My understanding of the Catholic religion, and the practice of Lent in particular, is that, during the forty days of Lent, one is expected to refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday - today, as it turns out - and on each subsequent Friday until after Easter. Most Catholics give up something else that they love during this time as well: The internet, shopping, video games, reality TV, etc. I divulged my feelings on this subject at great lengths last year; you can read the entry in question here.
Though I don't typically succeed in avoiding meat on every Lenten Friday, I usually at least try, and see how far I make it before I forget, or (gasp!) willfully fail. Despite my usual non-adherence to the guidelines of the religion in which I was raised, I did consider giving something up this year; my twice-monthly Friday visit to Pizza My Heart immediately came to mind. I'm not sure why, as a not-really-practicing Catholic, I entertained, even briefly, the thought of giving something up. I suppose it was the tiny little voice in the depths of my brain that I try my hardest to ignore. The tiny little voice I am referring to is better known by the term "Catholic guilt." My friends and family members have sworn off profanity, sugar, caffeine, social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, and text messaging. For me, the occasional Friday afternoon spent sitting in a booth at the Peninsula's best pizzeria, enjoying Cherry Coke and a couple slices, is a highlight of any week, something that I regret missing when I have to skip it. Therefore, were I to sacrifice something I immensely enjoy, it would have been that.
While I have no doubt that the friends and family members I alluded to have made their sacrifices out of genuine faith, I am unable or even unwilling - too selfish, perhaps - to make such a blind leap. Though I am nothing if not candid about my own lack of faith, it's not that I necessarily believe that there is no God, no Buddha, no Flying Spaghetti Monster, no miscellaneous Great Intangible your denomination swears is responsible for the entirety of creation. No, I believe that if any such deity exists, He, She or It has better things to worry about than whether I eat meat on Fridays, a rule imposed not by any god but by man.
This Lent, rather than sacrificing something I enjoy, I instead sacrificed something I definitely do not enjoy. Good-bye, Catholic guilt. See you in forty. Maybe.