Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mother and Alfred's Lenten Discipline

“Mother,” said Alfred triumphantly, “I know what I have decided to give up for Lent! I have decided to give us spinach!”

“Alfred,” said Mother, “You don’t even like spinach!”

“Yes, I know Mother, but giving up spinach is a whole lot easier than giving up smoking, which is I what I really want to do.”

“Alfred, I noticed,” said Mother, you haven’t been smoking since Ash Wednesday. It looks like you’ve already given it up for Lent!”

“I know, Mother, I know,” said Alfred, “it’s just that if I admit it out loud, then I’m afraid I will really have to stick to it. I might be biting off more than I can chew. The very idea of giving up things for Lent is something we never did when I was growing up.”

“That is why, Alfred,” said Mother, “I always eat meat during Lent.  My family was Roman Catholic and every Lent we were condemned to eat fish. We weren’t all that devout.  It was sort of a Talliaferro family joke, ‘Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes, so get some rest and eat fish on Friday; ‘cause the priest says so.’”

            “What stirred up all this, Alfred,” asked Mother?

            “It was the Ash Wednesday service, Mother,” said Alfred, “That line about ‘prayer, fasting, and self-denial’ just stuck in my mind. I really felt I ought to do something.”

            “You know, you are right Alfred,” said Mother. “I hadn’t really thought about it. I suppose that just because my family treated it like some nonsense imposed by the priest, doesn’t mean that it’s not a right thing to do.”

            Mother wandered off into the kitchen while Alfred sat in his study looking at his marvelous collection of pipes; his Ashton Bent Billiard Briar, and his Old Church Bent Billiard, his marvelous hand carved Meerschaum, the Damiano Rovera Briar, and his other fine pipes.  He idly picked up his Rodgers Rosewood Chancet pipe knife and toyed with it for a minute; put it back down on his pipe stand along with the Lalique Jamaique ashtray, and with a sigh picked up the stand with all of his pipes and put it on a shelf in the antique oak credenza in the corner and closed the cabinet door.

“Well, that’s that,” said Alfred, “Hopefully out of sight, out of mind!”

            A few minutes later, Mother came back into the room looking a little somber and said, “I know what I have to give up for Lent.  It doesn’t do to pray about things like this.” Then she said declaratively, “I believe that I am supposed to give up complaining.”

            “That ought to be a challenge, Mother,” said Alfred.

            “Watch it, Alfred,” barked Mother. “On the edge! On the edge!”

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” [Hebrews 12:11].

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