One Ash Wednesday, my dad announced to my brother and I that for Lent he would be fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. He wondered if we would like to join him.
Aaron and I looked at each other thinking he had flipped his lid. Aaron said he’d stick to giving up arguing; I said I’d continue to refrain from hitting Aaron until Easter. With all of our resolutions on the table we were ready to begin our Lenten regimen.
The first week went by smoothly. We were amazed as Dad turned down my mom’s delicious meals opting for toast and water.
Somewhere between the second and third week things began to change. The definition of what bread is widened and one night for dinner our Mac & Cheese suddenly lost its appeal when dad brought home a box of chocolate frosted donuts and Boston Creams. By the end of Lent we were all not only enjoying Wednesdays and Fridays but looking forward to them. Man cannot live by bread alone unless it’s chocolate frosted, I thought.
I’m sure many of us have had a similar experience with our Lenten resolutions. I know I have.
The lesson I learned from my Dad is that when it comes to making a resolution for the Lord we should shoot big. He deserves it. Halfhearted and mediocre ones won’t bring us closer to him or help us to love him more fully. That my father even considered such a rigorous fast set him apart from all the other men I knew and gave a definitive Catholic stamp to my family and childhood, for which I will always be grateful.
Whether or not we are perfect in our Lenten resolution, we still learn a valuable lesson from them if we are sincerely seeking the Lord.
In case you are wondering, here are the official rules (at their minimum) established by the U.S. Bishops for fasting and abstinence.
• Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.
• Every person between the age of 18 and 60 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
• Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.