Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A view of Lent from the outside

    Not being of any particular religion and having only a smattering of experiences as a child and a young adult with Christianity I can't say I know alot about Lent. My first experience with Lent was trying to rub the ashes off of the forehead of a devout Catholic school. Seriously. "Hey, you have something on your forehead."  I reached out only to have my hand batted away with such force I thought he loathed my touch. His sister jumped in and explained immediately that it was Ash Wednesday and he had been to mass.  I felt pretty ridiculous, but it was one more lesson learned about Catholicism. For some reason having ashes rubbed on your forehead in the shape of a cross was a good thing. 
    That year in Catholic school was like being in the center of an experiment. How will the godless girl get along in a sea of god-fearing Catholics? I remember sitting in one of my professors offices trying to explain how odd it felt to be there. How strange it felt to watch people go to mass every Sunday. She too, was on the outside looking in. She had been raised Protestant, a Scot from Aberdeen. 
    I remember being in awe when the school made its pilgrimage to the cathedral for the start of the school year.  I sat in the pew, next to my catholic roommate and stared wide eyed at the stained glass, the pillars that were cracked and knocked off kilter by the last earthquake. The heady thick fragrance that hung in the air. The cadence of Latin and the procession of believers as they knelt to take the host. I remember I had a million questions for my graduate advisor, a priest, who appeared to loathe me being in his presence for longer than 15 minute increments.  
    The Cathedral was not the only beautiful religious structure in Helena, Montana. The chapel in the basement of my dorm was magnificent. Small, but intimate. It was more the devotion people gave to the religion, some of the priests at the school, and the architecture that impressed me. The beauty of the paintings and the literature. I still think back to those days and have respect for that place, those people, and this religion, but there is one burning question I have. 
    I look upon Lent as a time for change. A time when you toss a bad habit, but what I do not get is why people do the 40 days then go back to their old ways.I get no meat on fridays- I get cutting stuff out of your diet for Lent. I can even get no sex during that  time. People are going to go back to eating meat, chocolate, or having sex. There isn't a human being that is a civilian out there that is going to willingly cut sex out of their lives forever.  But some people's grandiosity seems to influence them to make these wild sacrifices. The alcoholic who cuts it out cold turkey on Ash Wednesday only to make his way through 40 days and nights to binge on the feast day.  It makes no sense. If you are giving something up, sacrificing it for whatever, why do you take it back after the 40 days. Its like un-gifting. "Oh here you go, I bought you this lovely present." then 2 weeks later taking it back because you liked it so much. It just does not make any sense.  Anyone have any words of wisdom for me? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I am not really an armchair historian.I love history and nothing beats a good historical non-fiction book or fiction novel. I love them. (please leave the bodice rippers out of it as they bore me to tears.) I love historical movies and I love the costuming. I wish netflix had more on instant play as I can only watch Bright Star,Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Dangerous Liaisons so many times. Sadly, Sophia Copolla's Marie Antoinette is not an instant play item. Booo! And recently Downton Abbey was added to the list of great series to watch.
If you have not seen Downton Abbey look it up, the costuming and story is fantastic!