Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On Lent

Lent is fast approaching (a week from tomorrow)!! I am in the process of trying to decide what I should "do" for Lent . Ever since I was little, I used to give up a favorite treat. It could have been chocolate, or candy, or baked goods, or packaged foods, or tv, or even that Lent I tried to give up carbs (what was I thinking?). And usually I have found a way to fail in my humble attempts. There have been a plethora of reasons for my failures: it was my birthday, or a special date, or "Sundays don't count", or "Saturday evening is kinda like Sunday", or I was pregnant, or nursing, you get the point. Basically I was and am just a weak human being.

This Lent, I want to really stick to whatever I decide. I was talking to a priest friend of ours, asking his advice about what I should give up for Lent. He told me that I had to stop thinking in terms of just giving something up, that I needed to think about committing to something that would make me a better person. Something that would bring me closer to Jesus at the end of Lent than I was at the beginning of Lent. Something that would turn my imperfections and flaws into virtues and strengths.


It was exactly what I needed to hear. I previously thought about giving something up and sharing in Christ's sacrifice, but not about what to put in it's place that could make me a better faith-filled child of God.

While it's wonderful to give up chocolate, does it really bring me any closer to Christ? I think the answer is no. In fact, it might just make me a meaner person which could be harmful in my relationships ;)

If I give up tv, could that make me a better person? I again think not. TV is a bonding and relaxing time that Phil and I share after the kids are in bed for the night. If I had no prayer time, and gave up tv in order to pray in it's place instead, then yes, that would be great. But if it's not interfering with my relationship with Christ, and those around me, then I do not need to get rid of it.

So I'm trying very hard to think about what holds me back from Heaven at this stage in my life, and how I can turn it around to get a little bit closer by Easter time.

Some of my ideas so far are:

~Wake up early to make Phil's breakfast before work

~Make the kids lunches at night so Phil doesn't have to

~Wake up in the middle of the night when someone cries out (but I might be too scared for this!)

~Give more money to charities

~Work on my friendships

~Be more generous with my time to everyone and anyone who needs it

~Play with each of the kids individually each week

~Read about the lives of the Saints

~Help out a sibling with babysitting/picking up kids/giving them a break

~Get more involved in my parish

What else can I do?

What's worked for you in the past?

What are you going to do this year?


  1. Dear Colleen,
    I have found your post very helpful in my own preparation for Lent.
    You have covered all the areas of why we want to participate in Lent, to draw closer to Our Lord.

    I really do wnat to thank you for this thought provoking post.
    I pray that you find your way through your own thoughts and choose your way forward.
    God Bless

  2. A priest counseled me in the same way some years ago. So I still make a commitment to avoid candy and to fast between meals. I also try to make a commitment to read a book(s) that challenge me to a holier goal. I know and I do read these books through the year, but it's more intensive during Lent. Pray for me! I'll be praying for you. God Bless! Cathy

  3. This post has got me thinking...I know Lent is a week away, but I tend to make my decisions about Lent/extras/giving up after it's started. I think I should to more thinking and praying on it.

    I think you have a great list and thank you for the reminder on doing something more, rather than the giving up of Lent. I wish I could say that I've found something that works for me in the past, but I'm stuck and still haven't. The last several years I think I figured all the stuff I was going through on my infertility workup was sacrifice enough and a big enough cross to bear that I didn't even try to come up with something more.

    Now, my wheels are turning in my head...better go think on it.

  4. I'm thinking about volunteering a few hours a week. I figured giving a few hours of my time to those less fortunate will be a better use of my lenten sacrifice than giving up chocolates and losing out on all those antioxidants.

  5. Instead of giving something up, my Dad goes to every Stations of the Cross on Friday. I'm going to try and do the same. It is very hard with all the stuff that happens in these (hopefully) upcoming warmer months, but we're going to try. I'm also going to try and say the Rosary every day during Lent.

  6. Colleen, I am going to share this post with my oldest daughter...we were just talking about Lent last week, she was asking about it, being we are not Catholic, so this will definitely help to explain it better to her.

  7. I'm going to start reading a book or more if they're short of the Bible a day.

    I haven't read the Bible since high school, so I know it's about time to start that back up.

    Growing up Lutheran, we didn't do anything special for Lent. And knowing that I'll get questions about the purpose of giving something up for Lent, I try to do something that shows I'm trying to get closer to God. Because like you said, just giving something up doesn't really do that. Sure, if you replace it with something holy then it would, but not many people do that.

  8. I used to focus solely on the "giving up," but now I give something up AND do something else during Lent.

    Knowing myself, the danger for me is that it would be so easy for me say "I'm not giving something up, I'm doing something this year" and then proceed to give more to charity while feeling freer to excuse areas of my life where I am susceptible to gluttony (too much tv, food, computer, etc)

    Lent is absolutely a time to stretch yourself spiritually - to reach out and do the things you thought you could never do. My rule of thumb is this: If I feel I could NEVER do it, then I am too attached to it. Last year I closed all comments on my blog during Lent because I started to feel like it was becoming an area of too much self-gratification. I desperately missed hearing from everyone, but it was a good exercise in humility for me.

    One year, I gave up any extra shopping during Lent (bye, bye Target!) because I am so vulnerable to the little lies of my mind that say I "deserve" a little something extra.

    Each year I realize that I need to really prayerfully consider how I am going to approach Lent. What are my weaknesses, what are my circumstances, what are my attitudes that need adjusting. Everyone goes through different phases/stages and what is right one year may not be feasible the next.

    Good luck deciding and thanks for the reminder! :)

  9. I love what the Priest advised to you. I think that is a much better way to look at Lent.
    Not sure for me yet....it takes me some time to figure this one out.

  10. Thank you for sharing this...still formulating what I want to do!

  11. I had never thought about it that way, but you are right! It's not about giving up chocolate or other indulgences that aren't any harm. It's about being closer to God. I love this post!

  12. Thanks so much for posting this Colleen! Perfect timing. Reading this I could hear my own voice saying the same things, especially about rationalizing and excuses for being pregnant. (which, I am again, so facing that obstacle to physical sacrifice.)

    It was a real call to a mental awakening that in trying to figure what to give up, I had lost the true focus of lent. As I read what the priest told you it HIT me hard that what I needed was silent prayer. SO, thanks to your post I am going to weekly Adoration all during Lent. I will still try to find something to incorporate into my daily routine, but at least I know something I need to do.

    Thank You! May your Lenten journey be fruitful and blessed!

  13. I think there are two sides to lent--growing spiritually and also "going out into the desert." They go together-- giving up material things can lead to spiritual growth. When we deny ourselves our "desires" in the areas of food, entertainment, sleep, etc we grow in our mastery of our body and sensations. When one has the power to say, "no" to something they really want it helps build up willpower in spiritual temptations as well. The same applies to daily exercise. If you daily push yourself physically you are training yourself to have the strength and courage to resist temptations that come along.

    Not that it is easy but oh so important I think!

    Good Luck with your Lenten Journey!~

  14. i think you have an awesome list so far to choose from..

    .. good luck..

  15. Great Post! Waking up earlier is a good one. We do the typical things: Friday Stations, eating simple, almsgiving. I also use this time to renew my efforts with the kids' religious education. Pisanki making is a craft that I do during Lent in preparation for Easter. It is a sacrifice of time put towards tradition and symbolism of our faith.

    I enjoyed the post and reading the comments, too!

  16. I always give up alcohol for Lent and try to eat healthier, no snacking, just three meals.

    I love your list. You're right that if Lent is to change us, it's not about what we do without, but about what we do for others and how we increase our prayer to grow closer to God that will improve our lives. It doesn't do us much good to give up chocolate if Easter Sunday we devour those bunnies. But, if the money we spent on chocolate goes to the poor, and we offer that sacrifice in solidarity with the poor then it is a more worthy sacrifice.

    I guess my point is, we've got to have all three-fasting, almsgiving and prayer. You've given me much to think about here!

  17. I taught first grade at a local catholic school and then ccd for a year and we approached lent more of the way that your priest suggested it. Rather than jsut giving something up we talked about what we could do to be better, more kind, more thoughtful to others. It was really inspriring to see 6 year olds brainstorm like this.
    I was thinking about how to approach lent with my children this year and your list inspired me. Thank you!

  18. WOW. Thank you for such a helpful post.

    I've been at a spiritual low point for some time now, and this was great to remember... thinking about what would make me a better person and closer to God, rather than not eating chocolate for 40 days. I'll be thinking a lot this weekend.

  19. Colleen,
    I see you gave up comments for Lent, so you won't get to read this for a few weeks, but I certainly hope the fast turns out to be fruitful for you!

    The comments on this post alone are inspiring!
    Thank you, Katie


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