So for us Catholic folk, today is the start of the Lenten Season and is called Ash Wednesday. Most people know little about this time (including Catholics), other than the fact that everyone gives up chocolate and can’t eat meat on Fridays.
I seriously think for about 10 years in a row I did say I was giving up either chocolate or candy. Plus I was totally that person who would always forget and would end up eating meat on Fridays. I really took things seriously, huh?
What is Lent really about?
As I’ve gotten older and more into my faith again, I’ve attempted to learn a little bit more about Lent in order to make the time more meaningful. As with all aspects of my life, my understanding of the Catholic Church and the development of my faith is very much a work in progress. But here is what I now understand to be true:
1) Lent is essentially about renewing our baptismal promises and reminding ourselves what our commitment to God and giving of ourselves really means. It is not as simple as just giving up something for 40 days.
2) Lent is also about conversion. I gave up chocolate all those years because I knew it would all lead up to a boatload of candy in my Easter basket at the end of it all. Looking back, I see how this misses the point. It is not supposed to necessarily be about giving up some material type item for 40 days and then reintroducing it on Easter Sunday. Nowadays I aim to give up some sort of bad habit/sin that I would like to remove from my life for more than 40 days…something I would like to change about myself forever! Easier said than done, I know…but it is all about putting your best foot forward. If it wasn’t difficult, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice, would it?
3) We are supposed to not eat meat on Fridays. Yes, this is true. However, what most people do not realize (or ignore) is that we are also supposed to fast. This is not meant to be a day without eating any food, but it should be a day where you eat very conservatively. Technically, the Catholic church says that we should only have one normal meal and 2 small meals (which combined should be less than the main meal). And no snacking between meals.
4) The fasting and no meat rules do not apply to just Fridays, but to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well.
5) The whole idea of giving something up for Lent has been somewhat misconstrued over the years. It is a time to demonstrate sacrifice…that part is true. But that is only one part. We should really be focusing on 3 parts of Lenten observance:
*Fasting and abstinence – this is the giving something up part; this is also the actual semi-fasting that we do on certain days during Lent
*Prayer – committing to improve some part of your prayer life
*Almsgiving – showing our gratefulness for our own blessings by helping those in need
So today I am fasting. So far, I’ve had a power bar (low carb, 200 calories) for breakfast and a tuna sandwich for lunch. We are having tilapia with brown rice and steamed broccoli for dinner. It’s not really a fast as one might picture it. But it does require me to be much more mindful of the day and its importance.
My lenten observances are:
*Fasting – I will be attempting to stop talking about people in a negative way. Every time I get the urge to say something negative about someone else, I will stop and say a prayer for them instead. I’ve attempted this before and was incredibly surprised how often I pick out negatives about other people. It is definitely something I need to work on.
*Prayer – I have begun saying a daily rosary again recently as well as praying before bed, praying before meals and saying prayers with my daughter each night. I will use Lent as a time to focus on continuing to stick to that promise of developing that part of my life. Also, I would like to read one religious book for prayer/reflection. If anyone has any good suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
*Almsgiving – I am going to give a donation to anyone who is asking for charity. There are always people outside our grocery store asking for money and I gave some the first couple of times I passed by when we moved to this neighborhood a year ago. I have, however, basically refused to give for the last 11 1/2 months because, “I already gave!” or “How do I know they are a legitimate charity anyway?” or some other excuse to help kill my guilt. So I guess my point is, that is not what Jesus would do. So I am going to try to have a more giving heart and a less cynical one. My husband is already having a hard time with this one…haha.
We are also going this afternoon to Ash Wednesday Mass to get our ashes. I’m excited to take Caleigh for the first time!
What are you doing for Lent?