Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pickin' My Belly Button Lent... 2009!

This title is absolute genius, in my humble opinion, which is why I'm recycling it from 2006. Following the last post on New Year's resolutions, it seems appropriate to check how those resolutions are going. Well, over halfway through Lent, I honestly forgot what those old resolutions, as my mind's been occupied with keeping my Lenten commitments. Checkin' the files... apparently I'm supposed to fast from meat for breakfast and lunch... sounds like something a woman would make me do.

Granted, for Lent I am fasting from meat completely (except Sunday's, of course, in order to celebrate the Resurrection... and in the Catholic world we begin celebrating the Resurrection around 5pm on Saturday). I also begin participating in the e5men.org bread-and-water fast on Ash Wednesday and I'm doing that every Wednesday of Lent. Well, yesterday wasn't a good day, so I decided to fast today... and right now I'm drinking "liquid bread" in the form of a Dundee Honey Brown lager, but it was a long day at work... I'll keep the fast until lunch tomorrow to compensate a bit (which the web site says is permissible, so I'm still playin' by the rules).

Anyway, if you came here expecting some brilliant commentary or insight into Lent... I think I'm about tapped dry for now. I just wanted to check in and felt like writing a quick blog post, so next year maybe I can come back here and at least recall what was on my mind. I can say this has been a relatively fruitful Lent so far. Like most people who aren't dead, I've got my set of struggles and attachments that make for a frustrating experience of life at times, and I often fall into these moods of pessimism and despair. But I have to say, while sometimes I thought Matthew Kelly's "Rediscovering Catholicism" was a bit too cheesy or pep rally-esque, he says a lot of good things and he helped me appreciate the role of discipline in life. When I start to despair, I've noticed it's always at times when I'm least disciplined. And during the times when I push myself into more discipline, I end up happier, even if my circumstances haven't changed. Ergo, my outlook on life and faith are largely a product of my daily habits.

So, here's to getting back into that early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On Resolutions for a New Year

Word is that New Year's resolutions are falling out of favor with most people these days. I know I didn't make any... though lately I'm experiencing a refreshing phase of making a number of resolutions like regular Confession, accountability with people outside of Confession, and finally reading some of these books I've had on the shelf for months and years. So maybe I wasn't in need of resolving to lose a few pounds or whatever typical thing people half-heartedly commit to every year (any wonder we've quit trying?).

A thread was recently started on my favorite online stomping grounds at PhatMass asking, "What if your resolution for 2009 was to become a saint?" In offering my own humble gift of eye-opening insight and jaw-dropping wisdom on the topic, I couldn't help but remember all my adoring fans here at The Richest Man in Assisi and want to leave you awestruck by my beautiful verbosity and provide an opportunity for you to heap upon my comment box many selfless compliments and praises. So, without further ado...

A-hem. [Throat clearing sounds].

Any true resolution -- and more importantly, actually following through with it -- brings us a little closer to sainthood. I just read the part of Rediscovering Catholicism where Matthew Kelly profiles the lives of St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed Mother Teresa, St. John Vianney, St. Thomas More, and John Paul II, so I'm freshly encouraged right now to pursue sainthood. smile.gif Specifically, reading the part of St. Vianney's story about going days without food and for several years eating only a boiled potato each day, and the graces his sacrifice of love won for his parishioners reminds me that I've sensed a nudging from God on many occasions to make some kind of ongoing food-related sacrifice.

Why food? For one, I love to eat, so it hits home. Second, learning to master our appetite for food teaches us to master our appetite for sinful and worldly things. Third, bringing these two reasons together, it's no coincidence that Christ gives himself to us eternally in the form of bread. Like Jesus proving the paralytic's sins were forgiven by healing his legs, Jesus proves that he feeds us spiritually by feeding us physically.

He feeds our bellies. The same belly that is poetically associated with gluttony and the raw ugliness of sin. Christ redeems our bellies, making the empty place in our bodies (and our hearts) his beautiful tabernacle!

So, while chillin' with Jesus in a nearby Adoration chapel, I was debating what kind of sacrifice would be materially significant without going so overboard as to doom my new-found commitment to the fate of most resolutions. Some people can give up meat entirely, but I love a succulent, medium-rare steak too much to give that up joyfully. I thought about giving up desserts entirely, but glimpsed myself in the near future at Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen with friends digging into slices of delicious cherry pie and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cones... and me sippin' a cup of coffee pretending to have a good time. No, I can't be a fake. What kind of witness would it be if I'm gritting my teeth? Then, the eureka of a happy medium and newborn resolution popped into ye olde brain: I'll sacrifice meat and dessert/sweets for breakfast and lunch! Sweet! I mean, veggies!

That's enough to make me consciously remember my sacrifice on a daily basis, but gives me the flexibility to give thanks for that mouth-watering steak at dinner smile.gif Now, the more difficult part will be the spiritual side of this resolution/penance: to give thanks at every meal with whomever I'm eating. Sacrificing a sausage biscuit or hamburger are nothing compared to sacrificing pride. Still, any small material sacrifice provides the preparation we need to make greater spiritual sacrifices.

If it sounds like I'm taking an unhealthy sense of pride in my resolution, I don't mean to. I'm actually excited at the prospect of growing more spiritually mature, though I know frustrations await along the way. That's why I'm indulging at dinner: to keep myself humble. I may be a saint by faith, but I'm a sinner by trade.

Sooo... if anyone out there in Blogland is actually reading this (you know who you are, Lindsay) then feel free to share your thoughts or link to your own blog post on the topic.

[The fans stand in silent suspense... the pitch is thrown... it's a hit! It's deep! Way back! That ball is... outta here! And the crowd goes wild!!! Cubs win!!!]

[Yes, I've got baseball on the brain. Must be the spring-like weather we've had. After all that heavy talk about sacrifice, thought we were due for a light-hearted moment. :) ]