• The Hammonton Gazette

Lenten season in our Italian Catholic household



For many, if not all of you, we are in the Lenten season.


This period of time, 40 days before Easter, is supposed to be a period of reflection and preparation before Easter.


Catholics make sacrifices during this season to help bring them closer to Christ.


We refrain from eating meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday.


Lent is not a diet. This is a mantra every priest and nun would give to remind us. But most gave up something from the edible category.


During Lent, many of us give up something they really enjoy to eat. It is a time for saying farewell to indulgences.


My aunt used to give up ice cream. My cousin gave up soda every year. Other relatives gave up chocolate, chips and one colorful relative gave up swearing.


It was never a secret what each person gave up.  It was discussed in the weeks ahead of Ash Wednesday and during Lent.


My mom would refuse dessert, saying she gave up desserts for Lent.


My relative would be more silent as he could not say what he wanted due to his language being modified for the 40 days.


And we would not take a pause on Sundays as some people did. We held fast to our plan until Easter.


Due to work schedules, we once celebrated Easter with some family on the day before Easter and we still observed our Lenten sacrifice.


I would be dishonest if I said this was hard, as our Easter celebration was a Feast of all flavors.

As a kid, I would give up something like ice cream.  One year, I tried to do good works instead. My plan was to read a certain number of pages in my children’s Bible and to say 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Father prayers each night.


I fell behind. It was ambitious for a child of like 10 or 11. So, on the Saturday before Easter, I stayed up super-late catching up on my reading and my prayers. I think I had 180 of each prayer to say and about 100 pages of the Bible to read.


Not eating meat on Fridays has been easy for as long as I remember. Sadly, there have been times where I was halfway through eating a piece of chicken that I remembered it was Friday.


Then there is the dilemma.  Do you throw out the half-eaten meal, or finish it, awash in Italian Catholic guilt?


But then you feel guilty because you have wasted food. I have found there is no real right answer to this dilemma.


Lent is a time of rebirth for your faith. It happens to coincide with the beginning of spring.  It is a time when the world comes back into bloom.


It is a time of reflection and a time to grow closer to our faith.


It is a time to pare down the excesses and the indulgences our lives have accumulated in the past year.


In a way it is a diet. It is a diet for the soul that we hope becomes a lifestyle change.


I always hope that, by Easter, I am a better person than I was on Ash Wednesday.


Do you have a story about growing up Italian, either in Hammonton or anywhere else? Send it to hammontongazette@yahoo.com.