Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lapsed Lenten Reflection

One of the subjects we inevitably covered at the family meal the past weekend (which uncharacteristically sucked due to chicken that was so tough and old it could only have come from the loser's bin at a cockfight) was the Catholic observance of Lent. My little sister (the most heathen of all of us) is the only one who can seem to get herself to Sunday mass (at least when she's home).

The rest of us have lapsed out in other ways. My father got pissed when the priest eliminated the 7:30 mass, and gave up going after a while because then he's not having to get up at 6am and go somewhere, although he still counts himself Catholic. My other sister (also younger, but close enough in age and further in life that "little sister" doesn't cut it) is actually looking at other churches. And I am a confirmed lapsed Catholic, with all the appropriate blasphemy to match.

But yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and I ate no meat, nonetheless (thankfully, fish doesn't count, which means I did at least have tuna salad).

Now being lapsed, it's been a couple years since I've even been in a church. I wasn't there yesterday when they were slapping ash crosses on people (the ash being made of last year's Palm Sunday palm branches). I disagree with the Church on many fronts, and have been seeking answers from all over the religious and political spectrum (from my comfy chair and chance encounters (as I'm a lazy bastard)).

And this is after years of Catholic school, where I was going twice a week at least. I spend many years as an alter boy when it was only boys on the altar (and no, there was no molestation (we'll get the jokes out another time)). I learned the Mass well enough I could probably pull off pretending to be a priest if I wanted to do so. I spent several years ushering the aforementioned 7:30 mass (and counting the cash). I had many years in three separate in church choirs. So we're talking three decades of investment in Catholicism.

So as for practicing the faith I ascribe to (lapsed as I may be), I really don't. But I still plan on not eating meat on the ascribed days. In fact, I have the bag-o-fishsticks for the younglings ready for tomorrow. And I have been tapping my cooking skill for good meals (the sauce I made for the tortellini I had last night was kickass) to make sure my meals are good despite the lack of delicious dead animal.

So here's my thoughts: Do I abstain from meat out of some desire to stay connected with a faith that I barely follow? Or am I just clinging to something that has become habit out of some unrecognized fear of change?

Personally, I think I'm somewhere in between. Now if I find a religion that satisfies me and I convert (which will get my grandmother a'spinning (faster) in her grave (we could power the town on her spinning by now already (just on the shit I've pulled))). But until then, I'm going to find myself hanging on to my Catholic faith.

And then there's bringing up the children. I still have yet to figure out how to inculcate them with the values and faith that has served me through the years without all the bullshit that accompanied it. Any suggestions or ideas would be appreciated.

Bonus: Here's the sauce I made last night. Depending on how crazy you are with portions, this could feed one or two people:

2 tomatoes, diced (no canned crap)
1/2 medium onion, diced
small can of mushrooms (or fresh if you have them)
vegetable soup base
basil, kosher salt, pepper
extra virgin olive oil
cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella (and you can substitute anything similar)
prepackaged tortellini (or whatever pasta you'd substitute)

First, saute the onions (with a pinch of salt) in the evoo until soft. Add the tomatoes, some salt and pepper, cook them down a little more. Add the mushrooms and the soup base, cook a little more. Then add the basil, and some Parmesan cheese.

Cook the pasta as directed and add to the sauce. Serve with the mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top.


Satyavati devi dasi said...

Having been through both the growing up Catholic thing and subsequent search and conversion.. let me toss this in.

First I'd ask, what is it you disagree with the Church on? Are they articles of faith, basic tenets and principal beliefs or are they things like Latin vs English and whether they had a hand in smuggling Nazis out during WW2? If they are articles of faith, what are they and how integral are they to the Church's beliefs (of course all articles of faith are integral, but I mean relatively speaking, like the existence of purgatory vs. transubstantiation). What is it about them that you disagree with? Is there a way to reconcile what you personally believe with what they're teaching? If they are things like political stances, etc., are they things you can live with being the official position is different? Or is it just that personal issues with Catholic school kind of pissed you off and you're taking it out on the whole faith?

I spent 11 years in Catholic school so I know the effect school can actually have on how you see the whole thing.

Once you've determined the answers to those questions you can find an answer. If they're principal tenets and you can't reconcile with them, then you're hanging on out of habit, fear, familiarity, whatever.

If it's just those things that are keeping you around, and having religion in your life (and, subsequently, your kids') is important to you, then you might want to consider looking at other religions, researching what they believe, finding the answers that make sense.

This is a traumatic process and do not let anyone tell you it isn't. It's scary and it doesn't happen overnight. Me personally it took 12 years and a lot of work. I could probably help you some just by passing on the things I've learned through all that research.

Eventually and without a doubt you will find that which makes perfect sense and answers every question you have. If you're sincerely searching (that sincerity is very important) it will come. And then you know you've found it, and you can pass it on confidently and without reservation to your kids.

Conversion isn't an easy process nor should it be. Letting go of things you have been taught all your life, whether you've had problems with actually believing them or not, is hard. Dealing with family and friends (trust me on this) about it is hard. Stepping from the familiar is hard. But if you're serious about it, you'll do it. It takes commitment all the way through, from realizing you need to find something else to going on the search to the actual moment of identifying yourself with the new beliefs, ie., as a Baptist (referring to the 'now') instead of as an ex-Catholic (referring to the past). This is why I took the unusual step of having my name legally changed, which most people don't. There's no going back on a name change.

In the end, if it's something you really want, you'll go through with it. I'll help you if I can (and I don't mean trying to get you to chant, necessarily, lol). To me it was very important; but I wouldn't lie and say it was easy.

Arthurstone said...


Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Brightens tomato sauce nicely.

Arthurstone said...

Or if time permits cook the sauce down until it thickens then swirl in cream before you dress the pasta.

This provides a luxurious 'mouth feel'.


TRUTH101 said...

Are you talking about Patrick's recipe or Satyavati's religion Arthur?

Shaw Kenawe said...

You can actually bring up moral children by telling them that lying, stealing, abusing the weak and defenseless, and, all other behaviors that make one an unpleasant human, is just not a good way to conduct oneself. When people respect themselves and others, it follows they are more likely to have a pleasant time of it.

I don't think threatening a child with burning in hell is the best way to make him or her a moral person.

One should be a mensch or a menschette because it is the right thing to do.

Not because you'll be rewarded with halos and harps on a fluffy cloud.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

I was baptised Catholic. I don't observe lent.

I for one cannot get my head around the notion of false altruism and the subsequent "sacrifice" people are implored to adopt for that which is of the highest virtue.

I like my meat on Fridays thank you very much.

rockync said...

"I don't think threatening a child..."
I don't know, Shaw - I once asked the youngest (and wildest) of my grown children what type of parenting I did that kept him out of trouble. His response:
"Mom, all that time out and talking is worthless. What kept me from doing stuff my friends were doing that I knew was wrong wasn't that I wanted to be good, but knowing that if I got caught, you'd be waiting at the door with your wooden spoon..."
I had four boys and my parenting was pretty simple - there were only a few rules to follow, like no hitting each other or calling anyone names, always tell the truth and never do anything to anyone else you don't want done to you. (The Golden Rule)
I NEVER PUNISHED my children with the wooden spoon - I corrected them with it. This would involve a couple of quick swats, the lesson being that sometimes your actions can have painful consequences. The wooden spoon was usually reserved for when they did something potentially dangerous or harmful to themselves or others. When I wanted to PUNISH them, I took away TV or sent them to their room. I spent a lot of time raising and loving my children and they have all turned out well.
As for religion, I would eventually reject all organized religion and adopt the precepts of deism in which I'm quite happy and more spiritually connected than I've ever been in my life.
Your recipe, Patrick, sounds lovely and I think I'll try it this weekend although I might add some meatballs! :)

Satyavati devi dasi said...

My mother was wicked with that wooden spoon.. she broke a couple on us before it was said and done. I still jump when she grabs one, even if it's just to stir the pot.

Despite this, I love my wooden spoons and wouldn't give them up. And no, I've never smacked anyone with them.

Satyavati devi dasi said...


Do you still consider yourself Catholic? If you do, how do you reconcile your beliefs with the Church's teachings? Are these the only teachings of the Church you take issue with? If not, what is it that causes you to continue to identify as Catholic (if you still do)?

Actually, I think they reversed the no meat on Friday thing a while ago.

And these questions aren't meant to be disrespectful or argumentative, I'm just interested to know how you do it, if you still consider yourself Catholic.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Do you still consider yourself Catholic?"

I am many things. A Catholic is not one of them.

Patrick M said...

Saty: Most of my issues with the Church are lesser dogmatic things and not necessarily the basic tenets (which I question but don't reject).

So while I don't feel quite at home in the Catholic church at the moment, I haven't found a faith to convert to. And as I don't see a reason to reject Catholicism yet, I still must consider myself Catholic, and will adhere to it.

And if I do convert, I can't imagine going any farther than the old Protestant churches (Methodist, Lutheran, etc.)

As for your thing with the wooden spoons, I'll reserve further comments. :)

Arthur: Didn't want heat, and i wasn't shooting for a true tomato sauce. But those additions do sound good.

101: You're going straight to Hell for that one. :)

Shaw: I don't think threatening a child with burning in hell is the best way to make him or her a moral person.

I agree. Eternal damnation never stopped me, because at some point, I just said "fuck it" and went on your merry sinful way.

Surfing the lake of fire sounds way cooler anyway. And they'll have the better music down there.

I'm still going to instill some kind of faith in them anyway, simply because I see something about it that does enrich oneself, and adds to the experience of life.

Rocky: To add to what you said about fear of punishment (or immediate painful consequences):

This is an aspect of Catholicism that never really held sway. That some eternal punishment was awaiting me was ultimately pointless. What could keep me on the straight and narrow was that I would get in trouble immediately and severely if I did something wrong. It's something that I'm already instilling in my children: That actions have consequences.

And this reminds me of a problem I had in my years in Hell, I mean Catholic school. Being the ill-adjusted person I was, I got into trouble for all kinds of stupid things (and this is with the perspective of age that I can say this). At some point, I adapted to the punishment and stopped caring. But at home, that was a different story.

And as for the recipe, I'd have added chicken myself were I not going for the meatless.

TRUTH101 said...

I just got back from my Church/school fish fry. I cleaned 105 fucking catfish. That got me an indulgence to say fuck on your blog Patrick.


Patrick M said...

101: you don't need an indulgence. You just need to make it relevant and/or funny.

Toad734 said...

Im glad I am an Atheist and can eat what I want when I want. So, if you do eat meat, are you going to go to hell? What about peanuts? that is considered a meat. Can you eat those? And how is fish not meat?

Patrick M said...

Toad: It's not a burden but a worthy sacrifice. Thus you do it with good cheer.

Nuts are fine, and I think it was just some concession on the fish. It's the Catholic Church. You're expecting rationality.

But eating meat is no longer a Hellworthy offense. Maybe a spanking in Heck by a sloppy chick with hair in bad places, but that's about it.

Toad734 said...

Regardless, I am glad not to having to be cheerful not to eat what I want when I want. I mean, I really don't just eat what I want when I want or I would be a blimp but if I want Gyros on Friday, I can have Gyros...I just have to run an extra mile on Saturday.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Toad: It's not a burden but a worthy sacrifice."

It's not a sacrifice if, in giving up something of a lesser value, you gain something of a higher value in return.

If you give a penny for a dollar in return, you've made no sacrifice.

Conversely, if you give a dollar in exchange for a penny you have.

If you give up something for lent on the premise that it will bring you closer to God or similar, and you place your fidelity to God and his word above that which you are giving up for lent, you've made no sacrifice. You're receiving something of a greater value in return.

Patrick M said...

Soapster: I stand corrected and bowed by your fiery intellect.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Why thank you. Dare I say, I'm not in search of the light. I am the light and I use it to guide my way.