Editor's Note: J. Wilson is an award-winning homebrewer and author of “Diary of a Part-Time Monk.”
By J. Wilson, Special to CNN
About this time last year, I set off down a path that hadn’t been traveled for centuries. I fasted on beer and water for the duration of Lent.
While that sounds like a frat boy stunt, my “Diary of a Part-Time Monk” project was actually rooted in the Catholic Church, though that’s not what brought me to the idea.
A homebrewer and certified beer judge who is passionate about the flavors and culture of craft beer, I am what they call a “beer geek,” and so the monastic origins of the doppelbock style of beer had long intrigued me.
According to legend, the 17th century monks of Neudeck ob der Au outside Munich, Germany, developed the rich-and-malty beer to sustain them during Lenten fasts, the traditional 46-day lead-up to Easter.
By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
(CNN) – Got ashes?
If not on this Ash Wednesday, groups of Methodists and Episcopalians took to the streets in cities across the country to make sure you got them, representing a growing ashes-on-the-run movement.
In Washington, Julie Bringman of the Foundry United Methodist Church led a group of four Methodists outside the Dupont Circle Metro station with manila folders emblazoned with the question “Got Ashes?” in black ink.
By Stacey Samuel, CNN Producer
Washington (CNN) – Tuesday at the Washington National Cathedral, school children alongside clergy competed in a pancake tossing relay race. It was an exercise in religious fun, the day before Ash Wednesday.
"It is the last opportunity to feast, and be merry before we enter the Holy season of Lent, which is the time of abstinence and reflection," said Reverend Jan Naylor Cope, vicar at the National Cathedral, who took part in the races herself.
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras by a different name, Shrove Tuesday is the Anglican Church’s pre-Lenten celebration before kicking off the 40-day fast leading up to Easter Sunday. The origin of the word “shrove” is believed to be a derivation of “shriving” which means to ask for forgiveness.
But why a pancake race? Shrove Tuesday traditionally is the day that Christians emptied out their cupboards that would be filled with flour, sugar, eggs and other dessert ingredients which had to be used before observers began their Lenten sacrifice.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – J. Wilson has survived his 46-day beer-only fast and found some unexpected spiritual insights.
Wilson, who lives outside Des Moines, Iowa, was emulating a Lenten tradition carried out by German monks hundreds of years ago. In keeping with tradition he ate his last solid food on Ash Wednesday and broke his fast on Easter Sunday.
“I made a bacon smoothie and that’s what I broke the fast with,” Wilson said.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
The story of Iowa newspaper editor and beer blogger J. Wilson, who is drinking only beer and water for Lent, has gained a lot of attention this week.
On Friday morning he checked in with CNN Newsroom and explained his fast to Carol Costello.
Read Wilson's story here: For Lent, can man live on brew alone?
Wilson is 31 days into his fast, with 16 more to go. He drinks four beers a day during the week and five beers a day on the weekend. He told Costello he was enjoying his breakfast brew during the interview, which was conducted by phone.
(CNN) - For the 46 days of Lent, J. Wilson is forgoing solid food and only drinking beer and water - just as Bavarian monks did hundreds of years ago.
Wilson is a husband, father, newspaper editor and beer enthusiast. The 38-year-old is the proprietor of the beer blog brewvana, where the motto is, "An ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy."
"That pretty much sums up our lifestyle," Wilson told CNN.
Wilson is not a suds-soaked frat boy, but a careful home brewer with an eye for history and a hope for a spiritual breakthrough.
Editor's Note: Mark Batterson is lead pastor at the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He is the author of “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” “Wild Goose Chase” and “Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.”
By Mark Batterson, Special to CNN
When I was a seminary student, my wife and I went to downtown Chicago for a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” When the producer came out to prep us for the show, I was embarrassed for him because he had dirt on his forehead. Didn’t he look in the mirror that morning? Why didn’t someone tell him? My embarrassment for him turned into embarrassment for myself when I discovered it was Ash Wednesday and the dirt on his forehead was actually ashes that symbolized the day of repentance that begins Lent.
I grew up going to a wide variety of Protestant churches, but none of them practiced or even mentioned Lent. It wasn’t until a few years ago, well into my tenure as lead pastor of National Community Church, that I discovered the value of Lent. It has since become a meaningful season in the cycle of my spiritual life. During the last few Lenten seasons, I’ve incorporated a fast into my routine. One year I gave up television. Another year I gave up soda. I’ve also done a variety of food fasts for Lent.
By John Couwels, CNN
I bless you in the name of BMW, Honda and Harley Davidson, amen, could have been the blessing from a local Catholic priest to bikers attending Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Instead the Rev. Philip Egitto, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona, offered more traditional blessings for bikers and their motorcycles in the parish parking lot following Ash Wednesday services.
For Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day period of reconciliation, fasting and abstinence. Christians are encouraged to attend services in which clergy place ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of a worshipper.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season when many Christians give something up in the weeks before Easter. It's a nod to Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert before beginning his ministry.
Some folks are giving up Facebook. Others are cutting down on their carbon emissions.
Are you giving something up? If so, let us know - and explain your choice.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.