We interrupt our regular “Blessed Are The Merciful” series to bring you this Lenten edition. 😀
So Lent begins officially on Wednesday. That’s tomorrow. Traditionally, these 40 days before Easter are dedicated to fasting, alms giving and prayer. The model is Christ’s example; he spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying. Most people remember the fasting; not everyone remembers giving alms and using the season to deepen our prayer life.
And when we say fasting, people automatically think of food. Then there are all the various modes of fasting as practiced by the various denominations. 6am to 6pm fasting, one-large-meal per day fasting, dry fasting (no liquids, no food), one normal-sized meal per day and liquids (Milo, Lucozade etc.) to supplement… I could go on.
For clarity, these are the rules for fasting in the Catholic Church:
- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are prescribed days of fasting and abstinence (from the flesh of all animals except fish) for Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59. The ill, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt. The age of abstinence is 14 years till death.
- Every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence.
- The prescribed fasts entail one full, meatless meal that day. Liquids are permitted but the faithful are encouraged to be guided by their consciences. Two smaller, meatless and penitential meals are permitted according to one’s needs, but they should not together equal the one full meal. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
Other churches might have a different code. Confirm with your pastor/deacon.
But fasting and abstinence don’t have to be about food alone. Giving up licit pleasures and bad habits are another way to mortify ourselves this season. Some people prefer to discipline themselves and take up new, helpful habits. The choices are many, the benefits worthwhile. In the end, it is a time for renewing our baptismal vows, for reflecting on our conversion and our vocation as Christians and children of God. We are God’s children! We don’t often act like we know it, sometimes our lifestyles are indistinguishable from that of pagans. Lent is an opportunity to rectify this and let the life of Christ shine through. Let’s do it!
Just in case you’re stumped and haven’t figured out what to give up yet, here are a few ideas.
Things To Root Out
- Bragging/showing off
- Judging People
- Comparing yourself to others
- Impure TV shows, books, movies, music (Clean up your iTunes, your hard disk, your PC)
Things to sacrifice
- Favorite snacks / sodas
- Social media
- Make up
- Nail polish
- Social events
- Secular music
- The snooze button
- Fast/junk food
- Your pillow
- Your bed (sleep on the floor)
- Hot showers/baths
- Staying up late (give yourself a bedtime and stick to it)
- Your favorite colour
- Using your phone during meals or when with people
- Give up all drinks except water
Pray some more daily
- Don’t use your phone in the morning till you’ve read from a spiritual book (at least, 10 minutes reading)
- Say prayers as a family.
- Say morning prayers.
- Say evening prayers.
- Go to daily mass.
- Meditate for 15 minutes.
- Read a bible chapter.
- Read the mass readings.
- Pray the rosary or a decade, at least.
- Finally join a bible study group.
- Subscribe to some good Christian blogs.
- Pray instead of playing music when you drive.
- Pay attention in church.
- Go to confession. Do it.
- Ask your family and friends for their prayer needs and actually pray for them. Choose a different person to pray for each day.
- Give away all the money you save from making a Lenten practice. Gave up social media? Donate your data money.
- Step up your tithing from 10% to 15%.
- Choose a currency denomination and resolve to give away every note of it you get as change. E.g. Choose to give (and not spend) every N100 (and smaller note) you get.
- Give a compliment to a different person every day.
- Perform an act of kindness daily.
- Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in ages.
- Give time to a good cause.
- Make your bed immediately you wake.
- Wash your dishes immediately you use them.
- Stop being a Whatsapp ninja, call someone.
- Stop being a phone call ninja, visit someone.
We’re advised to pick one or two of these practices and be intentional about them. The idea isn’t the act itself, it’s the sacrifice required to perform the act. So don’t pick “sacrificing social media” if you’re going to be in a remote village without Internet, anyways.
I find that simply choosing one sacrifice presents me with numerous opportunities to actually live that sacrifice. The temptations are so strong. Take the snooze button, for instance. I know people (read: yours truly) who set their alarms for 5am so they can wake up at 5:30am. The battle to jump up immediately the alarm rings is not a small one. And how about sticking to a preset bedtime? Isn’t it when you’ve decided to go to bed at 10pm that something interesting starts trending on Twitter at 9:50pm? And don’t even let me start with the social media fasting! Going cold turkey might be easy; staying cold turkey is the problem. The itch to check your Instagram feed, the burn to tweet a brilliant line, the lure of BN and Linda Ikeji and Nairaland and even this blog 😊…
But we can do it! We will try. So help us, God. We pray for grace, and strength for Lent, and also after Lent. Hopefully, our secret practices become lifelong habits and the beginning of a deeper relationship with God. May the blessings of this season be on us all.
What other ideas would you add to the list above? What could people give up or start doing for Lent?