I have a confession to make. I ate meat today. I skipped mass, didn't walk around with ashes proudly displayed on my forehead. I have not thought about what to give up for Lent because I didn't even realize it was even coming. I debated leaving my Easter wreath in the basement and putting up one with just generic spring flowers.
As a dutiful Catholic school girl, I would have felt ashamed for even thinking these things. It was cool to walk around with a big cross made out of ashes on your forehead and if a little got on your nose or white uniform shirt, it was even better. If you ate something you had given up for Lent, even by accident you felt guilty until you told someone and still felt guilty even after you did.
And every year there was a St. Joseph's table at school filled with hundreds of baked goods to choose from. And every year my classmate had her birthday party at a chocolate shop and there was always at least one of us who ended up taking theirs home to freeze for Easter. And every year at least one of us would slip up on our Lenten promise and though someone always reassured us that God would forgive you if it really was an honest mistake, we still felt like we had failed him.
Growing up, being Catholic was who I was. Lent was a time for me to grow closer to God, to ask for forgiveness, to feel close to him by promising to give something up for 40 days as he fasted for 40 days in the desert. I would go to church and feel rejuvenated. I was surrounded by people who thought and felt the same way. I was comfortable in my faith.
Nowadays, my faith makes me uncomfortable. I was taught that questioning our faith, though natural as humans, would lead us away from God and that we should always believe and accept things without asking too many questions. I think this is where my struggles have lied. I am human. I have lots of questions. I don't believe everything the church teaches. Some days, it is hard to even pinpoint what I believe.
Yet still, on Ash Wednesday, when I find myself with no ashes on my forehead, planning on eating meat for dinner, skipping mass, and choosing to leave my Easter wreath behind, I find myself longing for the comfort of these traditions, of the faith that I grew up in.
Today, when my student walked into school today and another asked her "What's wrong with your forehead?" and she proudly replied, "I am Catholic and today is ash Wednesday!" I felt the urge to go to church. When my student was eating a cheese sandwich and someone asked her, "Just cheese?" and she replied "I am not supposed to eat meat today" I wanted to change my dinner plans. I was jealous of her faith and the pride she had in it.
Perhaps this is all just part of growing up. Through life experience we learn to never take anything we are told at face value. We learn to ask questions. I am grateful that I have learned to not walk through life stating my faith blindly, relying on what others tell me to be right as truth. I am grateful that I do not feel guilty for slipping up, for being human. I am grateful for this journey of faith I am on, however winding and cracked it may feel. I just find myself missing my roots some days. Today is one of those days.