When the parades rolled through and finally ended on Tuesday afternoon, I watched as the chain gang came through and cleaned up the wreckage of the weeklong party. Beads, plastic bags, empty beer cans, broken chairs, all gathered together and piled up on the side of the street waiting to be picked up. It struck me that this was the moment in New Orleans when Lent started. Everyone, time to go home! Time to calm down and end the revelry.Time to drink a big glass of water, take a nap, and pick out your outfit for Ash Wednesday Mass tomorrow morning. Lent in NOLA is just as beautiful as Mardi Gras, but in such different ways that if you aren’t looking for it, you might miss it.
As a child I though Lent was just about giving things up. Chocolate, soda, meat on Fridays- these were my go-to Lenten sacrifices. This theme of “lack” is misleading, though. Lent asks all of us to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and souls, and see that there is more to life than the material things on which we place value. By removing certain distractions from our lives, like chocolate, television, and twitter, we can focus on more different things. The money you save by not going out to eat could be put in the basket at church. The time you save by not being on Facebook might be used to say a rosary or pray in the Adoration chapel.
My post- Mardi Gras haze has finally lifted. Life is back to normal, there are spots open on the street to park, I managed to get the stains out of my Perlis polo and clean the dirt off of my brown boots. My diet no longer consists of hotdogs bought on street corners or waters bummed from neighbors on the parade route. The excess and revelry of Mardi Gras is exciting, but also exhausting, and I’m using this Lent to rest up and re-evaluate. I’m going the traditional Lenten route by giving up something (fried foods), but I’m also resolving to say yes to as many opportunities as I can. One side of Lent is mourning in anticipation of Christ’s crucifixion, but I believe a bigger part of it involves rejoicing in the upcoming resurrection. This Lent, I will be finding God in new things, something the Jesuit’s have taught me to do.
The flowers are starting to bloom. The church bells have never sounded so beautiful. Crawfish are fresh and ready to be peeled. The streets are decorated with shimmering beads from Mardi Gras’ past. Welcome to Lent in New Orleans.