When the Roman Catholic season of Lent began more than three weeks ago, I told the Rev. Nick Sannella of the Immaculate Conception Church that I would be buckling down hard this year. His inspirational homily had convinced me to give up something that would be an optimal (not ultimate) sacrifice for 40 days.

I would be giving up my beloved wine.

To accomplish this painful goal, I would have to get the Wine Goddess on board.

I couldn't endure her drinking a glass of Cameron Hughes 2009 Pinot Noir ($14) with grilled salmon and roasted potatoes while I sat by with a glass of Pellegrino water. This, my friends, is tantamount to a new form of torture -- wineboarding.

But getting the Wine Goddess to go along presented a problem. I told Father Sannella that my dear wife is not a practicing Catholic. She is very spiritual though. She's read every Joseph Campbell book ever written, several books on Buddhism and Judaism, and can talk seriously about reincarnation longer than Shirley MacLaine.

Maybe, I told Father Sannella, I can trick her into giving up wine for 40 days and 40 nights.

The good Father smiled. He told me Lent is as much about human transformation as sacrifice. He said it is a time to look inward, recognize our failings and try to make positive changes in the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Sacrifice is a significant part of the Lenten season, he said, and we should do so willingly but without harming ourselves or others.


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A light went off in my head. Giving up wine would definitely harm me, I thought. Even my cardiologist said drinking wine in moderation was good.

The holy man was making a lot of sense. He continued: You should not trick your wife into doing what you should do. That's the wrong kind of transformation.

I did not want to go to hell. I listened more closely to the surgeon-turned-attorney-turned priest.

"You know, Mr. Campanini, you do not have to deny yourself wine if you truly believe that your daily glass (emphasis "daily") makes you a better Catholic and human being," he said. "I would say the Lord wants you to continue being a good servant to others without interruption, and explore personal sacrifices beneficial to your spiritual enhancement."

I knew this holy man was profoundly intelligent. I wanted to nominate him to be the new pope.

"So," I said in all humility, "I guess I shouldn't give up wine or trick my wife into giving it up if it is going to corrupt my soul and make me a bad person toward others."

Father Sannella neither smiled nor scowled at my liberal interpretation. He simply gave me an honest answer.

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"I believe the Lord would accept a reasonable sacrifice, like maybe drinking a glass of wine every other day," he said.

I pondered the enormity of this statement. "Is this like a compromise?" I inquired.

"No, the Lord does not compromise on faith," he said. "But he does want you to succeed."

SPECIALS OF THE WEEK: Boy, did I make a great discovery last weekend in the 2005 Copertino Riserva from Salento, in Pugliia. A blend of Negromaro (95 percent) and Malvasia nera (5 percent) grapes, this is a Cadillac at a Kia price ($10.99) produced by a local Italian cooperative that for years sold it only to the natives. This ruby colored wine is aged a minimum of two years and is now as smooth as silk with a long, dry, cherry/tar taste ... Another palate pleaser is the 2010 Gini Soave Classico from Verona. Another highly rated and little know Italian wine, this cool white is made from La Garnegea grapes and fills the nose with peach and white flowers and graces the tongue with clean, citrus tastes. It sells for $13.99. You can buy these gems at Wine ConnecXtions in North Andover.

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