Ever since my days at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Mardi Gras brings back memories of an annual seminary party. At the time, the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, sent men to the Mount for theology, and every year they threw a Mardi Gras party for the whole house. Anticipation would build for weeks before as parcels arrived daily from down south, generously sent by Mount alums, members of the seminarians' families, etc. Authentic food like red beans and rice, gumbo, and shrimp etouffe.... Ah, the memories. They even deep-fried some alligator once. Well, not the whole gator, just little cubes of him/her. Tasted like chicken.
I cling on to those memories when we get to this time of year, because the news media loves to show us Mardi Gras from New Orleans (as well as Carnevale in Brazil) which seems to be a huge contest of "Who can get drunker and lewder?" Yes, Mardi Gras is one of those Christian-rooted events that has been hijacked by secular society (joined by Halloween, St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, to name a few others).
Now, is Father being a "party pooper"? No way. Neither am I some Puritan-like prude. I've drunk my share of Louisiana Hurricanes out of a gray plastic trashbarrel (no, the barrel was never used for actual trash, and yes, I used a cup). I'm all for the Laissez les bon temps rouler!, as long as we remember that the next day begins the season of Lent. Mardi Gras is an undeniably religious event.
How many of the "Show us your (here insert some slang word for womens' breasts)", bead throwing and collecting crowd will actually be at Mass down in The Big Easy the next day? Will the media make a news story about the Mass attendance the next day? See for yourself: Check out the number of news stories on TV and in the newspaper on Wednesday morning (showing you the Mardi Gras happenings the night before), and compare the amount of coverage to what you see on Thursday morning (about Ash Wednesday).
In the meantime, some things to think about for Lent:
First, many people ask the question, "Why do we say Lent has 40 days, when I counted more on the calendar?" My friend Fr. Guy Selvester answered it well in a recent radio interview I did with him on the topic of Lent. The answer appears on his blog.
Second, one of my blog devotees turned me on to a blog called "Ask Sister Mary Martha". I don't know if it's actually written by a nun, but I like what I've read in her Lenten thoughts and reflections. When faced with a rule or a restriction, our society's reflex reaction is to wonder what the exceptions are, or how far can we bend it without actually breaking it? Check out her entries on plans for Lent and Lental soup. I think she has a good read on how many Catholics have come to see Lent's "giving something up" in their miscatechized minds.