Dear Sister Sunday,
I hate going out to a restaurant with friends or co-workers during Lent. I’m fasting from sweets and alcohol, but I feel like such a hypocrite when I tell them, “No, thanks. It’s Lent,” or something lame like that. What should I say?
Regular Guy (Except During Lent)
What’s hypocritical about fasting during Lent? Nothing, unless you wait until your friends leave and then order ice cream with a whiskey chaser. You don’t have to explain what you do, or don’t, order to anyone. A simple, “No, thanks,” will suffice.
“The person whose heart and habits are changed might just be you.”
But let’s say you continue to explain your decision to forgo certain foods as part of your Lenten observance. What will happen? Likely some combination of these four things:
The days when keeping Lent was seen as praiseworthy rather than odd are gone. You’ll probably hear someone voice their confusion that you are willing to surrender your personal freedom to an imaginary authority figure in the sky. That person will no doubt be holding a small plastic and glass tabernacle, head bent in obeisance over the screen as two thumbs move ceaselessly, day and night, to keep the light glowing and the images — beamed through the sky — streaming. He or she will stare at the screen, giving it full and rapt attention, choosing to obey the call of the screen rather than talk to other people or engage in any way in the world around them. They might watch the screen to learn how to dress, how to eat, how to vote, how to think. They will watch the screen and be convinced that comedian Bill Maher saying God doesn’t exist means God somehow ceases to exist. They will miss the irony. You, your head cleared by fasting, will not.
Some people will wonder what the weird stuff left behind in the dryer trap has to do with your food choices. They will decide you have found a new diet and will Google “lint weight loss.”
But some people will hear you and take heart. It might be a Catholic who’s honestly forgotten that today is Friday and your, “I’d sure like a hamburger, but it’s Friday, so I’ll go with the salad,” might be just the reminder she needs. Or it might be a Catholic who’s not made much of an effort, but decides to follow your example and try again. Or it might be a Catholic who’s feeling a little alone in his efforts to be faithful and simply needs to know someone else is on the journey with him.
Or, the person whose heart and habits are changed might just be you. Declaring one’s intent before friends and co-workers makes it more likely that the promise will be kept, if only to ward off the ribbing and subsequent embarrassment when they catch you with that frozen Snickers bar.
So, Guy, do whatever you like as long as you keep your practice. But I think, “No, thanks. I gave it up for Lent,” is as good an answer as any.
See you at the ice cream shop on March 28,