Growing up at St. Mary's Lent was a "big deal." So was Advent. As children, we took great pride in cutting out our yellow tear drops from construction paper and then the smaller, but more important orange teardrops. Taking our Elmer's glue, we would glue them together. Then, on Friday mornings after prayers and our "Pledge of Allegiance" we would take turns "lighting" our candles, or taping our flame to our Advent candle.
During Lent, we were given Rosary decades. For you non-Catholics, this was a little circle of 10 beads with a cross on the end. For those 40 days, every morning we would pull out the Rosary decade from our pencil box and in unison with Sr. Ruth or Sr. Kathleen, we would say the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, three Hail Marys, and then the "Glory be the Father." Some very cool eighth grader in their blue and white uniform would recite one of the five mysteries of our faith and then we would say our decade of Hail Marys, our mini-Rosary would go back in our pencil box & the day would begin. Every Friday, instead of just the first Friday of the month, we would walk down to church and go through the twelve stations of the cross.
At the beginning of Lent though, was Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday would involve a whole lot of silence. Lots and lots of quiet time to reflect on what we were giving up for Lent. After we went to Mass and had the ashes on our forehead, we would come back to class and write down what we were giving up for the next 40 days. Some very lofty third graders thought they could give up television, or Nintendo. I always tried for candy & cookies. Our note to ourselves would be sealed, put in a box, and the box would be in the back of the room for us to be reminded what we were sacrificing on a daily basis. At the end of the 4o days, we would open our envelopes to see how well we did.
Since college and a brilliant homily from a brilliant priest, I have given up time in some fashion or another, volunteering at soup kitchens, children's advocacy groups, or any number of other places. I feel better about what I am doing and at the end of 40 days, I am renewed as there is no substitute for time. By giving up television, I can still read or play on the internet. This year, I gave up time- but of a different sort. I am going to Mass twice a week. Considering that is two more times than I normally go in a week [month], it has been really nice to "return to the church" and remember why I am Catholic. On Sundays at 6 and Wednesdays at 5:30, you can find me sitting in a pew listening to the words of someone wiser than me and becoming more instilled about what I believe, but more importantly, why I believe.
Lent is about sacrifice, but it is also about bringing yourself closer to the Big Man upstairs. Someone told me not to long ago that the closest she ever felt to God was when she was pregnant. At first, I thought she was a little nuts. But, now I am starting to know what she means. I spend a lot of time thinking about Mary and what she had to overcome and deal with. Imagine being the mother of Jesus. It would be a little hard to tell HIM what to do! But, it takes a mothers guidance to become who you are. And it takes God to make a baby.
Our baby was 27 weeks on Monday (I am well aware it's Friday!). Husband is taking care of the NICU this month & he told me that there is a baby there that was delivered at 26 weeks. I asked if I could see it and he said I would not want to-- there is a reason why they need 40 weeks. At 27 weeks en utero, LMC is just over 2 pounds and almost 15 inches in length. Her brain waves are firing like a newborns and she is kicking a bunch. Her most recent cravings are orange sherbet and seafood. Why seafood does not make me sick but chicken still does, I have no idea. And we can start that "days without being sick" calendar over... as of last night, it's been about 10 hours... before that though, I made it almost 6 days.
As a daughter, I never understood the sacrifices my mother made for me and my brother. I never understood until Poppy came into our lives. And going to church twice a week will never come close to the sacrifices Someone greater than ourselves made for us, but it's a start.