Ash Wednesday is coming up fast, and I have to confess something. The internet has introduced me to a bunch of people who use each Lent to grow as Catholics, but I fear I am not one of those people. I try. I do, I try. But the truth is I hate Lent. I don’t LIKE to make sacrifices and think about my sins. And as for fasting… well let me say that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the only two days when I miss being pregnant, because pregnant women aren’t supposed to fast.
A few years ago I tried to come up with something more creative to give up for Lent than the usual chocolate or cookies, something that would help me get closer to God. I’ve had years and years of practice in giving up sweets and I honestly don’t think I get that much out of it anymore. My first idea was to give up all fiction with the idea that I’d read spiritual books instead. And I did not read a scrap of fiction for those six weeks! However, I mostly used my fiction-reading time to watch more TV. Not exactly in the spirit of things. Last year I theoretically gave up checking Twitter in the evenings. I think I may have stuck to that, but I also may have been a bit fluid on my definition of “evening.”
But what can I do but continue to try? This year, I am going to do the fiction/spiritual reading thing again. I think the key to success on this front is to find spiritual books that aren’t too terribly dense, or I may find myself once again surfing the internet and watching TV instead of reading. I already bought The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning on the recommendation of Miriel and Susie, The Shadow of his Wings on the recommendation of Jennifer at Conversion Diary, and I plan to buy Jennifer’s own book as well. If you have anything to suggest, I would love to hear it. I have read appallingly few books of this type, so suggest anything, even if you think it’s something I must have read by now.
What are your Lenten plans? Do you give things up? Does doing so help you grow in your faith?
It definitely makes me feel better there are others out there who just "don’t LIKE to make sacrifices and think about my sins." I mean, of course, I assume most people don't, but others that have a hard time getting over that barrier.
I think the reading idea sounds nice and with the fun books you've picked, very doable! I can't wait until Jennifer Fulweiler's comes out.
Here via Conversion Diary. Hi.
I was raised Roman Catholic, and I rather enjoyed Lent when I was Catholic. one year I gave up reading celebrity gossip websites, another year I gave up meat. I always found it a nice exercise in practicing simplicity. And then my family and I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, which I otherwise love, except that I now truly despise Lent. There I said it. We are meant to give up all meat, dairy, and eggs, plus olive oil (?) and wine. Plus you are "supposed to" give up tv and secular music, and depending on who you talk to, married couples are meant to refrain from, ahem, relations. (Yeah I bet that happens. right.) In short, I feel like we are supposed to give up pretty much everything. I am going to straight up admit that I, a 39 year old woman, basically threw a fit this morning over how upset I was about Lent.
Not trying to say "nah nah nah my religion is so much more holy and ascetic than yours" (it's not; we just have different traditions)... just that oh boy, do I get what you're saying. (Actually, some Orthodox, especially converts, can be a wee bit prideful about all the fasting, which we are not supposed to draw attention to. Which I just did. It's ok, though, because I am really bad at it. I cheat all the time.)
I do rather like the idea of giving up plain old gossip. That might be even harder than becoming a strict vegan.
By the by, you could always add something (more prayer, random acts of kindness) if you prefer. According to church tradition, prayer and almsgiving are equally important as fasting, but tend to be forgotten.
Good luck, and know that you do not suffer alone. sorry this was so long. Clearly I have some strong feelings about Lent!
So I get this little monthly booklet called "Give Us This Day," which makes morning and evening prayer really easy (it's all right there!), and has nifty little things to read. I've fallen off that wagon, so I'm going to try to get back on.
Also, I might use this as an excuse to buy the next James Martin S.J. book I've had my eye on. Goes against the sacrifice thing, but I love what he writes. (If you haven't read "My Life with the Saints" or "The Jesuits' Guide to (Almost) Everything," you might really enjoy them.)
Haven't figured out what, if anything, to give up. I might try to get a handle on my late-night munchies. I like the idea of things like giving away or tossing "40 bags in 40 days," but I think I'd fail in the first week (which is why I stay away from FlyLady, come to think of it).
I think what will help me is to get over the idea that it has to be Something Really Good, or Something That Will Really Change Me. That's a lot of pressure for a woman who just put away the last of the Christmas stuff.
Oh! I forgot. Last year, I read an easy little book that used St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises as a basis for Lent thoughts. It was helpful because it was SMALL each day, and if I missed a day, I could still get back in.
Another book I've found helpful all year round: Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Every once in a while, I hit one that makes me think, "Yeah, no, not in a million years would that fly in my house/life/etc." but mostly, I like it a lot. Each day gives you three items: Think, Pray, Act.
And finally, I think James might be old enough this year for me to pull out this book I got a few years ago: A Family Journey with Jesus Through Lent.
Living Lent vicariously through one's child. That's me. ;-)
Our Pastor has told us, his parishioners, how much God loves us. "Even you and you and you." I have to believe this is so true when he has blessed us with children that fill my heart with happiness. I think God likes it when anyone gives others happiness and maybe that is what Lent is for. When we love others, we are giving back some of the love we've received.
Love from your Anonymous Mom
The readings, extra prayers, self denials are ways to help us do that "other people loving". Sometimes we are slow learners so we need extra help.
More love from your Anonymous Mom
Cloister Walk and/or Amazing Grace both by Kathleen Norris. Though I really like your list a lot; and think you have the right plan. Worked well for me last year.
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