By Fr. Rudolph Juarez
The Mayans predict that the world will end in December of 2012. I have seen this on the National Geographic Channel, but I don’t believe it. If anything, I think the world will end before April 4, 2010, because that is Easter and I have given up chocolate and dessert for Lent, and personally I feel like the world is about to come to an end.
Lent is about half over and we are hastening towards Easter. Yet, it is still a time to take a closer look at our spiritual lives in anticipation of our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. For this reason the church has had the tradition of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent is also a time for sacrifice, reflection and discipline.
Our food and culture reflect the season. Check out, for instance, the many fish fries at our schools and parishes during Fridays of Lent. And, if you’re in Iowa City, stop by Regina for a wonderful experience of fish and many fixings!
Growing up in a Mexican household, Lent meant macaroni Mexican-style (tomato sauce and a bit of onion), lentils, beans, tortillas, shrimp puffs, potato patties, and of course “capirotada” — a bread pudding consisting of day-old bread, cheese, cinnamon, nuts, bananas, piloncillo (raw sugar) and raisins … the recipe varies by region. No one else in my family particularly liked capirotada, so, it was up to me to make the sacrifice and eat it all.
And, as usual, I would go through the struggle of trying to decide if eating capirotada was breaking my commitment to not eat desserts. Because, while eating it may have been a penance for my brothers and sister, it was never that way for me. Oh … the inner struggle with conscience, motive and intention!
I also used to wonder where capirotada got its name. I think it might come from Medieval Spain and the “capirotes.” The capirotes were white-hooded public penitents. These public penitents were required by church and state law to stand in the public square to announce their guilt and repent of their sins. So, Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford, there’s really nothing new under the sun and apparently no sin unturned.
In Catholic teaching there are seven deadly sins: anger, lust, envy, sloth, pride, greed and gluttony. And, given the human condition, we have probably been guilty of some if not all of them. I wonder what it would be like if we were required to publicly admit our sins? It probably wouldn’t be too pretty: “I don’t listen to my mom and talk back to my parents”… “I am sleeping around and not being faithful to my live-in/spouse/significant other”… “I haven’t paid my taxes in years and don’t intend to”… “I am cheating at school”… ‘‘I am not very nice to the school board”… “I smoke too much — of the medicinal and non-medicinal stuff”… “I’m a racist”…. “I hate men/women”… “I’m addicted to porn, the Internet, fast women/hot men” … “I am a member of Congress and I love being an obstructionist” … “I complain too much”… “I don’t do my job or fair share”… “I have a snow removal business and I love the snow”…. etc., etc. etc. I am sure you can come up with your own list.
Now that my mother has entered into eternal life, I haven’t had the opportunity to eat as much capirotada as I used to. But it’s funny how my struggle with motive, conscience and intention still continues. I suppose it will continue until the end of the world, whether that comes in December of 2012, as the Mayans say, or whether it is before April 4, 2010. Either way, I want to go out with a plate of capirotada in front of me and a piece of chocolate in hand!
(Fr. Juarez is pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.)