Mardi Gras, to me, is another example of the type of people we Catholics are—CELEBRATORY! How many other faiths enter into a season of contemplation, penitence and conversion with a party? Tonight, in my own community we will prepare for Lent by eating red meat—an occurrence that rarely happens in our house- drinking the rest of the good wine, and finishing the King Cake that was sent to us from our family down south. Many other Catholics across the country and world will follow suit- clearing their houses of all that they will be fasting from starting tomorrow.
The celebratory people that we are today are not denied tomorrow with the season of Lent. Rather, we recognize and value that to be a people who can rejoice completely and live fully alive we must first be a people of transformation and conversion. Richard Rohr writes, “If we do not transform our pain we will transmit it.” The season of Lent is a season to contemplate the pains in our own lives and transform them, so that in the rising of the Lord at Easter we can truly REJOICE.
Tomorrow we put on Ashes from the palms that we waved when we rejoiced in the coming of Christ into Jerusalem last year at Palm Sunday. These Ashes do not show our holiness, rather they outwardly show our recognition that we are a people who need to convert our ways and transform our pains. During Lent we enter into the silence of contemplation to strip ourselves of all things that keep us from pure joy and blind us from recognizing God among us. Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and spiritual writer, stated the following about contemplation:
“To enter into the realm of contemplation, one must in a certain sense die:
but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life.
It is a death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we can know or treasure as life,
as thought, as experience as joy, as being.
[Every form of intuition and experience] die to be born again on a higher level of life.”
This is what we celebrate today! We celebrate being a people who wish to enter into the realm of contemplation for the sake of transformation; to enter a realm of difficulty, pain, and struggle in order transform our experiences of joy and life into pure joy and eternal life.
As Catholics we enter into the season of Lent by first eating rich foods, drinking merrily, and celebrating the lives that we have been given. This joy of being Catholic is then enriched when we can fast from all that distracts us from pure joy, give alms to those in which Christ resides, and deepen our relationship with our Savior through prayer.
Today we start with a party and tomorrow we live the transformation that our hearts desire so that in 40 days and 40 nights we can fully celebrate the risen Lord and rejoice as a celebratory people!
Pam Tremblay is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.