Monday, March 28, 2016

Holy Lents, Holy Easters

Has anyone noticed that the more penitential and prayerful the Lent you observe, the more joyful the Easter you will have?

Before I had kids, I had some really spiritually productive Lents.  There was the one year in college where I wrote out a big list of all the things I would give up - things like drinking coffee, checking Facebook before the evening, and "wearing my hair down"  - (my hair was pretty long at that point, and I'd noticed that I'd begun to spend way too much time and thought each morning primping it and making it look nice).  Even when I spent a week in Italy, I continued to experiment with new ways to wear it pinned up.  Including this unfortunate attempt at "Heidi braids" the day we visited Assisi:

Not a suitable look for you, Christine!
There was another Lent where I decided to join Tom (who I was dating at the time) in practicing the Byzantine-style fast for the whole of Lent.  This is where you not only give up meat EVERY day, but also pretty much all animals products - milk, butter, cheese, etc..  You're essentially a vegan.   Plus, you're not supposed to consume wine or olive oil.  So the foods available to you are...simple breads, and vegetables. Or, in our case, you could just eat a steady diet of french fries!  This was during the time when we were young and stupid and wasted lots of money going out to eat way too often.  And what's the one vegan option on most restaurant's menus?  French fries.

For the past 5+ years, I've been pregnant or breastfeeding during Lent.  So since I'm technically dispensed from the need to fast from food - on the two measly fasting days a year that are left on the church calendar -  I've definitely taken advantage of that, and not been very strict at all with any food-related penances during Lent.  And I feel like this laxity has carried over into the rest of my attitude towards Lent and any sacrifices I choose for myself.  I'll think, "well, I"m pregnant/recently post-partum!  That's sacrificial enough for me this year!"  And who knows?  Maybe I'm not entirely wrong in thinking this way....but I will say, in looking back over how I've actually welcomed and celebrated Easter these past few years, as compared to in the past....I  just don't think I've been living our holy or focused enough Lents.


We went to the Easter vigil Mass again this year.  At our church, it doesn't start until 10pm, and ends sometime after 1am.  It's long!

This year, still being so newly post-partum and dealing with a baby who doesn't like to sleep in her own cradle at night, I'm already feeling tired much of the day.  I had told Tom there was a "100% chance" I would fall asleep if we decided to go to the vigil, but he still pressed for us to do it.  Well, I was right - I probably slept through about half of it.

It worked out okay, though.  All the kids slept as well - spread out across an entire pew :-)

For the small amount of the Mass I was actually fully awake for, I wasted way too much time stressing out over something I thought I heard our priest say to us.  As he was going down the aisle, sprinkling holy water on everyone during the Renewal of the Baptismal Vows, he glanced at all of our sleeping kids, and I heard him say something like "they're too young to be here."  I was so shocked that he would reprimand us like that, publicly, in the middle of the Mass.  Didn't Christ say "let the little children come to me"?  What does it matter if young children sleep through most of a vigil Mass?  They're not bothering anyone, and there are still plenty of open seats left!  At least we're all here as a family!

I spent the next twenty minutes thinking back over other little thing this priest had ever said or done that I wasn't entirely happy about, and basically letting myself feel totally victimized.  Not the best way to spend the holiest Mass of the year.....So it's probably for the best that I decided not to go up during Communion, considering I'd spent much of the last hour asleep, anyways.

When Mass had ended, Tom made some comment about how cute the kids all looked, asleep on the pew.  I sarcastically rejoined, "yeah, well, Fr. _______ didn't think so.".  Tom didn't understand what I was talking about.  After sharing what I thought the priest had said to us, Tom explained what had really happened.  The priest had been joking about Flora - being less than three weeks old - as being "young to be here", and then had added that he "couldn't bless her yet" (since she has not been baptized yet, and thus has no baptismal vows to renew).  Oh :-/

So I felt extremely petty for thinking all those thoughts.

A friend of ours snapped this photo of all our sleeping babes after Mass.  I know, I know, I look really sleepy!


Easter Day itself was pretty nice.  The kids were quite excited to finally eat candy again (I'd convinced them all to give it up for Lent).  The weather was unseasonably warm - in the low 70s during March! During naptime, Tom and I took some time to pull out our rugs and furniture for the front porch, and get things set up for summer.  Then we went to my aunt's house for a nice Easter dinner with the extended family.

Happy Easter to all - Resurrexit Sicut Dixit!


  1. I was doing an Eastern Orthodox style fast this year... and then I got bronchitis TWICE. (The second time was during Holy Week so I missed the Triduum as usual these days since my son was born.)

    Go me.

    1. Oh yeah... this meant breaking my Lenten fast to have chicken soup because it was one of the few things I didn't cough up. So much for that amazing Lenten fast of mine!

    2. No shame in that! Being sick excuses you from fasting anyways. Such a tough fast is physically strenuous!

  2. Happy Easter!
    I've been thinking about this since I read it yesterday. I think for me Easter depends more on the "prayer" aspect than the "penance" aspect... Yes, I fasted/gave up a LOT more in college, but I think it was more the (at least semi-) daily Mass, more frequent adoration, participation in things like Bible study, etc that made those Easters feel more joyful. And maybe also due to the fact that being a cradle Catholic who sort of "woke up" to my Faith during college, I still had that fervor and feeling of newness. Definitely something to think about....

    I definitely wasn't super strict this year with my penances this year (one being food-related and one not)... but I tried to look at it as I was already making sacrifices/suffering (I'm thinking giving up sweets for a few weeks is preferable to a few weeks of nausea for most people!) Being in the first trimester definitely makes for a different sort of Lent...

    (As a side note, with Maria, my 28 week glucose test was on Ash Wednesday! I always thought that was so appropriate, that I had to do a brief fast that day when I couldn't do the full fast.)

    1. You make a good point about college being the time when you (and myself as well) "woke up" to your Faith. I guess we were both exalting in that "honeymoon period" and it was easier to have intense emotional reactions to the changes in the Church season.

      I guess for me in the past, I was better able to link my sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ. Wearing my hair up each day of Lent *was* a prayer. Now, when I give up sweets or whatever it is during Lent, I often think of it more as a burden :-/ It really is tougher to immerse myself in prayer now that I'm a "real adult" with so many concerns on my mind and demands on my time....I'm still trying to figure it all out!

      Happy Easter to you as well!

    2. I definitely agree about the prayer vs penance part! I honestly didn't have a very penitential lent this year. (I made my bed every morning ... whoop-de-doo! :-P ) I, too, have fallen into the habit of laxity ... especially since the two years previous I had my Lent handed to me on a silver platter, so to speak. ;) (Infant twins; death of a parent.)

      Lent for me fell in a time of deep, deep struggle. And part of that struggle was being confronted with my own unworthiness and inability to sacrifice or to grow in holiness. I was pretty zealous as a student too--and I agree with Katie that part of that belongs to youth, helps us get started down the path God has for us into adulthood--but also, most of us as teens and young adults haven't yet been *tested* in ways that push us beyond our limits. Children and marriage definitely do that. ;) I am learning through difficult experience how dependent I am on God for EVERYTHING, even things I thought were my own interior possessions, and without that prayer I can do nothing. This didn't exactly translate into a concrete practice during Lent (although I did read a book called The Essence of Prayer, which I HIGHLY recommend), but I can say that my Lent was fruitful, if not as much as it could have been.

  3. Happy Easter! I love all your thoughts here. Sometimes I think that the more I make Lent about giving stuff up the more Easter becomes about eating stuff again. Which is super exciting and all. But that's not the point of Easter, any more then it's the point of Lent. There's a difference between powering through the sacrifices and using them to grow in holiness and I feel as though mostly I excel in the former. Don't know how to change that, but next year will bring a chance to try again anyway.

    You are so dedicated to the liturgy, it's awesome. We still have not attempted Easter Vigil as a family. This was the first year my husband went with just my oldest and it worked out well, although they left halfway though (as was planned) and we all went together Easter morning. Every time I start to think that maybe this Holy Thursday experience changes my mind. My older kids do well enough but the baby and toddler just get super cranky. My kids don't sleep at Church, never have. But well be there soon enough I know.

    Is there a comb in your veil? I only wear hats because every time I attempt a veil I need to re-adjust like 20 times during Mass. It must be something I'm doing wrong because no one else has that problem, not that I notice anyway.

    1. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts. As for being dedicated to the liturgy....I appreciate your compliment, but it should really be directed to my husband. He really takes his job as "spiritual head of the family" seriously, and is really good about keeping the rest of our prayer lives in shape!

      Yes, there is a comb in my veil! That veil was a gift from Tom last Mother's Day from Veils by Lily. He had them sew in one of their "mini comb snap clips." It's really small, but works amazingly well. I never have to fix my veil anymore. I plan to buy several more to sew into some of my others :-)