Busted Halo

In repentance for her usual neglect of churchgoing, sometime-Catholic Amanda Farah gives up swearing for Lent and explores the season’s meaning & traditions. (And follow her penalty box total.)

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March 14th, 2011

A Sometime Catholic’s Lenten Journey Begins


post1-flash-40I consider myself a part-time Catholic. My faith is solid, I observe every Church holiday, but I’m not so good about getting to church every single week. My parents are involved in their church, and I always come over when they’re having the priests for dinner. These same priests were present at my wedding to my agnostic husband.

Catholicism is part of who I am, even if it isn’t woven into the daily fabric of my life. Every year Lent is my chance to make up for my inattentiveness the rest of the year. I get my ashes every Ash Wednesday, I don’t eat meat on Fridays, and I always give something up for the 40 or so days.

If I have a bad habit (aside from the short attention span that often keeps me out of church), it’s definitely swearing. Despite my best efforts to control it, I am ultimately a product of my environment: My mother taught me to speak my mind, and my father taught me the vocabulary. Though I do my best to keep it in check in business meetings and around my elderly relatives, when left to my own devices it sounds like a very eloquent sailor educated me. For the last couple of years, I’ve given up swearing for Lent.

Unfortunately, swearing is a bit more spontaneous than say, eating chocolate or watching TV. The words are usually out of my mouth before I have time to think it through. So, to compensate for when I slip up, I have a penalty box that I add 50¢ to for every four-letter word that gets out. On Easter Sunday, the contents of the penalty box are put in the collection basket along with my usual donation.

Having to watch my language is a source of endless amusement for my husband. He may support my efforts, but he doesn’t give up swearing in solidarity. He’s also a bit less spirited in his choice of words, so it would be less of a gesture on his part anyway.

I know a few people who allow themselves a break from their sacrifices on Sundays, which is fine if that’s what you want to do. Somehow, though, I can’t see allowing myself to take God’s name in vain on God’s day. I think it’s easier to give it up in one go and take things day by day, rather than looking to the next checkpoint of when I can stop watching my language.

So watch this space while I try to attend Church more regularly, leave sticky notes to remind myself not to eat meat on Fridays, and reflect on other Lenten traditions. Oh, and I’ll be keeping a running tally of what’s in my penalty box for when I slip up. I’m already off to a bad start while I get used to my sacrifice.

Penalty Box Tally: $4.00

The Author : Amanda Farah
Amanda Farah is a freelance writer and photographer living in Brooklyn. Amanda spends most of her time writing about music and pop culture for magazines and websites in the US and UK.
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  • Marty Smith

    What if being Catholic were not about what I do for God but rather simply taking time daily to recognize what God does for me? As I did that, the urge to swear diminished and the urge to partake of the sacraments increased – not as sacrifices but because they seemed like a better response to my growing realization of God’s real love for me.

  • Tom Gibbons

    I gave up swearing for Lent a number of years ago… THAT was my hardest Lent by far! It was a bit odd to great Easter but dropping a REALLY big F Bomb, but it felt good.

  • Morgan

    As a reformed “sometime Catholic” with an agnostic husband of my own, I can appreciate this more than you know. I wish you the best of luck on your Lenten journey, and look forward to your future posts.

  • Sanchez

    I’m going to go start my own penalty box for my bad habit (self-medicating with sugar).

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