Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fr. Ah and the Fig

We called him Father Ah.

Not "Ah" as in, "Ah, that's a beautiful sunset." Not a sighing, happy "Ahhhhh."

This Ah was a loud, operatic, trilling Ah.

Fr. Ah would sing with an enormous voice full of vibrato and zest for hymns.

I was a wee one, and I thought it was hilarious. So my dad and I named him Fr. Ah, the Ah of which we would voraciously sing into the air with joy and giggly happiness.

Fr. Ah, who ministered at my parish during my childhood, would not have approved of our silliness. He was serious, an academic.

It is only apropos that this academic taught a lesson that has stuck with me for many, many years.

I remember this as happening in the 2nd grade. It could have been before, but I know it wasn't after second grade. Regardless, Fr. Ah ministered, booming voice and all, and peered out at us from his pulpit, exasperated.

It was almost Lent, a Sunday, and Fr. Ah was in rare form.

He boomed from the pulpit, his voice punctuating each word with the grace of a protestant minister (the likes of which we heard every Thanksgiving as my great grandfather, a preacher, delivered the Thanksgiving prayer, blessing the hands of everyone involved with the food from my grandmother to the workers who lovingly sowed the seeds).

Fr. Ah said something that would change my life.

"Do. You. Think. God. Gives. A. Fig. If. You Give. Up. Candy. For. Lent!?"

He said it.


This was obviously serious. The youngster in me sat, confused, wondering what in the world I was supposed to do now that Fr. Ah had told me that the Lenten giving up standby was totally useless in God's eyes.

In the pew, we suppressed laughter at the unusual turn the homily had taken. It was truly a moment of lore, a quote that would enter into the recitation of jokes and stories.

I suppose any priest should be so lucky to have his homily message so well remembered. Unfortunately, the rest, undoubtedly a story about meaningful sacrifice (and undoubtedly made for the adults in the audiences, not the 2nd graders), is lost to us now. And every year, the murmurings start, questioning what objects I would go without, what I would sacrifice for Lent. And each time, Fr. Ah's booming words came back, echoing in my mind. I assuredly did not give up giving up at the moment of the fig — I remember, for example, a particularly horrible Lent with no ice cream and a similar inconvenience when I decided to give up cursing. I spent a time trying to make a positive Lenten promise, focusing on good works or other such improvements.

But forgoing candy? Perish the thought!

And every year, the fig returns, a reminder of sacrifice and scorn (and laughter).

I will think of Fr. Ah today, the beginning of the Lenten season. I will think of him as I abstain from meat on Fridays and fast when it is required. I may even say a prayer for him, for the good he has done in this world, for the intended message that got lost the day I lost the will to give up candy.

After all, it is because of Fr. Ah that I will be able to munch on delicious peanut butter eggs before Easter.

Not that God would give a fig if I didn't.


Laura said...

Have some for me.
I have to work on my self control and discipline....so no candy for me.
(Love those PB eggs )

Stacie said...

Good for you! :) I honestly don't eat that much candy so giving it up isn't that big of a deal. I still have to figure out what I'm doing!

BoufMom9 said...

I had a pastor EXACTLY like that and could've been given the same name. LOL

We too give up meat on Fridays and I gave up cursing. LOL

dtjunkie said...

I wonder why God would care about giving up meat on Fridays but not giving up candy.