Sunday, March 05, 2006

Something fishy going on here

My sister and I went out to dinner on Friday. She ordered extra-cheese pizza; I had a cheese calzone. The waitress came back after we'd been served to see if we needed anything else and also to ask if we'd ordered meatless entrees because it was Lent or for some other reason. We admitted the former, then empathized about having to go back to thinking differently, on this first Friday of Lent, about what to have for dinner.

It brought to mind the Tablet editorial I read a day or two earlier, recommending the reinstitution of the Lenten fast and Friday abstinence from meat: “The value of such symbols of shared identity needs rediscovering.” A day before that, I had laughed out loud when one of my podcasts referred to Ash Wednesday as Catholic identification day, when it becomes very easy to pick out your co-religionists even in a group of strangers.

Twice within three days I had chosen to manifest these “symbols of shared identity” (I didn't stoop so low as to eat fish, though) with a group I'm having a lot of trouble identifying with. Interesting. I can't easily escape the fact that being Catholic is a huge part of who I am, but it isn't all I have to say about who I am. I was thinking recently about how I'd answer if anyone were to ask what religion I belong to. I decided this is the response that comes closest to the truth: “I'm a Catholic who has worshiped at an Episcopal church for the past year, and I don't know where I'm going from here.”

I went to the Episcopal church down the road this morning. Once again, despite my misgivings about whether that congregation is the right one for me in the long run, I just felt glad to be there.

An interesting contrast to last evening, when I took my sister to the Catholic church in town and felt nonstop grumpy, finding fault with the priest, the music, and a particular individual in the congregation who is someone I don't want to see or talk to. (Long story there, obviously.) The last straw: When Mass ended they gave everyone a wooden heart stamped with a crown of thorns, which we are supposed to carry around during Lent to remind us of something--I didn't exactly understand what--and then burn at the Easter vigil to symbolize something else.

So now the cross that has served as our central symbol for the past 2,000 years isn't meaningful enough for the 21st century? And we propose to replace it with something that looks like a Valentine craft project gone awry? Hmmm.

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