The Catholic Lenten obligations prohibit eating meat on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent and require fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As our pastor reminded the congregation recently, “A Catholic fast isn’t a real fast. We get to eat three times a day.” Which is true—the Lenten fast permits two small meals that do not add to a full meal, plus one full meal. And only on two days of the year. It really isn’t an onerous practice.
Still, I am glad that this year I am too old to fast. The fasting obligation only applies to people between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine. I’m sixty now! Other than being eligible for a few senior discounts, this is the first time I’ve been glad to be sixty. I might have been able to get away with not fasting last year—I was fifty-nine when Lent started last year, so in my sixtieth year—but I piously decided I’d be a stickler for the rules, and so last year I complied with the fasting rules.
Although Catholic fasting is not onerous, I have always hated it. (Maybe that’s the point. It is a sacrifice.) I’ve had Greek Orthodox friends whose religious fasting meant they could eat practically nothing for the week before Easter. I know Muslims who fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. Am I weaker than they are? Less religious? Maybe.
But in truth, I feel better when I eat small, regular meals. When I started my fasting years, I only weighed 88 pounds. Reducing my two already small daytime meals to less than a full meal meant I Uwas really dragging by evening. I was ravenous and cranky. Somehow, that never felt like the Lenten spirit.
I didn’t reach 100 pounds until mid-way through my first pregnancy, and I didn’t stay above 100 pounds until after my second child was born. I weigh “comfortably” over 100 now, but I still like my regular meals. And sometimes snacks—when I get home from the gym, I eat any food in the house that isn’t frozen.
Plus, it’s best if I avoid situations that make me cantankerous (as my family would attest). I had some blood work done recently, and I couldn’t eat breakfast until 9:30—that was enough to make me snarl. So I admit to being glad I no longer have a religious obligation to fast.
This Lent, I’ll give up fasting.
But on a positive note, I have decided on other ways of observing Lent this year. I’ve given up the daily Wall Street Journal crossword puzzles, which have been consuming a half-hour or so of my day. (I wish the Journal had never begun daily puzzles—the weekly puzzle was plenty for me.) I’ve reduced my Diet Coke intake each day (and suffered withdrawal for the first few days of Lent). And I’ve decided to read more literary fiction for the next six weeks, instead of genre fiction like murder mysteries (maybe I’ll sleep better at night).
These changes in my habits, plus a couple of other projects I’m taking on, should do me at least as much good as reducing my food intake for two days. I’m hoping to be more productive and healthier. And less cranky.
What makes you cranky?