What are you giving up for Lent?
It’s a question Christians ask each other over and over during the approximately six-week period leading up to Easter. Many people think of Lent as a time to give up something. But as a lifelong Catholic who has never given up anything for Lent, I disagree. Instead, Lent is a time for Christians to pray, fast, do penance, perform volunteer work and prepare for Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday followed by his resurrection on Easter Sunday, according to the Catholic Education Resource Center
Lent is a Time For Prayer
Spending more time in prayer is a good way to celebrate Lent. Some people add more prayers to their morning and evening prayer sessions. Other people say the rosary more during Lent.
I try to attend at least one extra Mass in addition to Sunday Mass. Many people go to Mass every day during Lent. My work schedule makes this difficult for me to do.
Sometimes I attend Stations of the Cross: a service in which those attending retrace Jesus’ steps as he was being crucified. For example, there are stations about his being condemned to death, falling while carrying the cross and being crucified. This is a good way to reflect on the true meaning of Lent and the pain and suffering Jesus endured for the sake of all of us.
Fasting During Lent
During Lent, we Catholics must abstain from eating meat during Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of fasting for those over the age of 14. This means limiting ourselves to one large meal and two smaller ones with no snacks in-between.
Some people take this a step further and fast at least one day a week during Lent. However, be sure to check with your doctor first to ensure you will get the proper nutrition you need.
Lenten Penance Services
During Lent, many churches have extra hours for confession. Other churches hold Lenten confession services in which several priests are available to hear confessions.
This is a part of the Lenten season which so many of us forget about. We are too busy with our everyday lives. What better time to confess your sins than just before Easter?
Lenten Acts of Charity
Doing charitable works is another part of Lent which is often overlooked. One activity many families do during Lent is the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl program. All family members, including the children, set aside money they would have spent on snacks, candy and other treats. That money is placed in the rice bowl (which is actually a cardboard box similar to a Chinese takeout box). After Lent, the money is donated to CRS, which fights hunger and poverty all over the globe.
Lent is a good time to participate in charitable activities such as visiting residents of a nursing home. Or spend a Saturday serving food in a soup kitchen, stacking cans in a food pantry or helping to build a house for Habitat For Humanity.
Going to an extra Mass or confession service, ladling soup in a soup kitchen or just spending more time on your knees in prayer will help you learn the true meaning of Lent. More lives will be touched – many more than can be touched by simply giving up candy bars.
This article was based on one I originally published on Wikinut
Catholic Education Resource Center
My own experiences as a lifelong, practicing Catholic