“Remember man that you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

That is what the priest says when he puts the ashes, the outward symbol of repentance and the wearer’s desire to change, on your forehead. For those of you who may not know, today is Ash Wednesday, first day of the Lenten Season. A renewal of spirit. The day you commit to change and embark on a journey during which you strive to become a better Catholic. Today at the mass, I remember very little of what was actually said, though I got the message. To satisfy our Lenten commitment, we must, #1 pray more, #2 sacrifice, #3 oh geez, I forgot! I just wasted over an hour trying to remember, so I will go on.

This time of year has always been a difficult one for me because 1. I don’t believe that one should need to be poked and prodded into change. Change is something that I believe can be proactive, but the person must have the desire to change and this doesn’t really happen overnight, or require an appointment. 2. I never really could see how giving up “sweets, smoking, chocolate, etc.” could make me a better catholic. In a lot of ways, I am a black and white sort of person. I need clear directions to follow when attempting something I am unfamiliar with. You guessed it, I am not that familiar with “religion”. Though, I am a practicing catholic now, I am really not sure if I am doing it “right”. I follow my heart and play it by ear. My religious experience in and out of mass is a very “feeling” one, very heart-centered. I do not “pray” in words. I pray with feeling. It comes from the concept that God knows your needs before you do and I believe that. I just open myself, my heart up to God, or the Universal Energy, or Spirit, or Higher Power… by whatever name. I open up, and I can feel the Spirit flow through me. I cannot use flowery words when the words are not what matters. What is in your heart is what matters.

The sacrifice part of this all is not about giving up something that doesn’t mean too much to you, like “meat”, or “sweets”. You can get through that, knowing that soon, you will be able to have it again. The whole point of sacrifice is to “feel” the loss. The examples given today were something like this: It’s harder to give up gossiping to our friends, or complaining about everything than to give up a piece of chocolate.

Oh, the Drake just came in and remembered the third thing: #3 Charity. This mixes well with #1, sacrifice. Part of what was said about this was that we can take the money we save from unbought cigarettes, or whatever surplus comes our way from “sacrifice”, and give it to the poor, or to the church, or use it for some good. I immediately thought of the trip to the company store that we had planned for today… but then thought how can I turn company credits for cosmetics and hair products into something the poor can use? Hmmm, maybe purchasing shampoo and conditioner and giving it to the organization I’ve been donating baby clothes to. That sounds good.

All in all, I shall be striving to strengthen my connection with God, as I know Him. Oh, and another thing that I take on every year is my tremendous ego, a formidable opponent.

This year will me MINE!