On March 1, we’ll come together in observance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The following 40 days, not counting Sundays, will represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, resisting temptation and preparing for his ministry. For us, it is a time of self-reflection, alms-giving, sacrifice, and fasting.
Fasting, traditionally the abstinence from food, is a physical demonstration of sacrifice. As quoted on the website of CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities sponsored by Catholic Relief Services:
Fasting from meat on Fridays during Lent helps us “acquire a mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2043). Fasting is meant to free us. It helps us feel our physical hunger, and in turn, our spiritual hunger for the infinite love found only in God.
Over the years, fasting also came to mean giving up things other than meat or meals, whether that be a favorite treat or an activity. People give up everything from sweets to smoking to social media. A year ago, Christianity Today published a study titled “What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas.” In it, we learned that the top five choices were: school, chocolate, Twitter itself, alcohol, and social networking.
The only real rule to what you give up is that it must truly be a sacrifice, so while we don’t recommend that you give up school for Lent, we want to offer some suggestions on ways to make changes that can really make a difference.
- Meals. If you do fast in the traditional sense, giving up a meal, consider donating the meal, or the money you would have put toward that meal, to someone in need. CRS Rice Bowl offers opportunities to do just that. Contact the Archdiocese of Hartford for more information on how you can contribute.
- Time. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) defines alms-giving as “donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.” Charitable acts are welcome throughout the year, but why not, in the true spirit of Christ, make them your focus during Lent?
- Unhealthy activities. Sometimes we need a little extra incentive to give up the things that we enjoy, but we know are bad for us. Lent is a great time to give up smoking or alcohol, or even eating too many unhealthy things. If you can do it for 40 days, you are well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle when the season is over.
- Technology. It’s 2017, so it would be really difficult to fully give up technology for 40 days, especially since many of us rely on it in our jobs. However, during this time, we can make a conscious decision to limit our usage. For some ideas on how to make the most of your non-tech time, visit our blog: “5 Tips for Staying Connected in the 21st-Century Family.”
- Excuses. Whether it’s “I’m too busy for Mass this morning”; “I’ll put off doing my homework until after dinner because I’m too hungry to think”; or “I can’t exercise today, it’s Tuesday”, avoid making excuses for doing the things you need to do and/or are good for you. Lent is a time for self-reflection: What can you do to start making your life, and the lives around you, better?
Remember that sacrificing during Lent isn’t about suffering, it is about growing spiritually and learning to love and live like Christ. If you need a reminder of this, here is a great article from the USCCB called “Journey to the Foot of the Cross — 10 Things to Remember for Lent.”
Need ways to celebrate Lent? Look to your local parish and your child’s school in the Archdiocese of Hartford for ideas and opportunities.
How do you and your family honor Lent during this season? Let us know on our social media pages.