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The coffee club held a book signing last week. I talked about A World Worth Saving and read a brief excerpt from the book. During question time, Fred Foulzone asked, “What exactly is Lent? You talked about it, but when is it? And what makes it important enough for me to buy a book that you’ve written?”

Fred and I go back to adolescence. Foulzone is not his real name, but he introduced himself that way once—“like a basketball foul zone, you know” and the name stuck. Fred had already bought two copies of the book and had told me that he was going to buy two or three more copies for family.

“Fred, you remember that year you went down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras?”

“That’s not something to talk about here.”

“Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday—the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for most of us. Lent is generally understood as a time when we prepare spiritually to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. Ancient tradition tells us to fast from oils and meats and dairy products during Lent, and that led to the party tradition of Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. People would traditionally clear these fats and dairy products and meats from their homes by having a feast on Fat Tuesday. Then on Ash Wednesday they would begin the ritual fast of–”

“–Stop!” said Fred. “Ask an Armenian a simple question and he channels a college professor’s lecture.”

“True, so let me finish quickly. Lent gives us time to prepare spiritually for Easter through prayer and other spiritual practices, including self-denial. Lent lasts about six weeks. That’s why A World Worth Saving includes the six basic chapters.”

Scarlett Mgrdtchian followed Fred. “I skimmed through the book. I’ll read it more seriously during Lent. You make fun of the traditional Lenten practice of giving up something. Anybody push back on that?”

“Not yet—and I’m not making fun of the tradition so much as I point out how some people talk about giving up things that they never do anyhow. Such as not eating stewed liver. I’m simply suggesting that we put some positive actions in place as our spiritual practice for Lent. Even my friend the Armenian priest likes those suggestions–and tradition is very important to Armenian clergy.”

“And that makes sense to me. Let’s wrap up. It’s time to prepare supper for the homeless people who will be our guests tonight. Isn’t that the point of A World Worth Saving?”