Waverly Fitzgerald, the mind behind the one-of-a-kind website School of the Seasons, has a paid semi-monthly newsletter that this month offers the following great idea for preparing for Lent. I encourage you to subscribe to this worthy project if you are interested in religious rituals and calendars, since Fitzgerald knows the history of religious observances backwards and forwards, and she always makes old ideas contemporary. She writes:

The week before Lent begins is called Butter Week in Russia, where
everyone indulges in the rich, fatty foods (in Russia, primarily blinis; in Austria and Germany, cream-filled pastries) that are forbidden during the fasting of Lent. Of course the week culminates in that festival of excess known as Mardi Gras (this year Tuesday, February 28.)

If you are going to participate in Lent, and I highly recommend this practice. Make this your week to indulge in whatever substance or habit you intend to give up. People usually think of giving up a substance like tobacco or alcohol or sugar, and these are worthwhile things to try. After all, Lent is only six weeks, short enough so that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but long enough to acquire a new habit. But also consider giving up anything that you feel is impeding your growth or stunting your health. It could be worrying or nagging. It could be doing for others what they can do themselves. It could be watching TV (or a certain kind of TV show). It could be over-working (in which case you might want to set up a quantifiable bottom line–I’ll only work eight hours a day; I won’t work after 5 PM). Are you giving up dairy products? Then indulge in ice cream, cheesecake and cheese blintzes. Maybe you’re giving up computer games? Play as many as you like for the next week.

The church Chattering Mind was raised in didn’t make a big production of pre-Easter sacrifices (which commemorate the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness), so count me in as a beginner here. This year, it is my intention to give up all white refined foods–that is, any flour and sugar. To prepare for my upcoming Lenten period then, I took the Chattering boys to a fudge shop, and happily ate two caramels dipped in white chocolate. The first is always better than the second, isn’t it?

Beliefnet.com has some marvelous Lenten material archived. Here’s the full index. And here’s a wonderful conversation between Anne Simpkinson and Father Thomas Keating on “Lent as a Divine Journey.”

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