Sacrificing socks for our savior

Originally Appeared in : 9907-3/28/19

The passenger van was all abuzz with talk of Lenten sacrifices the day before Ash Wednesday, but the big boys were leading the little ones astray.


“We could give up baths and school for Lent,” Noah and Simon said, garnering a pair of raised eyebrows from their mom in the driver’s seat.


The little kids weren’t about to be denied opportunities to sing about equatorial Africa (yes, there are songs for this) and simultaneously voiced their dissent, making the van sound more like the British House of Commons and less about fasting ahead of celebrating our Risen Lord.


For the remainder of the day, and all morning prior to Mass, the children were quizzing their siblings or Magan and me, “So what are you giving up?”


Noah had originally planned to give up all flavored drinks but had to make an addendum to exempt milk. (Per his mother’s request. You don’t argue against the medical advice of a registered nurse, particularly the one who brought you into the world.)
In a twist, I gave up not one but two of my favorite things that are apt to pull my attention away from God: Dessert, and potato chips.


“Both? Really?” Magan said.


“Yep,” I said. “Felt like giving up just one wasn’t really fasting.”


It wasn’t until Simon’s sacrifice came up that everyone burst into laughter and surprise, though.


“Jason, he’s giving up socks for Lent,” Magan said.


“Whoa,” I replied. “That’s a big deal for Simon.”


While many of you in the diocese may be perfectly fine with baring your little piggies in sandals, slides, and flip flops, Simon inherited a gene from his father’s side of the family that makes him averse to his feet ever touching the world without a pair of ankle, crew or knee-high stockings in between. Yes, he wears socks to the pool just like his old man.


The logistics of his decision were being discussed when Simon blurted out, “I’ll be just like Bishop Hartmayer,” to which Magan informed Simon that donning a pair of Birkenstocks did not make one a Franciscan. She also didn’t want to kill the kinship, either (we wouldn’t be against a priest or two in the family, after all), so she dropped the subject.


In the meantime, Magan found Simon a pair of “mandals” (man+sandals=mandals), which he began to wear everywhere. One place, though, he wouldn’t be able to wear them was church. Thankfully our hand-me-down shoe bucket in the attic, like the Lord sending manna from heaven, provided, presenting an old pair of Noah’s Sperrys that fit the bill...or so we thought.


The first Saturday of Lent came a few days later and all of us, save Noah who was at a robotics competition in Dalton, were loaded up in the van to head to Vigil Mass. When we arrived, Simon noticed one of his altar-server buddies was riding solo, and asked to volunteer to help. I obliged, and off he went. 


It wasn’t until Simon had to leave the altar to fetch Father Jacob a fresh set of batteries for his microphone that I noticed a limp in the gait of my second-oldest. When Mass ended, Magan scurried away with all but Isaac because Noah had sent word he had returned, so Isaac and I awaited Simon as he wrapped up his duties.


“So Simon has given up socks,” said Grandma Mary Louise (GML) in the Narthex. “You see it’s worn a blister in his heel. I told him giving up socks wasn’t a good idea for Lent. I told him the whole point of the sacrifice is that you’re supposed to come out better on the other side for God, and you certainly aren’t better off if you can’t walk.”


Simon wasn’t far away from taking on a literal interpretation of the Book of Joel’s call for “weeping and mourning” (2:12) at his current pace, but Magan and I wanted him to be sure he understood where his GML was coming from, and why he should heed her words even if he chose to continue to torture his tootsies.


I’m pretty sure GML wanted Simon to know that a noticeable limp falls into the “look somber as the hypocrites do” fasting category told in the Book of Matthew (6:16). Therefore, wearing socks would fit into the “put oil on your head and wash your face” area of thinking (6:17-18).


As Father Jacob said during his homily the night of the limp, our fasting is meant to emulate Christ’s example in the desert by teaching us to push away from those things of the world that prevent us from a more meaningful relationship with God.
Hopefully Simon will take all of these teachings to heart, and maybe one day wear Birkenstocks as part of his priestly vocation. For now, though, the hosiery hullabaloo will have to wait until Monday. You see it’s Sunday, so Simon is celebrating this feast day by wearing a pair of black ankle socks with Crocs, just like his father before him.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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