I’m a terrible Catholic.
I thought I should confess that, given that it’s been more than 20 years since my last confession.
Come to think of it, my last real confession before a priest was my first confession and only confession. I don’t even remember what I confessed, but it resulted in some Hail Mary’s.
When it comes to church attendance these days, my record is awful. It’s not the worst. I usually try to attend mass on a quarterly basis. Instead of only showing up on Christmas and Easter, I show up Christmas, Easter and two other random days.
This is despite the fact that the first three years of my K-12 education took place in a Catholic school, and it’s despite the fact that I made my Catholic Confirmation.
Both of my sisters have stayed active in the church. One is a church pianist, and the other studied Catholicism in graduate school. But one of us needed to be the black sheep, so I volunteered.
Yet, I find there are limits as to how lapsed of a Catholic I can become. You see, there’s this little thing called “Catholic guilt” that gets in the way.
So, every year when the 40 days of Lent roll around, I cannot bring myself to eat meat on Fridays. It’s been ingrained in me from an early age. You simply do not do it. It’s not an option. I cannot eat meat on Lenten Fridays without feeling like I’ve betrayed the universe.
Ash Wednesday is even stricter. Meat’s out of the question for 24 hours, but so is snacking between meals or indulging in delicious sweets.
Actually, the official rules require Catholics to limit themselves to no more than one full meal on Ash Wednesday, but compromise is a good thing, right?
On last year’s Ash Wednesday, I was put to the test.
I needed a quick dinner on my way to cover a Board of Supervisors meeting for my day job (which sometimes becomes a night job, but hey, I’m flexible). Chick-fil-A was not an option. I usually try to avoid McDonald’s and Burger King anyway. But then I came across a counterintuitive solution: Subway.
Subway, while not extraordinary, puts together a perfectly fine sandwich. I like their buffalo chicken and roast beef subs, and their chocolate chip cookies make for a pleasant dessert.
However, I, of my own free will, decided to forgo all of that this that Ash Wednesday. Instead, I endured Subway’s attempt at pizza.
There’s a reason you don’t think of Subway as a pizza company.
So I made no effort whatsoever to get to a church on Ash Wednesday, but I punished myself with pizza. This was not some delicious New York pizza, but one that could make even Red Baron taste like New York pizza.
On the plus side, I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the evening, and my conscience was clear—except for the whole not-going-to-church thing, but darn it, I did not eat meat!