Remembering the Carne in Carnivales … Ash Wednesday, The Catholic New Year

So, as most of my Galician neighbors were recovering from four consecutive days of revelry, street parties, costume contests and general festivities known as Carnivales, I was walking into a quiet evening mass. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised as I looked around the half-full church. I seriously doubted any of the average-age-65 crowd had donned a ‘disfraz’ (costume) in the last decade, let alone at some point during the last long weekend. I sat down amidst the familiar stares that seem to follow me every time I enter a new place here (they are ‘kind-of’ friendly) and settled in to listen to the surprisingly young priest deliver his message with references to Pope Benedict’s message of being Firm in the Faith at World Youth Day … topics that brought back warm memories as I sat in my pew.

Lent … the more I’ve thought about the more I have realized the parallels between the Lenten season and the first weeks of the new year … which would make the mainstream New Year’s Eve the interesting equivalent to Mardi Gras (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). Both days defined by indulging for the last time before waking up to an all-day fast and Day One of whatever sacrifice that you have decided for yourself. Again, think to that exercise routine you promised to start on January 1st … so more or less, yesterday was our Catholic New Year and the resolutions we are making have a greater intention than looking good in our summer swimsuit. Without fail, I get in the annual ‘what are you giving up’ conversation as many of us are stuck in the food sacrifice mentality of our youth. Lent is a lot more … when you hunger for that thing you have sacrificed you replace that with your hunger for God. And for some of us a better way of doing that is by ‘adding on’ in stead of ‘giving up’ and this season offers us an opportunity to focus on Random Acts of Kindness, Volunteerism and promoting a general spirit of giving.

Personally, I have went back and forth between the idea of ‘giving up’ or ‘adding on’ … am I bettering myself by making a sacrifice or am I better off in enhancing my day-to-day behavior and choices by a set of adaptations (we’ll call them) that I have selected to be a more loving, better me? I couldn’t decide so as the true Catholic I am, I have settled on a hybrid version that combines a little of both directions into my own personal set of Lenten Ten Commandments.

With the overriding theme of Lent being moderation … my commandments, that I’ll share with you over the upcoming days will bring me to a center that I sometimes stray away from in my day-to-day living either by too much or too little. That center I am seeking is where God exists and where we find contentment and peace.

All of this presents the perfect opportunity to return to writing here and I hope you enjoy the journey of the next 40 days with me. God Bless.

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One response to “Remembering the Carne in Carnivales … Ash Wednesday, The Catholic New Year

  1. Oh, Sienna, it’s good to read your words, to know you’re continuing to enjoy that magnificent city of Santiago de Compostela, and that you’re figuring out how to do what you want. You’re awesome!
    I’m not Catholic, but I always have liked the idea of time-bound periods (a week, a month, 40-days) of focus on something one regards as important, or on some little habit one wants to incorporate into daily life. So as today is March 1, this is what I wrote to myself this morning–and BTW, I’m hoping to sell my house and move soon:
    I want to enjoy the new month, especially the gratification of completing here, of packing that which I use or treasure and letting the rest go. I want to use my energy and time wisely–keeping up with my writing, friendships, family involvements, and spiritual processes. And I want to feel whatever I do is fun!

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