As the great Harvey Pekar once asked, can you eat lentils during Lent? Is there any connection between those two words? So yes, it’s Lent today, which means one thing if it means anything: time to switch volumes in Liturgy of the Hours. Having  been swimming along in the big brown book for the past few weeks, today I broke out the special red one, which reads on its spine “Lent and Easter,” and began the complex dance of trying to juggle which prayer is on which page, because on special days like today, things cease being simple in the Liturgy.

 Yesterday, I had my friend MaryEllen over for a pancake dinner. We celebrated the last day before Lent in the traditional manner used by our ancestors for centuries: watching reruns on DVD and then chilling out with a game of Youtube oneupsmanship. 

I always have difficulty with Lent, which I believe is likely a fairly common complaint. It’s difficult for me to acclimate myself to the ancient tempo of the Forty Days when we live very much in the modern tempo. It seems particularly odd to even be discussing Lent on a blog rather than on some two-thousand year-old papyrus, to be planning in a bit to do some of my Italian homework rather than engaging in some sort of penance. Lent has simply always seemed difficult to apply to the modern world.

This is entirely the modern world’s fault, by the way. Lent didn’t do anything wrong; we just up and got ourselves in some sort of damn hurry.

So the question of what to give up always arises. A friend of mine expressed his dissatisfaction with people giving up things like candy, maintaining that it’s a pretty pussy thing to give up. But fasting is hard, and like exercise, you can’t jump into it all at once. I think more of a problem is a real lack of education and formation regarding the point and nature of fasting — what it’s really for. We’re all very badly catechized with regard to what fasting is supposed to accomplish and how we’re supposed to encounter God in it.