by Father Mark Goldasich
If looks could kill . . .
Every year around this time – with the exception of last year, of course – I get one of these “looks” from the Knights of Columbus in my community.
One thing that is definitely not on my “penance list” is the parish fish roast. Every Friday of Lent my mouth starts to water around noon, in anticipation of dinner: fried catfish, baked tilapia, coleslaw, cheese potatoes and a wheat roll. (Take a look at page 3 of this issue to literally see what I’m talking about.) And on two Fridays there is also shrimp on the menu. My only bit of “fasting” comes from not having the delicious peach cobbler for dessert.
The “look” comes when I suggest to the knights that they should have this fish dinner every Friday of the year! I haven’t found out in my whole life why they shake their heads and mumble something to themselves.
Unfortunately, there is one crucial element of roast fish this year that is an “imposed” penance: the fast of coming together to enjoy the meal in person. When the knights approached me a few weeks ago to talk about the fish fries, we got the idea to set up socially distant tables in the community center. Then reality set in. Even if we did, there is no way our guests would be table hopping as it is so much part of the fry experience. So we decided on the safest option: the drive-through service. It works, but it’s not the same.
For me, fasting while eating in person has been one of the most difficult aspects of COVID safety. I enjoy eating out, trying out new restaurants or visiting favorite places again. And my favorite part isn’t necessarily the food, but sharing the food with friends and family.
In the past year I can count with one finger how often I personally ate in a restaurant. That’s right: once. It happened in mid-October when a friend from my time in Rome and his wife passed through Kansas City on their way back to Milwaukee.
A big fan of celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, he wanted to eat at Lidia’s restaurant in the Freight House neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. I made reservations for the outside patio and chose a table in the far corner with the wind blowing away from me. Although we had a wonderful time, I was nervous all evening – as I couldn’t find a way to eat or drink with a mask on!
In all honesty, fasting from the peach cobbler or from personal eating is easy compared to what the Lord says to Isaiah the prophet, “Isn’t this rather the fast I choose: letting go of the unjustly bound, the thongs of the yoke to solve; free the oppressed? . . . Isn’t it that you share your bread with the hungry and bring the afflicted and homeless into your home? dress the naked when you see them and not turn your back on your own flesh? “
Impressive! And if we (secretly) hope that these Old Testament words do not apply today, Pope Francis makes it clear to us with his proposals for Lent:
• Fast fast from hurt words and say kind words.
• Fast with sadness and be full of gratitude.
• Fast with anger and be patient.
• Fast from pessimism and be hopeful.
• Fast for worry and trust in God.
• Be quick from complaints and think about simplicity.
• Fast under pressure and pray.
• Fast with bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
• Fast with selfishness and be compassionate towards others.
• Fast with grudges and make reconciliations.
• Fast fast and be silent so that you can listen.
My Lent seems like small steps. It is much better to follow the advice of Isaiah and Pope Francis and really take this quick path to holiness.