Do you normally “give up” something for Lent? I know a lot of my Protestant brothers and sisters do, while others do not. Even those of us for whom this is common practice may not understand exactly why we give up something for Lent. Sure, it can be tied to penance. Perhaps a small symbol of the suffering Christ endured for us.

The three pillars of Lent- prayer, fasting and almsgiving- do not really address the practice of “giving up” something. Fasting is similar but is its own practice. But what are the purposes of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as well as the practice of “giving up?” Quite simply: to bring us closer to God. No matter how close we believe we are to God, there are always obstacles. As long as we are here on earth something will keep us from being completely with Him. Lent is a time to bring us closer to God.

Prayer. Do we spend enough time in prayer? Even if we prayed 24 hours a day, would it be enough? As we add prayer- as we focus more intently on our prayers- we get a little closer to God. So, this year I am adding more prayer to my daily life. Not just prayers of petition, but adoration, thanksgiving and reparation, as well.  During Advent I added Daily Mass.  For Lent I am keeping up my Daily Mass attendance and adding a rosary, or other prayer, each day. 

Fasting. Besides prayer, exercises of devotions and charity, and denying oneself (“giving up”), Canon Law prescribes abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1434-1439 and Code of Canon Law 1249-1254) Fasting during Lent consists of one full meal and two lighter meals, not to equal one full meal, to maintain one's strength. We are to consider the pangs of hunger as a reminder during Lent of our hunger for God. I already abstain from meat so I will fast on Fridays during Lent.

Almsgiving. Charity. This is such an important pillar. As we do for others we become closer to God. Isn't this what Jesus did? Almsgiving just makes sense. I will add some act of charity every day. It might seem like a small gesture but I believe it will make a difference.  Can you think of small acts of charity to perform daily during Lent?

Now to the “giving up.” My suggestion for someone who is considering what to give up for Lent is to think about what might be coming between you and God. One year I gave up coffee. Yup. You might think that coffee is not big enough to come between a person and God. It is.

Daily, before I gave up coffee for Lent, I would proclaim, “I love coffee!” I would drink it every day. I would spend between $2 and $5 a day on that precious cup. I would have conversations with other coffee lovers that could last half an hour. Did that come between God and me? Consider that I could have proclaimed every day, “ I love Jesus!” I could have taken that money and donated it to any worthy charity. The coffee lovers and I could have spent that 30 minutes talking about God; the Scripture reading of the day; what Father's homily meant to us last Sunday. So, I gave up coffee. Every time I was around someone who had been to Starbucks, the scent would be a reminder of this small offering of my suffering.  On Easter I drove right past an open Starbucks as I headed over to my family's house for lunch.  Not long after, I did finally enjoy a cup of coffee again, but I knew to give thanks for such a luxury.

So I wonder, what are you doing for Lent? Are you giving up anything?  Adding prayer and/or charitable acts to your day?  We have a few more days to discern this.  Some people do not share this information, feeling it is between them and God.  If, however, you don’t mind sharing I’d love to hear (read) what you’re doing.  Especially if you can tell us how what you are giving up comes between you and God right now, I think it might help others who are still “preparing for Lent.” 

Please post your comment here or on the Preparing for Lent group page (soon to be Lent 2011).

Lent 2011 Discussion Page, FaceBook group.  

If you have not joined our group, please do so!  We'd love to have you!

Lent 2011, FaceBook group.



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    Beth Anne

    throws metal with mittens on in the dead of winter and listens to the cold as it echoes down the streets and into her bones.


    March 2011