Lent should mean more than just fasting

Just giving something up for Lent without service or prayer fails to fully capture the spirit of Lent.

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by Alexandra Frisch, Staff Writer

Growing up in a Catholic family, one of my earliest memories involving the Catholic Church was the practice of giving something up for Lent. For me, this usually took the form of giving up chocolate or not drinking soda for the 40 day Lenten period. I understood that Lent was a time to prepare for Easter, but I couldn’t figure out how avoiding junk food for 40 days was supposed to have a spiritual effect. Now, as a 16 year old, I feel that it was time to finally look into the reasons behind a tradition that has more or less been part of my life since my preschool days.

According to Catholic Online, “Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever.” The origins of giving up something up for Lent come from the biblical tradition of fasting, a practice designed to bring people closer to God. The practice of giving something up for Lent was originally meant to help us recognize and be thankful for the abundance of blessings in our lives. If this practice helps you to do this, then that’s wonderful – but if you’re like me and you just do it so you can say you gave something up, there may be better and more spiritual options to help celebrate the Lenten season.

If you’re like me and you just do it so you can say you gave something up, there may be better and more spiritual options to help celebrate the Lenten season.”

Kicking the habit of eating junk food or drinking soda may be something that helps achieve a personal good but does little to help others. As said by the early Christian Mystic John Chrysostom, “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” Even Pope Francis has asked Catholics this Lenten season to give up the sin of indifference to our neighbors rather than a more traditional sacrifice, saying that “one of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalization of indifference… Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Giving up something small for Lent can be a very good thing if you feel it brings you closer to God, but without deeper thought or without service to the dear neighbor, it is possible to miss the point of Lent entirely.