Yesterday I skipped lunch and got my ashes, opting once again to give up french fries as my Lenten sacrifice. I give them up almost every year. I kid myself that it is kinda cheating because I should give them up completely, but in reality, it's one of the most appropriate sacrifices I can make.
Everything in America seems to come with fries. Even fries come with a side of fries. And I certainly do love me my greasy chips.
So for the next six weeks, I'll either order the alternative -- and usually pay an extra $1 surcharge -- or go without. A friend, who happens to be Jewish, the Anti-Derivative of Catholism -- once argued with me when I ordered tater tots instead of fries.
"It's still a potato," she said. "What's the point?"
"Yes it is," I said. "I gave up french fries, not potatos." She didn't get it. And I wasn't gong to try and explain it to her.
In my experience, non catholics think that we all have to give up something extreme for lent. Heck, even catholics don't really agree on what we have to do. Old School Catholics like their extremes.
I was taught during RCIA that you had to experience a sense of sacrifice, but not suffering. So going without french fries good. Going without food for 40 days bad. You could also vow to reduce. For example, if you smoke a pack a day, you could vow to only smoke two cigarettes a day throughout lent. technically that would work for fries but what is the point. You can also decided that instead of giving somethign up, you could do more charity work.
Finally there's the get out of jail card. Catholics seem to be split on this. some believe that you get sundays off from your lenten sacrific, others believe you go all six weeks.
Remember those ashes i mentioned. Some believe that you do not wipe them off at all..you wait for them to flake off or they come off when you shower the next day. I was tought that you can wipe them off immediately and Jesus will still love you.
It depends on what you were taught, but i suppose it also depends on what you believe. And the real problem is that some people just won't let you have a belief that is different from theirs, no matter how benign. And that is the true challenge we all face, Catholic or otherwise: not to sacrific our beliefs in order to appease the requirements.