Benefits of Lent
What Is Lent?
According to American Heritage Dictionary, Lent is “The 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.”
We were taught in Catholic schools about three facets to help prepare for Easter during the season of Lent:
- abstaining from meat
- giving alms
Fasting and abstinence were always easy for me. Under Modern Catholic rules, we only fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This entails abstaining from meat, no eating between meals and 3 small meals. Catholics abstain from meat on Friday, allowing for fish. Giving alms is giving to the poor. Often we received Unicef boxes or extra charity was performed.
I don’t believe in New Years’ Resolutions. I am not sure I have any habit that is so horrific that this sort of resolution needs to be established. But, I do believe in Lent. I love Lent because it gives me a chance to refocus and challenge myself.
What Are You Giving Up For Lent?
The biggest part of Lent growing up was what you were going to give up. Our teachers included doing extra things under this category.
As a kid, we always gave up candy for Lent and Advent. I never understood Advent, but we did it anyways. As we became school age, we might pick other things to give up. Some kids gave up TV. Some gave up snacks. I gave up candy. We were already doing that one and as a kid, that was a tough enough!
As a young adult, I tried to give things up, but sometimes I didn’t really care. What did it really matter?
Now that I have school aged children, it has come to the forefront again.
What Are The Kids Giving Up For Lent?
My older two seven year olds, have jobs cleaning up neighbor’s dog poop. They are in the Pooper Scooper Industry. They get $5/week. They have agreed that 80% of their earnings go to charity. 20% is theirs to spend. In other words, they get a buck a week. For Lent, they created flyers that said in “Honor of Lent, their clients would receive one free week of their Pooper Scooper Services”. Funny, but it was their way of donating their time to help others.
Additionally, they have given up electronics two days a week. This means no Ipad, no Wii, no DS. I have had a few parents say, “That will be harder on you!” I agree. It is easy to watch kids that are heads down engrossed in a game. But, what a good way to unplug and do what we call ‘electronics free’ stuff. They aren’t doing perfectly as sometimes I forgot it is their electronic free day, but we are trying and they are challenged.
Electronics Free Isn't So Bad
What Do I Give Up For Lent?
A few years ago, I gave up pop. I am a pop drinker and this was a challenge. I kept it up afterwards but did start drinking pop again eventually. This year, my husband and I gave up alcohol. We are not heavy drinkers, but we do enjoy a drink when the kids go to bed. We have been going through a LOT of water. Luckily I was coming off a small bout with the stomach flu on St. Patrick’s Day and had no temptations to drink!
But Why Do I Love Lent?
It is supposed to be a time of mourning and preparation. Fewer songs are sung during mass. Weddings and Baptisms are not celebrated during these 40 days. Why am I so excited?
I like forty days of a challenge. It is a great way to test yourself. You can do anything or in many case NOT do anything for forty days. You would be surprised. I know a lot of people who have broken bad habits by giving up things for Lent.
I have a ton of Catholic friends on Facebook. That is what you get after thirteen years of parochial schools. I enjoyed watching what people listed as giving up for Lent. It was Facebook official. They told their social networking world what they were giving up. They were being held accountable. I had a Facebook friend the other day ask me how I was doing giving up alcohol. See what I mean. I am being held accountable.
I have a few friends giving up alcohol like me. I have a non-Catholic friend who is giving up something for the first time this year. After a walk one day and hearing me talk about what I was giving up, she decided to give up pop. How cool! She is doing great! Many said good bye to Facebook on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. They gave Facebook up for Lent. Now that would be a challenge!
Two Weeks Left!
So I have two weeks left of Lent. No drinks for me. No taking in daily masses for extra communion wine. I have been tempted but then I got another a glass of water. I am not saying I won’t have a drink on Easter either. But I do enjoy the challenge. I do enjoy a nice little check that my will power is bigger than my temptations. I do enjoy the sense of accomplishment for successfully achieving my Lenten goals.
Not sure what I will give up next year.
But I do know this. I love Lent because in preparing myself for Easter, I am also improving myself.
© 2012 Karen Lackey