I grew up attending Catholic schools, and being Catholic will always be part of my identity. I don’t ever claim to be religious though, I had a very Catholic extended family, but my parents never forced me to go to Church or to give up anything for Lent. I always did though, because I was taught in school from a very young age that Lent was about sacrifices. I did the routine “give up” of candy and soft drinks, but now that I’m older that seems trivial.
I always wonder if people use Lent as an excuse to give up junk food or swearing, almost treating it as a second attempt at new year’s resolution but on a smaller scale. I never really understood how me giving up something, that obviously I could live without, was me showing appreciation for what Jesus did for us. On Fridays during Lent in New Orleans, we eat crawfish or fried catfish instead of chicken or hamburgers, so that doesn’t really seem like a sacrifice either, so the questions in my mind became even more prevalent.
To me it has always seemed like giving up something you liked was necessary because your religion teacher told you so, but I think Lent should be about sacrificing something real or changing to become a better person. If you swear and gossip all day with your friends, but give up meat on Fridays, I don’t see how that is doing anything to show appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice. I think focusing on something to better yourself is what Lent should truly be about, it should be something that actually contributes to your religious beliefs and the mission of the Church.
Why not volunteer at a soup kitchen on a weekend morning or clean out your closet and bring all those old clothes to Goodwill? I think there are many more productive things that could be done during the 40 days of Lent than trying to tame your sweet tooth.
What do you think? What kinds of things do you during Lent that support the mission of the Catholic church?