Remembering a holy little boy, and missing him

Last night I had my first beer in 40 days. Thank you very much, Father Elston.
I have “fasted” (technically, abstained) from beer and all alcoholic drinks during Lent for more than 30 years but always carried it through until Easter Sunday.
Biagio Dente, certified executive chef and a member of the Chef’s Hall of Fame, told me several years ago that such fasts conclude on Holy Thursday. I chose to believe him but always felt uneasy about it. Then Father Joseph Elston sought me out at this year’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Banquet for the sole purpose of telling me Lenten fasts end at sundown on Holy Thursday. Bless you, Father.
I woke up this morning and ate a couple of slices of nut role with my coffee. Nut roll, or “kolachi” to Eastern Europeans, is an Easter tradition which I gladly observe.
Oh, and I did not eat meat on Wednesday and Fridays for the past six weeks.
And that, I am sorry to say, is the extent of my Easter “commitment” this year. No beer, a little nut roll, and a lot of tuna sandwiches. Big deal.
Catholics are required to fulfill their “Easter duty,” which means receiving the Holy Eucharist (Communion) and before that, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. Call this my confession.
I confess, here in public, that I am not the holy little boy I used to be, not just in elementary school and my teens but right through my early 20s. Not even close.
Back then, in addition to walking around on Ash Wednesday with a cross of ashes on my forehead and fasting on something dear to me (candy was the predecessor to beer), I would attend Stations of the Cross every Friday, and during some Lenten seasons even attended daily Mass. And I never missed the Holy Thursday service, which included the touching recreation of Christ washing the feet of his disciples followed by a gala procession.
Then came the solemnity of Good Friday.
When I was little, my mom required my brothers and sisters and I to spend the hours between noon and 3 on Good Friday afternoon in almost complete silence. We were allowed to talk in hushed tones but there was no television, no radio, no play. When I got a little older, those hours were spent in church, often seated next to my grandmother. Three hours seemed a long time to me, but to her it was precious little to ask compared to the sacrifice of Christ. And she was right.
As I sit here considering yet another slice of nut roll and perhaps a second coffee, I find myself missing that holy little boy. He knew something about Lent and Easter that his grown up version appears to have forgotten. He knew it was a lot more than merely passing up a beer and ordering a Friday pizza without pepperoni.

Ed Ackerman