I never really partook in Lent until I came to the United States, which is interesting given that I was raised on a deeply Catholic continent by a fairly religious family.
From the moment I was born, the freedom my parents gave me encompassed religion, and that meant Lent was nothing but an outsider custom to me. The conflicting branches of Christianity in which my parents believed made any type of religious upbringing even harder. My father, a Catholic, my mother, a Protestant, were both religious in their own personal way. Then there was me, in limbo between believing and doubting, not adhering to any branch.
This enslaving liberty of thought caused my faith to be an unstable wave, fluctuating from pure devotion to dangerous atheism.
It has remained that way to this day.
When I left home, I was by myself for the first time ever and felt a welcome familiarity every time I entered a church—any church. That very same feeling led me to a blinding devoutness that didn’t last long; I was just not made for it. You see, I approached religion because it reminded me of my grandmother’s voice when she prayed and of the mores with which I grew up, not because of a calling. It brought me home, and I was thankful for the oasis this holy place represented.
It didn’t take long for me to see religion in an entirely new light and reach out to faith as a way of finding myself in a place where I couldn’t find anything.
During my sophomore year, I left the U.S. to do a semester in England, where, once again, I was alone in a country where I knew no one and nothing. It didn’t take long for me to gravitate toward the one place where I was aware of what was happening: church.
By this time, my relationship with religion had turned into a substantial part of my life, and I was trying to reconcile my growing faith with my natural questioning and nihilistic tendencies. To say I failed would be an understatement, but for some reason I kept on going to church.
That year, I gave up something for Lent for the first time in my life and left behind the thing that would hurt the most then: memes. I know it sounds stupid, but it did hurt, I promise. During that time, I also forced myself to pray and fast on Fridays; I was committed even though my mind was doubtful.
After forty days, I was still uncertain of the meaning of faith and my link to it, so I decided to reach out to religion in the best way I know: academically. I studied the history of the Church, the philosophy associated with it and the impact it has made in the world, both good and bad. In those forty days I let go of faith in some ways but became attached to it in others.
This year, I gave up something again, not as a mockery to Christianity nor as a half-hearted effort to go back to the piety that, for a second, I thought I had achieved. This year, I gave up something to remind myself that, despite my ever-shifting feelings toward religion, Lent is a tradition that is based on discipline, commitment and gratitude. I can only hope that this time will be one of contemplation: of myself, the world, God or gods and the cosmos itself.