Lent begins on Wednesday. Like other Catholics all over the world, I will attend a Mass where the priest spreads ashes on my forehead in the sign of the Cross upon which my Lord died.
Lent is meant to be a sober reflection period. As part of that reflection, Catholics self-impose a kind of penance on themselves to help them share more fully in the suffering of the crucified Jesus.
This has always been a difficult period for me. My brother, Gary, was killed at the age of 20 in a car crash at Easter time on a slick Indiana country road made icy by a snow storm.
I was five then. (Gary was my “brother” in the sense his mother also raised me as if I were her daughter. She was my step-grandmother.)
Sixty years later, I remember that period of time. The state troopers coming to the door, my Mom’s scream and collapse. She would go on to have a white streak in her jet black hair where her hand came to her head on hearing the news.
I remember how Gary looked in his coffin as my Dad (really my maternal grandfather) carried me around the funeral home on the night of the viewing.
Easter is tough for me because it brings to mind a tragic accident that forever changed the trajectory of our family life, not always in the best ways.
As each year of my Catholicism passes (I converted in 2008), I greet Lent with trepidation and difficultly in choosing an appropriate penance. I don’t drink or smoke, and while I love it, I rarely eat chocolate. Not because I don’t love it, but because I do!
Fasting is not an option for me due to my autoimmune and other ills and the medications I take for them.
The past couple of years, I have tried to “take something on,” to add an extra burden so that I might feel a heavier load in my life and walk in the Way of the Cross.
This year, I have decided on the more traditional penitential act by giving up my activity on Twitter.
Simply put, I tweet too much. Not that I believe what I have to say is so significant or because that many people read and either like, retweet or comment on what I have to say.
It’s just that a long time ago, I was a journalist. And like the paths not taken, we often wonder what our lives would have been had we stayed on our original path and not taken that fork in the road.
Naturally I dream mine would have led to a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia and a staff position at “The New York Times.” Oh, and maybe a Pulitzer or two.
Because Twitter is so news and politically focused, it has become my social media platform of preference. Although I have grown to love Pinterest for all the new yoga poses, Klimt renderings and crochet patterns I have started saving.
Still, Twitter is my thing. It has been since I detached myself from the GOP in 2016 even before the nomination of Trump.
It is my way of having a voice to protest all I abhor about this President’s hateful rhetoric, incoherent policies (especially his astoundingly bad foreign policy), and his unsuitability to govern this country that have nothing to do with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on his behalf. Although that is upsetting in and of itself.
I fear for the future of my country, and that our representational government – rooted in democratic principles – will hold.
And as a person of faith, I do not like seeing people who would seek to impose their Christian values on others. Nor did our Founding Fathers.
Everyone who comes to Christ does so in his or her own personal journey. We would do well as a country not to enforce the will of believers on our system of government. That isn’t why Christ became Incarnate. He came so we could each choose whether or not to accept His Divine Mercy. He came to save souls, not nation build. He already has a kingdom of His own.
So talking about these things is one of many reasons for being on Twitter and speaking out.
Which is why my penance is to give it up. Because it matters so much to me.
And so I can allow Christ to matter more.