up to Easter. I've already started living on yogurt and berries.
As part of my Lenten series of sort-of religious blog posts, here are some FAQs about Lent.
UPDATE Most of those questions originally in this post have been moved to my new job at Examiner.com -- in short, I get paid. :)
However, the below question wouldn't fit ... if only because the comment stream below.
Q: Why do you make children participate in Lent? They're Children, they know nothing of sacrifice! They can't understand! This is child abuse!
A: Honest to God, I've seen this argument, I can't make it up. I must thank Matt for this one. He posted a link on his Facebook page, and I followed it through.
Now, while this guy brought up some excellent points about Vatican II (which was administered by abject morons, and as well-timed as a pork roast at a bar mitzva), he shows about as much thought to the concept of religion and children as Richard Dawkins, whom he cites.....
I read the article. I found it a lovely piece of evidence that, while Catholic education is great for teaching reading and writing, they suck on teaching things like, oh, BEING CATHOLIC. I know, I went, and I had to look up everything myself.
The article author talks about fish not being meat [Again: Carne (meat) meant "having guts." I've seen the internal organs of shellfish, they look less like guts and more like mush. Therefore they're "not meat." And other fish are gutted]
Also, the article itself is a little confusing. At the start of the article, his ten-year-old-self seems to understand everything about Lent, and does it quite well. By the end, he's whining that "no ten year old can understand" the concept of sacrifice; yet, at 13, he seemed to want a MORE stringent guideline. Someone should have told him that no one was going to stop him. He could have even gone to a pre-Vatican II church, Mel Gibson's father is part of one.
I liked how he seemed to have grasped the basics, until "Oh No! It's Vatican II!" Suddenly, he can't understand any of it, because "Vatican II radically changed the way Catholics practiced".....
Um, no, not really. That may have been the way it was filtered down to this guy, but congratulations, it means that you're doing mass in English. You don't have to learn Latin, and the Vatican figured out that, gee, you don't have to fast every day of Lent anymore, since half of the planet is no longer in starvation mode by the end of winter -- the Church changed the bare minimum, that's all.
Vatican II (V2: Repentance Day) was supposed to have the church address the "modern world," instead of this guy's thought that we were losing members. The irony is that Rome hemorrhaged members AFTER V2, not before. There were enough internal memos that made it to the public, V2 looked like Obama's foreign policy during Egypt, for much the same reason. The Pope who called V2 wanted the church to keep up and adapt to the world. The argument the article gives is that nothing in the Bible, or Jesus, or any text, had changed, is true -- but the entire world had.
And so, V2, "Oh, we're going to bring the laity into the decision-making process." Thanks, I've been through that process. I'd sooner take the nuns.
The parts of Lent modified by V2 turned religious duties into mandatory minimums, since they were no longer harsh realities for half the planet.
After reading this twit's suddenly inability to comprehend, I wonder ... Does that mean I was a very bright eight-year-old, or does that make him a really dumb thirty-year-old? I understood Lent while growing up, and so did he -- but, sometime between the start and the end of the article, he got confused, and fell down.
To actually answer this nitwit, I would like to direct him to my answer to the second FAQ. I used a specific phrase: the modern real world reason for the west. Because, guess what, this isn't all about him. Screaming "child abuse" doesn't work, when you consider that the original, practical reasons for stringent fasting still apply to parts of the world he wouldn't be caught dead in.
Now, I don't know if that makes him a provincial, small minded, "ugly American," or if that makes him a cranky Catholic who no one explained stuff to. And, considering that half the kids in America are butterballs, taking away their junk food for forty days might, just MIGHT, be a good idea.
Not to mention that, oh, dear, Michelle Obama is also trying to make kids sacrifice food ... all year round .... I must have missed his article when he screamed that the First Lady was abusing our children.
Oh, and, again, giving up stuff is a surface sign of faith, and is not the main point-- modifying behavior for the better, enhancing faith, is the point, and that is where the emphasis lies; maybe that's what he didn't, and doesn't, understand.
I also like the assumptions inherent there. "I don't understand something, so why should I be expected to do it?" Little kids sometimes don't understand the concept of "don't steal" (have you ever seen one with toy bins in Kindergarten?), or don't lie, or "don't touch the burner on the stove," or "don't stick that up your nose," "your face will freeze like that," and "Look both ways before crossing the street." We expect them to do all that, though. This guy wants to cry abuse at "inflicting Lent on children." Hey, Michelle Obama wants to legislate what they serve kids in public school, maybe he wants to bitch about that, too.
The complaint seems less a matter of "Lent is stupid" and more a matter of "Lent should be harder." Someone should have told him that he could make it as hard on himself as he likes.
Unfortunately, I can't even blame this moron for his ignorance. Did I say he made excellent points about Vatican 2? Sorry, I meant to say he's a perfect example of what went wrong with Vatican 2. Welcome to post-V2 Catholic education by the laity: "Just do this, we won't even attempt to explain it to you, because we don't believe it or understand it ourselves .... assuming we tell it to you in the first place."
I think this article and his author are great examples of arguing for more, better Catholic education.
And, for Lent, I'm going on a variation of his stringent fasting. I'm going to survive on fish, veggies, and yogurt. Since I'm overweight to start with, how's that for making a religious duty out of a practical necessity?
As my friend Jason has pointed out, Jews + Fasting = Yom Kippur and Passover. Catholics also took the same religious traditional definitions of fish and meat from Kosher laws. Hmm, maybe the twit from that article wants to talk about Kosher as child abuse too. Hmm...