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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Plans for Lent

I think Lent is my favorite time of year.

I love Christmas, too.
Christmas and Lent.

I remember being told by one of my grade school nuns that Easter should make us the most happy. Theologically speaking, yes.

I guess I am a winter person. I'm certainly always dressed for it.

Lent is just around the corner. It starts on the 21st of this month, so I want to get ahead of things and issue two warnings.

First, don't go berserk because it's about to be Lent and gorge yourself on things you are about to give up. New Orleans may need the tourist trade these days, but you don't need the girls gone wild. Or all those beads.

Second, think very carefully about what you are going to give up for Lent. The things people give up for Lent is a singular pet peeve of mine.

If you want to lose weight or quit smoking, do it on your own time. Lent isn't about looking better in your jeans or avoiding emphysema, although we wish you the best on both those counts.

Lent is about giving up something that will be a daily reminder of the fact that it's Lent. Then while you're thinking about the fact that it's Lent, maybe you'll remember what Lent is all about.

We're leading up to Jesus' death here, so we're thinking about why Jesus died and what he gave up for us. He died for our sins. Mel Gibson did a wonderful job of depicting what he gave up, subsequent drunken tirade not withstanding.

It would be great if you would stop biting your nails, but it's not going to cut it for Lent. You're not going to give up physical things for physical self help. You're going to give up physical things for spiritual self improvement.

And atonement.

Is there ever enough atonement?

Look around.


Only give up coffee if you don't need to cut down on your caffeine.

Here's a good rule of thumb: If the thing you want to give up has an "and besides" behind it, perhaps it's not the thing to give up, as in "I'm going to give up butter for Lent because I slather everything with butter....besides, it will help my cholesterol levels."

Although, if you slather butter on everything and not having it will kind of ruin the taste of your food as far as you're concerned and you could care less about your cholesterol level, than I say, give up the butter. But if the whole time you've given up the butter and your food is ruined and you keep thinking about how the doctor is going to clap you on the back and say, "Good job!", forget it. You have taken the wrong path to penitence.

And don't try to sidestep your plan. If you've decided to eat your oatmeal plain, with no brown sugar or milk or raisins or anything, and then you eat eggs half the time for breakfast, shame on you, you slacker. No one let up on Jesus.


DCMS said...

Why I love you, and love reading this blog, #487: This post. :)

Thank you.

DCMS said...

Helpful suggestions for the uncertain?

cattiekit said...

What I tend to do is fast from dawn to dusk. It (dusk, I mean) comes sooner this time of year than later on.

That's a GOOD thing.

Being wobbly is a fairly present reminder of Jesus' sacrifice, but passing out in public is unnecessarily showy. ;>)

Sister Mary Martha said...

Dear dcms, Since I don't know you it would be practically impossible to make suggestions. Except...maybe the cute boys from Jersey.

Kasia said...

Wow, cattiekit, you're more punk than me (so to speak). I still need to think about what to give up. I think it was fast food last year, or was it dining out? But - there was still an "and besides" attached. Which, as we (now) all know, is not a good thing.


Anonymous said...

I am going to try and give up detraction and coffee for Lent.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Sister, is it alright that I'm giving up anime for Lent?
It seems like a wierd penance, but anime is a big hobby of mine.

Elena said...

Here's a good rule of thumb: If the thing you want to give up has an "and besides" behind it, perhaps it's not the thing to give up, as in "I'm going to give up butter for Lent because I slather everything with butter....besides, it will help my cholesterol levels."

A good common sense rule Sister. Thanks!

wwjdfkb said...

You spoke of atonement. To atone for a wrong doing through penance of a confessional you also must put right what you did wrong. Should we not go and do rather then stay and give up?
My mother, in all her motherly wisdom, used to ask what's the use in giving up chocolate? We, my mother and I, don't beleive in a God who makes you tear your hair out when you forget and eat a piece of chocolate.
We believe in a God who smiles when we eat our choclate, and give some away too!(like as an extra treat for shutins, or the homeless, or even your roommate or coworker!) We focuse on positive, pro-active works of mercy. God told us to love one another.
one humble contribution for the mix of lenten repentance and atonement,

Fouquette Racing said...

Can you give some suggestions? In the past I have given up meat, shopping, gossiping & fighting with my mother. Now those seems wrong because of the "besides"...maybe not the meat one. It just seemed easy because it was just being vegetarian for a couple of months. I did miss barbeque sauce though...

Cris said...

Sister, I have added you to our homeschooling curriculum. It is so easy for me to say "Oh yeah, you don't think so? Go see what Sister Mary Martha has to say!" It is always good to have a back-up! thanks~

I do have a question... my daughter has decided to give up cranberry sauce (the jelly kind that makes that shhhllluuuup sound when you pound it out of the can) she loves it and we have it maybe once a week. Should I serve it more during lent or do I go easy on her and serve it less?

Also, is it true that you can partake in what you give up on Sundays? My sister says you can but I have always disliked that "rule" and my husband agrees. What is your take on that?

Anonymous said...

Cris said: Also, is it true that you can partake in what you give up on Sundays? My sister says you can but I have always disliked that "rule" and my husband agrees. What is your take on that?

Sister, I must second this question - I have heard that as well (a LOT) and I was never really sure about that rule...

The Big Seester

Amanda said...

Sister, you have many wonderful points in your blog today, but one question is, I always have a hard time thinking of something to give up for Lent. Most things have a "besides" factor to them. However I have been permissible to add extra time for prayer and reflection if one is unable to think of something to give up. Is this true as well?

Anonymous said...

Love your blog - its a regular on my blogging route: The following I cut out of my archdiocesan newspaper years ago and it hangs on my refrigerator - these are the best "giving up" for Lent that I can think of (and some of the hardest!)

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.


Kelly said...

I also would like your opinion on what I've seen suggested in every Catholic paper the past year or two. "Don't focus so much on the negative and give something up, instead be positive and add something such as reading the Scriptures for five minutes a day."

My instinct is that adding is fine, in addition to sacrifice, but that sacrifice should still be the point to Lent.

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
4andcounting said...

A couple of years ago I gave up reading anything that wasn't for my spiritual growth or benefit. I love to read, but I mostly read fiction. Nothing wrong with that, but I used Lent as a time to focus my reading on something with more meaning. I read parenting books, spiritual biographies, things like that. It was very hard for me.

By the way, the Sunday thing is true. Sundays are always feast days and you can break your fast/sacrifice for it.

Kasia said...

Well, I think I've decided. I will give up sarcasm for Lent.

Ergh. I'm already having second thoughts.

Incidentally, to clarify: Sister, when you were making the point about sidestepping your penitence, what if you ordinarily only eat oatmeal half the time? Or if I loooove oatmeal with brown sugar and milk, then maybe just not eating that is a penance? (I don't love it enough for that to work, but just a thought.)

I think my trouble with the "and besides" rule is that I'm a bit of an optimist, so I'm always looking for the silver lining. Maybe THAT'S what I need to give up for Lent...looking for silver linings...

Suzanne T. said...

Everything I can think of has an "and besides" next to it. Sometimes, the "and besides" is something like, "it will bring me closer to Jesus" so I figure those types of things to give up would be OK. I guess I am kinda like you, Kasia, looking for a silver lining.

cattiekit said...

kasia, if you give up sarcasm for Lent, then you *can't* read this blog!


Even *I* consider that a bit too extreme.

Reconsider. Maybe giving all your earthly possessions away to the poor instead would be a better choice. ;>D

cattiekit said...

wwjdfkb: God loves a cheerful giver(-up). :>)

cattiekit said...

fouquette racing -no reason you can't put BBQ sauce on your tofu loaf. ;>0

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

We talked about the "skipping Sundays" during lent because they "don't count" but my sister and I and our good friend who is becoming Catholic this Easter (pray for her!) all agree that skipping Sundays during lent is cheating. It's just a matter of opinion but when we were little our parents never even brought up the notion. Lent was lent. Period. If we had a "day of rest" from sacrifice then what the heck was the point of lent? I heard about this concept only as an adult and I couldn't believe my ears that people were given a break once a week during lent! As far as extra temptation goes, I wouldn't serve the shluppy cranberries more often but when I normally would serve it, I would ask my daughter if we should donate it to the food shelf instead. That way it's a reminder of sacrifice and also a good deed. Just a thought.

Kasia said...

Ooh, good point, Cattiekit. I was thinking of giving up USING sarcasm - as in, not making sarcastic statements - which would be incredibly difficult for me as it is. In fact, reading sarcasm on blogs and not responding in kind might be sort of an extra-good penance, like giving up meat and still walking past the BBQ restaurant.

But wait. Would that be a near occasion of sin then?

cattiekit said...


Hmmmmm......that's a tough one. (think think think)

Perhaps we need the wisdom of SMM on that one.

It kind of ranks up there with shlupping out the jellied cranberry sauce in front of the daughter who's denying herself the cranberry sauce!

A veritable quandary. :>{

Ray Ward said...

Way back in my seminary days, there was a fellow seminarian who went on a fast about a week before Ash Wednesday. When Lent arrived, he went back to normal eating. When I asked him about his fast, he said, "I gave it up for Lent."

He did not continue much longer in his studies.

wwjdfkb said...

p.s. I sounded quite holier-than-thou. I was coming out of the classroom of 9th graders I teach. Ignore the sappoy-preachy quality. My students are doing everything from giving a quarter everyday to me to donate to charity, to putting my name on a piece of tape on their video controllers( so they will think twice and only play video games once a day). They didn't think putting "Jesus" would work. They needed things aloth more regulated.
ah from the mouths of babes. Perhaps in the future they will be bale to grow and do on their own.

Stephanie said...

Your post is harsh. What if someone who smokes wants to quit BECAUSE they like to smoke about 15x a day, and that by quitting, they find they are continually drawn to Jesus, the source of true freedom. Judge not lest you be judged, let the Spirit work in people's hearts, and if by abstaining from emotional eating they find themselves drawn to Jesus, would that not be a good thing.

Perhaps the way your post came across was the problem. But, I believe it is the Spirit that must lead, and we can not see the intentions of people's hearts.

S. Gonzales

Jen said...

I agree with Stephanie, in the above comment, that the Lord ultimately leads us to what our Lenten sacrifice should be. But I have also given up things in the past that were probably more selfish than they should have been.

This year, I am focusing on eating properly - meaning, I am following the signals God gave my body to eat ONLY when I am hungry and then ONLY enough to satisfy me. I am a chronic emotional eater and overeater. I love food, and if I love anything more than Jesus, my priorities are obviously in the wrong place. So far, this has been the most joyful Lent I have had (I usually dread it.) It's the grace of God to be able to change my ways and in the moment of temptation, to turn to the Lord and affirm that He is enough for me.

My focus, too, is to make a spiritual change for life, so I don't intend to stop relying on the Lord in this area at the end of Lent. But in the context of Lent, it is definitely a sacrifice and it is a reminder of the extent of my sinfulness.

And yes, I probably will lose weight, but it's more important for me to be putting the Lord first in my life.

:) Jen

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