Lent means many things to many people. Different cultural experiences which are so apparent from the very beginning with the Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras, or in English, Fat Tuesday (or Carnival) is the day before Ash Wednesday and has great notoriety as a day of strange, decadent, celebrating in which the consumption of alcohol and bare breasted women with beads takes the focus far away from the lenten season of conversion. Traditionally, it is a day to celebrate, eat rich foods, and to get wild and even sinful enough to warrant hiding behind masks so as not to be recognized.
This revelry and celebration was completely foreign to me as a kid growing up. We ate no king’s cake, we never put on masks and we certainly did not eat meat. Actually, what I remember most is our tradition of eating pancakes for supper since the Tuesday before Lent marked the traditional cleaning out of the kitchen cabinets. For us the beginning of Lent was very much like the Jewish celebration of Passover. Cleaning out, getting rid of the old, to make way for the new. Actually, a metaphor for the interior Lenten experience.
In any event, our busiest day in the church is Ash Wednesday. On this day after celebrating Fat Tuesday, people seem to be ready to begin a season of repentance. From early morning until the evening the lines of people waiting to receive ashes are constant. Thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers will come that day to be marked with ashes on their foreheads. The friars and countless volunteers will have many shifts and will mark so many foreheads that by the end of the day, our thumbs will be pressed black and numb.
Obviously, Lent has meaning to people. It touches them on so many levels. Being marked with ashes is powerful. This Lent we want to hear from you on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/stfrancisbreadline). Tell us what Lent means to you. We will post a different question every Wednesday, which will give you the opportunity to share and post your personal thoughts and experiences. There are no wrong answers; only new ways to look at deepening our faith and ultimately becoming better human beings. Periodically, I will post scriptural or theological points relevant your answers. You can look for the first posted question on Ash Wednesday. My hope is that our sharing will expand our understanding of what Lent means to all of us.