By Clara Garcia, Columnist
As a pre-teen, I remember having conversations with my Catholic and Protestant friends regarding the season of Lent. It went something like this, “What are YOU giving up for Lent this year?” The typical answers were junk food, sweets, soda, TV, and later on, Facebook or social media in general. This “giving up” improved our self-discipline at a young age, and to some extent, it purified us and taught us that sacrifice and detachment were possible, even only for 40 days.
As Ash Wednesday approaches, we reflect upon our lives and ask ourselves what we may be “giving up” for Lent this year. I would now like to pose a deeper question: What is the purpose of Lent and why do we “give up” something to begin with?
Lent is a season during the Catholic Church’s liturgical year which honors the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert with no food or water. Although we as humans may not be able to go to that extreme, it is specifically a time for us to “purge” ourselves of the things which may be taking up the place of God in our daily lives. As the Lent season concludes on Easter Sunday, we have gone through this period of prayer and fasting in order to prepare ourselves for the greatest feast of the Catholic Church. This means that Lent is a time for us to grow in a closer union with Christ through prayer and sacrifice.
It is important to pair our prayer with this sacrifice in order that we may focus on the true intention and purpose of Lent. For example, if we decide to give up sweets for Lent because we want to lose weight, we are missing the main purpose of Lent and why we are going through this bodily mortification. To fix this perspective, we could offer a prayer every time we have an urge to eat sweets and give that little sacrifice to God. Since the Lent season is approaching, I have prayerfully put together a list of ideas to help us think of what we should do this year for Lent along with a spiritual reminder. Rather than thinking of what we are “giving up” for God, we can meditate on what we are going to “give” to God instead. Here is a list of things you should really give and give up for Lent.
- Depending on caffeine and energy drinks to get you through the day. Instead, go to bed early and set a bedtime during Lent to stick to so you won’t need that extra “energy.” It’s better for your health anyway. And when you are tired, pray and ask God to give you the strength to make it through your day.
- Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Instead, pray a Hail Mary for the conversion of souls every time you crave them.
- Binge watching Netflix. Instead, find a good spiritual book and pray the Examen from St. Ignatius to reflect upon your day. https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/19076/examen-prayer-card
- Mindless and endless cursing. Really guys, what would Jesus think if He was there every time you spat out those expletives? Instead, ask God to help you hold your tongue and think of more eloquent words to say. And sorry friends, you can’t replace these with saying “Jesus” or “God” in your sentences. This form of speech is also included as a “no”. You’ll be surprised when you realize how much you do it.
Not going to daily Mass because you “have too much to do” or you “don’t feel like it.” Instead, GO TO MASS!!! Jesus is waiting to see your beautiful souls and faces!!!
- Not going to adoration when you know you should. Instead, just go, even if it’s for 10 minutes. Jesus is eager to see you and He wants to spend time with you! Just as we spend time with a person in a relationship to get closer to him or her, we must spend more time with Jesus to have that personal relationship with Him as well. Just talk to Jesus with your heart; you can do it!
- Making up excuses not to go to Mass and adoration. Instead…okay I think you get the idea.
- Not paying attention during Mass and thinking about food and basketball (since football season just ended)…oh yeah. Instead, try reading the readings before you go to Mass so you have an idea of what will be going on during the liturgy. Still struggling? Pray for the intercession of the saints to help you focus. One of my favorite saints for this is St. Joseph Cupertino. Awesome guy, you should check him out! https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/19076/examen-prayer-card
- Snacking in between meals. Seriously, we do it more than we think. Instead, pray an Our Father to deliver you from the anxiety of constantly needing food.
- Warm showers. What?! Yep, you heard that right. Instead, offer this sacrifice for a soul who needs prayer.
- Pressing the snooze button and/or checking your messages and phone right when you wake up. Instead, offer up your day and say a small prayer like, “Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will.” You can also log onto apps such as Laudate or the daily readings app and start off your day with the Word of God.
- Snapchat and Instagram Filters. Instead, thank and praise God for the beauty that surrounds you each day.
- Underage drinking, drinking, vaping, and partying. Francis DeSales says that our actions are either bringing us closer to God or farther away from Him. In other words, if we are doing nothing to get closer to God, than we are really drawing farther away from Him. Instead, pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily to recognize God’s infinite mercy in your life. Also, try to find other things to do like #5 and #6. http://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php
- Dating. Yes, actually—meaning that if you aren’t in a relationship, take this time to fast from dating and to build a stronger relationship with our Lord. Instead, pray for your future vocation and spouse whether it be another human or Christ and His Church. While doing this, also work on how you can be a better future spouse as well.
- Hooking up, spending the night with the opposite sex, and anything within those blurred lines. This includes all things which will negatively affect the purity of our bodies, minds, and souls. Not only do these things lead us to sin, but they affect us in the long term, as much as we think they won’t. Why not try to make some better God-centered choices? Instead, look back at #13 and #14.
- Mindlessly surfing the web or watching random YouTube videos. Again, what would Jesus think if He was in the room? Instead, pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to give you strength and do some push-ups and sits-ups while you’re at it! https://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/michael.htm
- Negative self-talk and false humility. My friends, Jesus loves you and your identity is held with Him—as vacation-bible-school cliché as it sounds. Instead, pray the Litany of Humility so that we may understand what God is asking of us through this virtue. https://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/humility.htm
- Making crazy plans for your future and not trusting in God. Instead, pray the Litany of Trust. http://www.sistersoflife.org/litany-of-trust
- Not praying the Rosary because “it’s too long” and “you don’t feel like it.” Instead, try to begin praying it in small portions. One decade…two decades…etc. And don’t leave it till 12am when you will fall asleep! http://www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm#loaded
- Social media. Okay, we are talking anything of the “social media” world. Maybe there is one platform you check more than others? Don’t give up Facebook when you really spend most of your time on Snapchat. (You know who you are.) Instead, send out a message to everyone that you will be off limits for the next 40 days. It’s a wonderful witness to the faith. Do what you have to do: delete the app from your phone or tablet, keep your phone away from you when going to bed, read a book, etc… And when you feel tempted to download the app or check it, say a decade of the Rosary to get you distracted from the urge. We don’t need the world, we need Jesus.
- Not wearing your scapular or religious medals. Come on my friends, if you love Jesus be proud! Instead, wear them—it’s not too hard. If they are blessed, you will be carrying that blessing close to your heart at all times.
- Saying “I’ll pray for you,” and not really doing it. Instead, be responsible for the words and things you say and be true to yourself. If you have a hard time with prayer and remembering, invest in a prayer journal and write down your intentions and meditations for the day.
- Procrastinating your school work and chores. Instead, figure out what you do that makes you procrastinate in the first place. Is it any of the above like #20, #16, or #3? Try building better habits and making a rewards system for yourself. If you struggle with your schoolwork, offer it as a prayer and ask for help when you are in need. Asking for help will also help you grow in humility, so if you need help, just ask.
- Getting spiritual books and letting them sit on your shelf. Instead, Lent could be a great time to read them. If you have no idea where to start, I recommend reading the lives of saints or adding some lectio divina or liturgy of the hours to your day. Get reading!
- Wearing makeup or changing your outfit 10x a day. If you struggle with vanity, this is a good one for you. Instead, pick out the outfit you will wear for the whole day and put on moisturizer and Chapstick to keep a clean look. Ask God to help you look at your soul and the beauty that lies within you this Lent.
- Not going to confession because it’s scary. Instead, go to confession. There will be a feast in Heaven when you do, and remember Jesus is the one present there at the confessional when you confess. As St. Padre Pío says, “The sinner who is sorry for his sins is closer to God than the just man who boasts of his good works.”
- Sweets and putting sweetener in your coffee. Instead, offer this sacrifice for the conversion of souls. You never know, maybe you’ll acquire a taste for black coffee, too.
- Complaining and gossiping. Again, is this bringing you closer to God? Instead, do an Examination of Conscience every night to reflect upon your life in these areas. Also, look at #3.
- Not working out because you “don’t feel like it,” and you’re “too tired.” Instead, make the workout a prayer. Offer a prayer before and after the workout and acknowledge that taking care of yourself is taking care of the temple God gave you.
- Constantly keeping your earbuds in. Instead, listen to the sounds of God’s creation around you. And if you need to listen to something, try going for Christian music to keep your focus on God this Lent.
Although there are more things you can do, this is just a starting list to get you thinking. Big or small, the sacrifice you make should remind you of Jesus’s suffering on the cross. Remember to keep your eyes on our Lord, He never fails us, and He never will. So now, ask Jesus to help you make the right decision this Lent in order to grow closer to Him. God Bless!