The Marks Post: What my cat taught me about Lent
As a lifelong Catholic and parishioner of Sacred Heart, I have always lived out the seasons of the liturgical year, especially Lent. Like most Catholics, I might not of fully grasped the meaning of Lent over the years. It is more than just not eating meat on Friday.
After going on retreats in Grand Coteau over the last couple of years, I have a new found appreciation for this 40 days. A new revelation into Lent came to me recently from a very unlikely source - my cat.
I have a bunch of cats at the house. There is one indoor cat, one indoor-outdoor cat, and I don’t know how many outside cats.
The indoor-outdoor one is solid black and named John Jr., and he is skittish around me. I don’t know if he is scared of me or if he just hates me. I try to pet him, but he runs away from me. My sister Haley says I need to be more gentle with him.
He was becoming more of an indoor cat until he started using the bath mat instead of a litter box, so dad started chasing him out of the house with a broom. Now he is more skittish than ever.
He still comes inside to eat because he would not eat otherwise with the herd of cats outside. His skittishness is probably more of a social anxiety disorder now that I think about it.
Last Thursday, after morning Mass at Sacred Heart, I let him in the house to eat and then went sit in my recliner for some silent reflection being that it was the first day of Lent after Ash Wednesday.
After I sat down, I watched John Jr. jet across the living room floor. He then jumped on top of the sofa and started doing what every feline has done since the beginning of time - licking the dirt and hair off of himself.
I took a break from my reflection to watch him, and, in that moment, I learned something about Lent.
We as humans are created with free will and thus commit sin. Our sins tarnish us and leave a layer of filth on us. We become like our first parents in the garden and want to hide ourselves because of our shame. Instead of putting on a fig leaf, we hide ourselves by putting walls around us that can keep us from fully experiencing God’s grace.
What I learned was Lent is a good time of year for us to do like John Jr. It is a time for us to lick the tarnish off of us and whatever else is hiding us from heavenly graces. This metaphorical licking comes with us by doing penance, attending Mass more regularly, and taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This metaphorical licking is also a way of living the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. God came down to Earth in human form and lived among us. He was crucified, died, and was buried for our sins. He then rose from the dead to bring about new life for us.
Likewise, we live here on Earth and are called to die to ourselves during Lent through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Then, after our Lenten observances, we will rise to a new life as well during Easter wearing our white robes like the great multitude around God’s throne in The Book of Revelation.
Living this Paschal Mystery is what it means to be called a Christian. So this Lent, I ask you to take advantage of this time of year and see what is causing you to hide from God’s grace. Then go ahead and lick it off like John Jr. Just don’t cough up any hair ball.