…And so it begins! The Lenten season is already in full swing, but these last few weeks leading up to Easter are always difficult for me. Particularly since I live in a town where there is an unusual number of people who are regular church goers, are Catholic and take these liturgical seasons very seriously. While they celebrated Fat Tuesday in style, giving up something for Lent was serious business and much more important. I was asked several times by friends and even acquaintances at work what I was giving up for Lent. My simplistic reply was, “I’m not Catholic.” It covers the question without being a lie. I’m NOT Catholic, but that’s not my real reason. My real reason is that I just don’t believe that giving something up for six weeks is simply a gesture, not a commitment. If I really want to give something up, it had better be for good.
My parents have already asked me what I’m doing for Palm Sunday and Easter. I live in another state, so it’s easy to say, “I’m sure we’ll go somewhere with friends.” It’s the usual dilemma I haven’t solved yet – lying bothers me, but telling them the truth – that I simply don’t believe the Easter story anymore – would be so hurtful that I can’t do it. My mother and grandmother would put me on prayer chains, meet with the minister and pray for my soul. They would lay awake at night worrying that I will suffer in Hell for all eternity. And in their minds, this would be a very real possibility. I love them too much to do this to them. They are too old for such debates and I don’t want to weaken their faith in any way since it’s such a solace and anchor for them.
At this time of year I feel more like an imposter than ever because when I was a believer, I preferred Easter over Christmas. It was so much more hopeful and far less commercialized. And the music! The Hallelujah Chorus, “Up From the Grave He Arose,” “Were You There?” “He Lives!” The list goes on and I love those hymns to this day. They still have the power to move me. “But how do they move you if you don’t believe?” you may ask. Because I’m moved by the power of the imagery they evoke. I’m moved by the faith and emotion it gives to others. I’m moved by the strength of sacrifice that others made long ago. But I do not believe. And it makes me feel alone in the crowd.