A Non-Catholic's Guide to Lenten Weirdness

Maybe we are all Catholics now, and maybe we aren’t.

For those of us who really still aren’t, things suddenly got weird yesterday, starting with an epidemic of poor forehead hygiene among Catholic co-workers.  If you did the polite thing by licking your thumb and trying to clean off that smudge, you may not have been properly rewarded for your solicitous behavior.  You may even have been swatted at.  This is because Wednesday was an official Cranky Day of the Church, when Catholics are hungry, and feeling guilty for not hiding it better.

You may have been tempted to try to smooth things over by offering your offended friend the extra double quarter pounder with cheese that the drive thru girl accidentally put in your bag.  This would be an error.  One major rule for dealing with Catholic friends during Lent:  keep your meat to yourself.

What else can you expect to see in the next thirty-nine days, and what does it mean?  Here is a handy guide.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR:  Your Facebook friend’s wall has suddenly become manic depressive, featuring, in the span of twenty minutes, a picture of a chubby, smiling baby trying to deal with a bowl of spaghetti; a prayer beseeching the Savior to hide us within His torn and bleeding heart; a funny joke where Kathleen Sebelius is photoshopped to look like a Dalek; an extremely detailed painting of The Scourging at the Pillar, and a notice that Ashley has posted a pin to Pinterest (coffee filter lampshade).

EXPLANATION:  Your friend feels guilty for not giving up Facebook for Lent, and is attempting to make up for it by using social media as a tool of the new evangelization; i.e. creeping everyone out.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR: Your friend stubs his toe and shouts, “FU . . .mble!!! I fumbled, there.  Ow, boy, gee, my toe hurts like a son of a biscuit!” Or if someone cuts him off in traffic, he snarls, “Nice driving, shi . . . ihh . . . into monk.  You drive like a SHINTO MONK, you know that?”

EXPLANATION:  Your friend has given up swearing.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR: Your friend abruptly starts losing weight and working out regularly. 

EXPLANATION: Your friend has noticed that Lent ends right around the same time as bathing suit season begins.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR:  Your homeschooling friend is usually dressed, made up, and pulling some delicious baked good out of the oven by 8 a.m. while the children quietly practice their Bible memory verses together.  You stop by to visit her in her home one late afternoon, and she is not only still in her pajamas, but her kids, who are naked, are all on the roof, pulling bricks out of the chimney and throwing them at passing cars.  Smoke is pouring out of the oven, the dog is in tears, and your friend won’t come out from under the table.

EXPLANATION: She has given up lunch gin.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR:  You get a long, handwritten letter from a distant relative you haven’t seen since Grampy’s funeral fourteen years ago.  It starts out normally enough, inquiring after your health and reminiscing about mutual friends, but pages two through twelve are just lists of short observations like, “takin out the garbage wooo are my arms out of shape gotta start liftin again” and “subway or quiznos, choices choices lol.” 

EXPLANATION:  Your friend has given up Twitter and is desperate for some social interaction, but has forgotten how to talk.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR: Your friend keeps saying, “Sure, let’s get some coffee—oh, wait, no!  Um, water is fine for me”; keeps nervously checking his watch and darting away to a quiet corner while hastily making the sign of the cross; repeatedly turns on some music and then jumps guiltily and turns it off again; appears itchy, overtired, and dehydrated; is limping as if he has popcorn kernels in his shoes; and occasionally faints.

EXPLANATION: Your friend has gone for the scattershot approach to penance, and has gone too far.

WEIRD BEHAVIOR:  Your friend suddenly won’t talk to you at all. 

EXPLANATION: Your friend has given up hanging around with jerks.  Or, no, your friend has given up spending time with his favorite people!  Boy, he probably misses you a lot.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.