As many of you know, I am currently undergoing one of the most incredible journeys of my life... I am currently going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). In other words, I am becoming a Roman Catholic. I have regularly been attending Mass with my husband for the last two years. This past Wednesday, was my very first experience in receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. It was a very powerful experience, one that I embraced deep in my heart. It was also the first time I've fasted on Ash Wednesday. Fasting is never fun, or easy... but I noticed that it wasn't as difficult as when I need to fast for other reasons! I believe that my reason for fasting helped me endure and embrace the experience, and to stay positive!
As I was walking to the Chapel for the Ash Wednesday Mass, I noticed a hawk, sitting at the very top of the cross on the very top of the chapel. Intrigued, I got a really good look and was easily able to ascertain that the hawk was a red tailed hawk. This distracted me for a few seconds, and then I hurried inside. The chapel was full.. it was standing room only. So I found a spot at the back of the chapel and waited for Russell. He arrived a few minutes later, and I whispered to him about the hawk. After Mass, we looked and sure enough, it was still there. In sharing this with friends, I learned that Native American lore says that the presence of Red Tailed Hawks are good luck. They ward off evil spirits and protect from dangerous weather! Of course, the nation was currently being ravaged by horrible storms, blizzards and floods. We were spared for the most part here in Dayton. So I wonder if there's not something to this folklore. Either way, it added to my wonderful Ash Wednesday experience.
In addition to not eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Friday's of Lent, I've decided to give up sweets (candy and desserts). Visiting my Mother is always filled with eating candy. She has tons and tons of it, and it's in little bowls all around her room. Knowing this, I got into the "right mindset" as I prepared for our weekly visit. I was able to ignore her candy with ease. I felt no desire for it. I prayed a prayer of thanks, and asked for continued strength in my resolve. Will power has never been my strong suit. I also manged to ignore all the valentine's candy displays at the grocery.... it's all over, and I typically fall prey to at least one of this displays. However, I stayed focused on what I was looking for and checked out without any feeling any temptation. Thank you, God!
Yesterday, being Friday, meant "no meat". Russell and I met for lunch at the Faculty/Staff dining room on campus. The Chef was serving the loveliest pork roast. I looked at it with longing.. pork is my favorite. I mentioned this to the manager, and he groaned. He wanted it to. He told me laughingly that they had really messed up the menu, and didn't think about this being Lent. Of course, it's a little more astonishing, because this is a Catholic University. He was pretty chagrined and I giggled and said, well.. just don't take it off the menu because it didn't sell. He assured me they wouldn't.
So I chose the fried shrimp, and a cheddar garlic biscuit. And then I went to the salad bar and scooped up a large dish of napa cabbage salad... and then walked around and generously sprinkled sunflower seeds and crumbled bacon on top! I didn't even realize what I had done until Russell pointed at it in mock horror. It took a minute for my brain to click and I too gasped in horror.. more real than his. So, after we sat down, i proceeded to scrape off all the bacon. Our table was right next to another, where two priests, both of whom I am good friends with, and who know that I'm going through RCIA, were sitting. Fr. Teddy immediately noticed, and started laughing, asking me if I had put bacon on my salad. I groaned and grinned at him. Fr. Joe laughed and and Fr. Teddy said that they could give me a dispensation. I looked up from my scraping, and said "really?". I was so mortified and sad that I had messed up. Russell grinned at them and said "that's a rookie for you!!!". They both laughed and told me not to worry about it. Finally, I thought I had it all and took a bite. NOPE. I told Russell there was bacon mixed in... so I went and got a lid, and brought it home to eat this weekend. Another Priest, named Fr. Bert came over to say hello. I told him what I had done, and he was very sweet and told me that not to worry, that it was an honest mistake. He then went back to his table and came back once more and said, don't worry... one of the Brothers forgot and got a cheeseburger on Ash Wednesday! That definitely made me feel better!!!
These are my first "Lenten" experiences... and I may share more as time passes. If you are taking part in Lent, I'd love to hear about yours.