Monday, April 13, 2015

The Easter Bunny Didn't Die on the Cross, Kids

My friend Lauren penned a beautiful reflection on Easter and her entry into the Catholic Church. How well I remember when the Lotts entered the Catholic Church. We were next door neighbors at the time. I laughed when I read Lauren's account of the sufferings she inflicted on our former pastor, Father Allan McDonald.

I doubt she exaggerates.

Lauren is a thinker, and, believe me, she chewed on the tenets of the faith long and hard before assenting to them. Gnawed good, they were.

Lauren writes:
Angels rejoiced, Fr Allan heaved huge sighs of relief. St Peter welcomed a fellow sinner and my Patron Saints, Patrick and Columba, held me up while shaking to the very core of my being I spoke the words of Faith, “I believe in the one, holy catholic and apostolic church … ”
And my life was forever changed. 
Read the rest here.

I appreciate Lauren's thoughts on a candy-coated Holy Week:

As a person who spent decades looking for truth amidst baskets of candy, I sometimes wonder why those of us who call ourselves Christians would allow such frivolity to take primacy in our lives this week of all weeks. People who for decades told me I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior prancing about in bunny outfits and painting eggs – pagan customs, all. I know that sounds harsh and I don’t mean it to be, I really don’t. But I can't help thinking – as a person who searched and searched for meaning in life and who is still on a life journey – how these Traditions build our Faith in Christ when our children know more about the ‘Easter Bunny’ than they do about the Road to Calvary.

Now, we don't do the Easter bunny.

"The Easter bunny didn't die on the cross, kids," I've told my kids, gently, gently I hope. Ain't no way we're headed to the mall to get anyone's picture taken with the rabbit. 

Nope.

We really don't do Santa Claus either. We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on or about December 5th. In fact, that's just one of the reasons Saint Nicholas flat out rocks. You can lay out shoes the night of the fourth. What, you forgot all about it? Set them out on the fifth! No harm, no foul. Try getting away with that on Christmas, ya lazy heathen. Taint gonna work.

Anyway . . . Saint Nicholas was (is) a verifiable, historical figure -- a bishop as a matter of fact -- who helped destitute girls get married by anonymously funding their dowries. He threw bags of coins down chimneys.

Now, he did this without the assistance of elves and reindeer. He also did hard time in a Roman prison during one of the persecutions of Christians. Maybe he had a list; maybe he checked it twice. Historians are mute on that point.

I've already shared my thoughts on modern day Santa Claus. As a younger parent, I, mentally if not verbally, took a hard, hard line on Santa. I'm not lying to my kids, thought the much more orthodox Kelly. Let's not mingle the holy -- the birth of Christ -- with the secular -- reindeer and chimneys, cookies and milk, shiny noses and sleigh bells.

As I've mentioned before, my Jewish brother-in-law very much influenced my line of thinking. I remember having breakfast with him one Christmas morning. He was mystified -- perhaps disappointed would be a better word for it -- by the feel of the Christmas experience we had just shared. Orgy was the term he used, if I recall. And an orgy it was -- kids over-the-top excited, paper flying, noise, mess. Yep. I celebrated Hanukkah and Passover many times with his family, and I'll say this for our Jewish brothers and sisters: Their religious holidays are religious. Oh, I think some Christmas commercialism has found its way into Hanukkah, but for the most part, their religious observances are free of ornamentation.

I like that.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd -- a Montessori based catechism course -- has been a huge influence on my view of liturgy, scripture, and prayer. When I began my training with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I learned about the beauty of liturgical seasons. 

Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation for the Feast; they are not intended to be the Feast. 

I read beautiful reflections on waiting and preparing. They stirred my heart to focus on the wait. I had visions of decorating our tree on Christmas Eve and celebrating all through Epiphany. (And I eyed with disdain those slackers who put their tree up on Black Friday and had it out on the curb by noon on December 26th.)

But something happened on the way to liturgical purity.

I became first an aunt and then a mother. In short, kids happened. Kids bring several things to bear. Mainly, they bring joy. 

Unbridled, over-the-top excitement. 

And it permeates the whole house. The idea of a sterile, minimal Christmas? Just not much fun. I still want to wait, and I don't want the orgy, but I want some of the chaos, some of the mess, some of the noise.

I still don't want the bunny, and Peeps are nothing short of frightening to me. But high quality, dark chocolate and an Easter egg hunt? Those I can get behind. A stylish hat and a cute dress on my girl? Absolutely. 

Kendra writes over at Catholic All Year. (FYI, though I don't know her take on the bunny, she thinks Santa is just swell, elves and all.) On living the liturgical life, she writes:

Can I just get one shot free of gang gestures and rabbit ears?
I knew that we demanded more of our children in the way of faith than other families. We expected good behavior in Mass and for them to sit (relatively) still for the Rosary. We went to Mass even when it made us late for the beginning of the Bears game. We didn't eat meat on Fridays or go to Easter egg hunts on Holy Saturday. We were careful about the TV shows they watched and the toys they played with. It seemed like we had all the stern stuff covered for our kids, but I felt like we were presenting an unfair picture of our faith to our children. All the discipline and none of the joy. All the fasting and none of the feasting.

The last two phrases jumped out at me: All the discipline and none of the joy. All the fasting and none of the feasting. Like Kendra, our approach to liturgical seasons has evolved over time. A life of faith is a walk, a journey. The terrain changes; times change; hopefully, we ourselves change. And this all affects how we live our faith, how we express this faith in liturgical form. 

This is a long-winded way of saying I'm a different Catholic today than I was thirty years ago or even ten years ago.

I know Lauren, and she's certainly not suggesting all the fasting and none of the feasting. Let's just say I know first hand that Lauren enjoys a feast as much as the Catholic in the next pew.  

Rather, she's suggesting what is at the heart of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Truth, beauty, liturgy inexorably tug at the human soul, be that the soul of a forty-year-old convert or a five-year-old child. 

Why candy-coat it? 

In the words of Isaiah 55: Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

The Easter bunny, in fact, didn't die on the cross. When we step back to reflect on the mysteries of the faith, we find that truth is much richer than fairy tales, much more satisfying than a basket of jelly beans.

2 comments:

Kris said...

Love this. Love Kendra's fasting/feasting comments, too. I think I've actually gone in the opposite direction as you - from all out embracing of the Santa/Easter Bunny to simpler, more faith-filled holidays. Don't get me wrong - we still have a special breakfast and presents and stocking on Christmas morning, because it does represent the joy of the season, but my decorating is minimal, we do the tree only about a week before and our focus is on Christ. Same with Easter, we have a small "family" basket of candy, but we don't do the eggs anymore or any of the other stuff. Again, the focus is on Mass and being together as a family.

Tim Dolin said...

Kris - That's great. Simplicity always helps me focus. One of the things I like best about Lent/Easter is that the world at large hasn't grabbed hold of it and turned it into another reason to buy and to decorate. The first time I saw eggs hanging from a tree, I thought, "please don't let this become popular." It really hasn't, thankfully.

I struggle to focus on the spiritual when the material/busyness is so overwhelming. Just can't walk and chew gum very well, I guess.