It's official. We've got less than a week to decide what to give up for Lent. For some of us (who may or may not have just finally decided what our New Year's Resolution will be) we approach this coming week with a bit of anxiety and indecisiveness, and then at the last possible minute, resign ourselves to our “classic” Lenten sacrifice, the go-to penance that we return to year after year, whether that’s forgoing chocolate, soda, coffee, snacks, or the like. But this could really be our year! (It IS the Year of Faith, after all!)
Before we commit ourselves to our Lenten penances and resolutions, let’s examine the purpose of this annual journey. During this holy season we prepare for Easter and the renewal of our baptism through penance, where we join with Christ in suffering for our sins. It can help to imagine that during this time we are standing with Mary at the foot of the Cross, consoling Jesus with our small sacrifices. In those small sacrifices, we let go of things that we enjoy, that bring us comfort, so that we can make room in our hearts for the ultimate Good and Comfort that is Jesus. These sacrifices strengthen our will so that we can say NO! to sin and YES! to the good, and they unite us with the poor, in whom we meet our Savior.
If you haven’t made a resolution yet, we challenge you to take the next week to contemplate what you should give up for 40 days, what will make you most aware of your standing at the foot of the Cross.
Looking for some ideas? So are we! To the web we go! Head over to Facebook or Twitter and ask your friends and followers what was the best and most fruitful Lenten sacrifice they ever made? Do YOU have a good one? Share it with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll compile a list on Facebook and here at this post, as a sort of “Who’s Who” of Lenten sacrifices, to inspire and challenge you to make this the most fruitful Lent yet. So share a little inspiration, and check back in to be inspired.
UPDATE: Here are some of the great ideas that have been coming in, and a few links with even more great Lenten penances. Happy reading!
My family gave up artificial lights including computers and phones one day a week. We lit candles to see once the sun went down. It forced to do only what is necessary. And spend more time together as a family huddled around candles. It was surprising how we changed that lent.
One year I gave up wearing make-up! I was really attached to wearing it and it did not help with issues of vanity and pride. Ever since that year I don’t really wear make-up anymore! I’ve learned to appreciate my inner beauty more and not care so much about the way I look on the outside!
Last year I gave up “snooze.” It was so hard! Each morning rather than hitting snooze I made myself jump out of bed, kiss the floor, and make my bed. It was humbling, but made me more ready for the beautiful day God graces us with each morning. And for some reason I was no longer late to anything…
My senior year of high school I gave up criticizing others. It was very difficult, but eventually I got in the habit of saying something nice about the person I wanted to criticize, or telling myself that perhaps there was a good reason for their behavior (for example, that person who cut me off in traffic: maybe his wife’s in labor and they’re racing to the hospital!)
One year, I gave up coffee for Lent. In the immortal words of Short Round, “big mistake, Docta Jones!” My coworkers, who, like me arrive to work in morning radio long before normal people are awake, can tell you I wasn’t the most agreeable person to be around that Lent. In terms of penances that have worked, I once gave up video games for Lent. This was during the height of my Mario Kart/Lego Star Wars phase, so it was definitely a sacrifice. Suffice to say, when I’m stuck in traffic, I no longer feel the desire to fire a red shell at the car in front of me that’s blocking my progress. (from our friend, Matt Swaim)
I gave up all social media last year and plan on doing it again this year. #Face2FaceOnly
I gave up all food and drink except bread and water.
I double all my tips during Lent. If I get poor service, I triple it.
One year I gave up my watch for Lent. I had gotten into the habit of checking it allllll the time. I kept catching myself checking my empty wrist all that Lent, but instead of reaching for the cell phone or finding another clock, I’d offer up whatever I was doing. I’ve now been watch-free for 7 years.
In 2003 my friends and I gave up going out to eat.
I once heard of someone giving up socks for Lent. I feel like that was way more of a penance for the people around them.
I gave up criticizing my kids, seems easy right? What loving mom “criticizes’ her kids? I did! little stuff…..”You are so messy when you brush your teeth”, “you’re so grumpy’, “you’re so mean to each other” <—–(sibling fights). I wanted to stop making declarations about who they were….”you are so_______.” and start being more positive. ” You are such a loving boy, I’d like you to show more of that to your sister please.” “You make your bed so nice and tidy (not really but he tries!) I’d like for you try that hard with the toothpaste please.” IT WAS REALLY HARD, Sometimes I had to stretch pretty hard to find a good quality, seriously, kids are rough sometimes! But I figure I am no different to Christ. I’m sure I have days that He has to struggle to see the “HIM” in me through all my sin.
A mom & 3 of her kids gave up meat last year, having been inspired by their pastor, who had done it in the past.
I gave up meat one year and that was super tough. Last year I prayed a rosary in the morning, Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 when I got out of school, and evening vespers before i went to bed. This year I’m reaching out to one person a day in some form of communication (fb message, text, call, handwritten letter, whatever) and letting them know what a blessing they have been in my life. I’m really excited!
One year I sent 3 ‘snail mail’ cards per week to friends/family (particularly those that I knew might need a little encouragement). It was a great way to bring a little joy into someone else’s life I’ve tried to keep up with sending mail to others, even if it’s not quite as regular as it was during lent.
I’m a voracious reader, but I could do a lot better with my spiritual readings. This Lent, I am giving up my favorite pastime and reading all other books except for the Bible and daily Scripture readings.
One year, I prayed for a different person each day. In addition to praying for the person, I also wrote them a letter and told them that I was praying for them and why they were a significant influence in my life. The real sacrifice for me was making the time to write the letter. In addition to praying for my immediate family members and church friends, I also reached out and offered prayers of forgiveness for some people I was estranged from.
When our young family moved to Ft. Wayne, we started going to Mass 2 extra times per week. Great effort with 4 little children, but the Sacrifice has turned into Great Grace. We have continued this weekday practice now for 14 years. Be open to God’s grace this lent!
Looking for more great ideas?
We LOVE this list from Lifeteen.com
Still need more ideas? Here’s a list of 101 Lenten ideas.