For most of my growing-up years, I never even heard of ‘Mardi Gras’. It’s clearly become a more common celebration in recent years. It signals the beginning of the Lenten season in the Catholic Church all over the world. It’s especially celebrated in New Orleans here in the U.S. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) has its own colors and symbols, its own food specialties and rituals. It’s common for people all over to wear colorful beads and costume hats and to serve the guests a ‘King Cake’ for the occasion. Legend has it that whoever gets the ‘king’ in their piece of cake gets the honor of providing the cake next year. In our area, most bakeries prepare these for the Mardi Gras feast! It’s another way to get some added calories too. Since my Dominican Congregation joined with seven others just a few years ago, we have all been educated about Mardi Gras by our companions (the St. Mary’s New Orleans Dominicans and the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic) because we are all companions on the journey as one new entity: the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Each of the seven communities has a special culture and brings its unique gifts to the whole group. And the New Orleans sisters have really raised the bar when it comes to Mardi Gras. They know how to party. Mardi Gras reminds us that feasting yields to fasting for the six or so weeks of Lent. And I think it’s all part of a good theological perspective, because as Christians we know that more feasting and celebration will follow the fasting and spiritual efforts of Lent. It’s called Easter! We already know that Christ has died, and that Christ is risen, dwelling in our midst. That’s the good news, so we can slow down a bit and take a deeper look at our lives in order to be better followers of Christ and servants of others in His name. So enjoy Mardi Gras and enter thoughtfully into Lent, 2014!