The Mardi Gras celebration has come and gone, which can only mean one thing – Lent is upon us. Known to many as the season of abstaining from candy and being forced to attend a fish fry on Friday nights, it’s often brushed off and turns into a time of simply going through the motions.
To an extent, most of us are guilty of this. We are raised with a beginner’s version of Lent as children. Kids are commended for giving up soft drinks or not fighting with their siblings for 40 days, and then they immediately resume their pre-Lenten ways on Easter Sunday. By the time we transition into adulthood, this has become a habit and the meaning of the Lenten season is forgotten.
In simple terms, Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. Catholics are called to pray, serve, and fast. Each of these helps us connect with the suffering of Jesus and his 40 days of prayer in the desert without food or water.
While giving up candy may be beneficial to our health, it’s not extremely beneficial to our spiritual health. We aren’t called to abstain from something so we become better people for 40 days but to begin a conversion into becoming better versions of ourselves and embrace a new way of living. Luckily, there are things we can do to make sure we do not lose sight of our goal.
Instead of giving something up, some find more meaning in making a promise to do something. Math teacher Stacey Berling suggests a creative way to donate to the less fortunate while simultaneously becoming less materialistic. “Sometimes my husband and I pick out one article of clothing from our closets each day of Lent and donate it at the end of the season,” Berling said.
Another idea Berling suggested helps look at each day with a new perspective. “One thing I do is keep an Expo marker in my bathroom and write an inspirational note on the mirror every night,” Berling said. “Then I can wake up every morning with a positive attitude instead of dreading the day.”
However, if one prefers to go the traditional route of abstaining from something, there are many ways to make it a meaningful act that will hopefully become a daily part of living and a habit that will transition into everyday life.
One way to do this is to give up time. Make a list of forty people who are important to you and write a letter to one person on the list each day. At the end of the season, deliver the letters and let those people know how much they mean to you or how they have touched your life.
Yet another unconventional sacrifice is noise. Try to not listen to the radio in the car on the drive to school in the morning. Doing this will help eliminate distractions and allow one to focus on his or her surroundings. It might be surprising that someone can notice new things on the same commute they make each day.
Regardless of which option one prefers, it is vital that the meaning of the season is not forgotten. Lent is a time of preparation, but not preparation to eat an abundance of chocolate and jelly beans on Easter Sunday. Perhaps putting more thought and creativity into Lenten promises will help Catholics make the most out of this special time.