Fasting and abstinence

It’s the Lenten season and I’m trying to be a good Catholic, so I hope to share in the spirit of Jesus Christ’s Passion and pain.

Visceral eating

The biggest thing I did today, on Ash Wednesday, is choosing to abstain from meat and to fast. Abstaining is something I’ve done many times; fasting not so much.

What’s most significant is: This is the first time I’m voluntarily doing this, not in a context or environment that primes me to be O.K. with this (e.g., in school, on a retreat), and I’m really doing this at work. While my work consists of me sitting down the whole day, creative work at an ad agency is draining, trust me.

I didn’t choose “white meat” or looked for excuses; I really tried to do this thing.

Point one, then: Why the hell are we looking for excuses? I remember all the many years I “abstained” from meat by eating chicken.

What’s the point of that, really? A moral palliative? “Hey, I’m still a good Catholic, God!”

This time, it didn’t make sense anymore. Taking part in Jesus’ pain and copping out with “white meat” and not fasting—because it’s inconvenient—defeats the whole purpose of Lent, I feel like. It’s crazy to me.

(A big issue for me is how such a simple idea is communicated poorly by the Church to her people. If it takes a philosophy-grad-turned-high-school-catechist like me to not merely stop at “fasting and abstinence” and rely on flawed customs, something’s not quite right here.)

“For isn’t it so that when the old comforts and conveniences are ‘taken away,’ it is then that we realize how blessed we were to have had them?”

Point two: A radical focus on food as need, and not to luxuriate in it, or to socialize with it. I violated the fast by 3:00 p.m., by virtue of office pansit you won’t say no to. I thought I just wouldn’t eat dinner anymore.

Yeah, no. Fasting is apparently about timing and less about how much you’re eating. So, at the risk of fainting in the middle of rush hour traffic, I had to placate my gut by 8:00 p.m. and get a slice of shrimp and garlic pizza.

Eating in the bus, I wasn’t able to taste anything. It was such a visceral experience of going through each bite as pure necessity. I didn’t enjoy eating that pizza; I did so only because it might’ve gone badly for me going home.

I thought: Fasting shouldn’t be this catastrophic. It should be painful, but I shouldn’t be thinking about fainting in the middle of the road.

I’ll do better on Friday, Kuya, don’t worry.

Painful love

It’s beyond easy to conflate Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day and talk about pain in love, or to elaborate about the many cynical and pessimistic maxims on love.

I saw it in a more positive light, actually.

Love consumes so much of you that you’d go through pain for it, as good parents do for their kids, for example. But it has, is, and will always be very clear that what you’re doing, you’re doing for love.

No need for an obsession with pain. It makes better sense contextualized in love.

Awful homilies

I fail to understand how the institutional Catholic Church can’t invest in teacher training for all their priests; have they listened to their poor homilies? I know, I graduated from and worked for Jesuit schools; not all priests are Jesuits; not all religious orders take their time forming priests; not all priests are great at talking in front of a crowd.

But, Christ. You don’t need charisma and some go-go, born-to-teach genetic luck to write something, make a basic audiovisual slideshow, and think about some classroom-tested ways to engage a crowd.

I refuse to believe asking the congregation to repeat “Amen!” every fifteen seconds is good crowd work. Just. No.

The future Catholics 

I went to Mass today as probably the only young professional in the whole church. Granted, there were many factors at play: it was 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, for one. But if I still needed a visualization to the Church’s young person problem—that they haven’t successfully connected to many young people—

that was it.

(Awful homilies: The priest sprinkling some pop culture or saying “hater” and “bitter” merely for the sake of saying so is just awful. It’s like a whole generation of titos and titas saying the word peysbuk. Yes, the social media Web site. And no, it doesn’t endear them to young people. They’re just pretending.)

(That last point was oh so bitter, whoa.)


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