Ritual and Belief

 I forgot to eat pancakes yesterday and I won't have ash on my forehead (on purpose) at any point today. on

If this sentence confuses you, don't worry, I'll explain it. 

I grew up religiously adjacent. We didn't go to church (unless I went with some well-intentioned parent of a friend who thought I needed Jesus, which happened more often than one would have guessed), we didn't read the bible. 

I think like a lot of people of my generation our parents were just over the pomp and circumstance of the church by the time we came around. Seeing as they were not given an option about attendance, this makes sense.

When I went to spend time with my maternal grandfather's house, I stayed in the bunk bed room. There was a glow in the dark virgin Mary on the dresser and a glow in the dark Jesus was on the light switch. Prayers in cross-stitch were hung on the walls.  I had an idea of why they were important. I wasn't raised on bible stories, but somehow I picked up on it. 

My mom and her sisters were raised in the Catholic Church in Newfoundland. My mom went to school with the nuns and can still remember the first time she saw a nun's hair when they changed wimple styles. Confession was a normal part of their lives and they repented with many Hail Mary's and Our Father's.

Religion for them was a part of all facets of their lives. They ate no meat, only fish on Friday. In my view of things, my mom's religion was so ingrained that most of these things were reflex. I was taught The Lord's Prayer at a young age, and Hail Mary. Both on road trips. In my head, they invoked protection and felt like they were part of a ritual. Less religion, more along the lines of saying knock on wood. 

I love religion, learning about them is fascinating. Everyone is unique in some ways and then exactly the same in others. It is comforting to see the similarities that the world seems to have threaded into religion. I think at its base religion (especially going to church) is more the social aspect than expecting to be struck by lightning because you said a bad word. 

Who doesn't find comfort in the idea that you aren't solely responsible for your life, that we all have a big guy in the sky looking out for us? Now there have been many times in history that a difference in religion has been used as a tool to perform the most heinous acts. That is not religion in my opinion. That is people interpret the words written to their own uses. And it is the opposite of what belief is. 

I can't say I believe in anything specifically. There are far too many questions for me to think one thing. But I do like the ritual of praying before I go to sleep. And I pass words of gratitude to the universe. But I also "take the Lord's name in vain" far too often than I probably should. But I like hearing about other people's beliefs and I believe in the basic goodness of people.  So maybe I should make my own religion? I don't have time for that, yet.

Oh, back to the first sentence. Shrove Tuesday is a part of the lead-up to Lent. Lent is a time where people give up something for forty days leading up to Easter. Those forty days were originally fasting days, a tribute to Jesus who spent forty days fasting in the desert. For me, growing up Shrove Tuesday was pancake Tuesday. We ate pancakes for supper. Before it became known for pancakes, the day was a chance to get to eat sweet things that would soon be given up. 

As for the ash on the forehead, the day after Shrove Tuesday is Ash Wednesday. The official first day of Lent. The ashes are used to remind us that we started as ashes and to ashes, we will return. Also, there is fasting and church. Ash Wednesday is linked to Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday happens the Sunday before Easter. It celebrates Jesus returning to Jerusalem. The Palms used to recognize his return are then burned and used to places ash crosses on the foreheads of the faithful.

Now for today's song, I was going to be silly and choose one of Madonna's many songs about Catholicism. Then I remembered I am not a huge Madonna fan. Instead, we are going with something maybe a little too on the nose. 

One of Us by Joan Osborne is one of those songs that just gets in your head. It is also one without a lot of secret meanings behind it. The songwriter wrote the song for a girl. And it is what it is. A song about faith and what you would ask the big guy if you got the chance.

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