Two hours before The Sweetback Sisters concert on Fat Tuesday at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café, Jamie Howell was thinking about sugar and Lent.
Howell is manager of the Broadway café, mother of Frankfort’s popular 16-year-old Americana singer Jeri Katherine Howell and a member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season leading to Easter.
It’s a special time for prayer, penitence, donating to charity and self-denial for many Roman Catholics and some Protestants such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Methodists.
“I’m trying to give up something really huge this year – refined sugars, all of them,” said a petite Howell, smiling.
She says it will be good for her health, “and it will be difficult, a real sacrifice. That’s what it’s all about.
“I love a piece of cake ever so often or a bagel with jelly. I love pastries. I’m sure I’ll screw up at some point, but I’m really going to try.”
In the Good Shepherd Church office on Wapping Street Tuesday afternoon, administrative assistant Kevin O’Neil said he would be reading daily devotionals from a Lenten booklet that parishioners were given.
“I’ll be making that a part of my daily prayer life,” O’Neil said.
He also plans to visit the homes of shut-in parishioners and those in nursing homes or a hospital.
O’Neil said he also will continue with the old tradition of giving up something pleasurable for Lent, although he hadn’t decided Tuesday what it would be.
“I used to give up candy, chewing gum or ice cream to try to change my life spiritually,” he said.
In recent years, “I would give up bakery items and Coca-Cola, but I’ve been on a diet and I’m already doing that. So it will be something else.”
Marty Perry, a Good Shepherd member and an employee of the Kentucky Heritage Council, said he always tries to do something for Lent.
“Some years I take it less seriously than others,” he said. “This year seems like a time to take it more seriously.
“I’ve become more aware of what I think my life is and I’m coming to some awareness as to how heaven fits into that. So I’m looking to do something that brings me closer to that sense of heaven and holiness.”
In the last year Perry said he’s been reflecting on “how self-denial can lead to that sense of holiness. What I’m giving up this year are the things that get in the way of that process.”
Perry says he’s a “big sugar fiend. I love Snickers bars, German chocolate cake, bourbon balls, even low-grade sweets like the Little Debbie’s crap from Pic-Pac.”
So giving up all of that is one of his sacrifices for 2010.
The Rev. Larry Minter, interim rector at Church of the Ascension on Washington Street, said he’s giving up meat and doing a 3-day spiritual retreat at St. Meinrad monastery in Indiana.
He said he also would be reading daily from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, fasting and giving to a charity.
Nat Colten, a junior at Western Hills High School, said Tuesday at Kentucky Coffeetree he hadn’t given Lent a thought this year.
In his earlier Good Shepherd Middle School years, “I was always reluctant to give things up,” he recalled. “But sometimes we would have to write down on a piece of paper what we were giving up and put it under a stone.”
Then at Easter students would retrieve the paper and evaluate how they had done, he said.
“I usually didn’t do so good,” Colten said.
He said in religion class he learned that Jesus didn’t eat for 40 days and nights, “but I didn’t understand the purpose of me having to give things up. I was a kid who liked to ask questions.
“It’s not that I’m a nonreligious person, but I want to figure out things for myself.”