Are you going to give up candy and sweets? Maybe refrain from coffee? Or TV?
Maybe you're committed to some nebulous version of being "holier" or even simply being a better person.
Even though the season of Lent has already begun, maybe you're still not entirely sure what you're going to set about doing.
Or, perhaps you're not even Catholic and you're wondering what in the heck all us Catholics are getting so worked up about. "Isn't Lent all about fish fries?" you ask.
Personally, while I am excited - the most subdued of ways - about the upcoming fish fries (If you want a nice map of fish fries around the St. Louis region, check out this map), I am more excited about the opportunity to renew and deepen my spiritual life in faith and prayer during this penitential season. For a good Catholic, Lent should be like the secular New Year's Day when most people come up with some resolution that will change their life. Lent is a profound moment to renew our spirituality in preparation for the celebration of the summit of Christian theology at Easter - and not just by refraining from something.
Sure, resolving not to partake in some pleasure is fine. But we would be remiss if we went through Lent year after year with the mindset to simply "give up" some habit, vice, or activity. Lent should not be a passive encounter with Christ and His suffering. Lent should be a flourish of activity, in addition to giving up things, with the goal to redirect our soul towards Our Lord.
In a hypothetical situation, you might ask "How are you going to do that?"
"Well, I'm glad you asked," I would hypothetically respond.
Then, in this hypothetical situation, I would proceed to explain what I plan to do this Lenten season, just like I'm actually going to explain now:
- Workout everyday.
- Okay, I know "working out" isn't a "spiritual" thing, but it is an act of self-discipline, and what is our prayer life if it's not an act of will and self-discipline? So, in order to train your mind and soul, I believe, you need to train your body and bring it under control of your will. So, working out every single day is a priority of mine this Lent.
- I must be a heathen because I don't already say a rosary everyday, right? But I admit it: I'm not as diligent as I should be. Sometimes I get a rosary in; sometimes I don't. There have been periods in the past when I've been a lot better than I am now, and I need to get back to that point. So, Mother Mary, here I come!
- I didn't used to watch as much TV as I do now (I blame my wife. I love you honey!). So, this Lent I'm really going to try to keep the TV turned off - even for basketball! We'll see how long this lasts...
- Because the TV is going to spend a lot of time off the next several weeks. I'm hoping that means I'll be able to get more reading done. This doesn't just include spiritual reading, although I do want to delve more deeply into the Catechism and scripture; it means I'm going to read some books for - *gasp* - pleasure.
- I definitely don't go crazy when it comes to drinking. But I have noticed that I've been having a beer just about every night with dinner lately. And Saturday afternoons on the couch, there's not much better than enjoying a cold frosty brew with chips & salsa and sports on TV. So, this Lent, I am going to refrain from alcohol (for the most part). Although, there is an open bottle of wine in the refrigerator right now, and it'd be a pity to waste it...
- If you know me at all, you know that I don't drink coffee. Instead, my drink of choice is sweet tea. Because I enjoy a nice tall glass of sweet tea from McDonald's or QuikTrip, I'm going to give that up this Lent. Maybe I'll even donate the money I save to the poor.
- I spend more time than I would like on social media. But I'm not giving it up completely, because, 1) it's actually part of my job, 2) it's very difficult to stay in touch if without being on social media, and 3) someone told me it's part of the "New Evangelization," so I guess there's that. Nevertheless, I want to re-think how much time I spend on facebook and twitter when it's not work-related. So, this Lent I'm going to be seriously cutting back on the mindless browsing portion of social media.
- This is a tough one. I'm a big guy and I need a lot of food to keep me going. But, I know that we as a society make waaay too much out of food than we need to. We're a decadent country and society, there's no arguing that. Even though I'm in no danger of being obese any time soon, and losing a few extra calories may actually do me more harm than good, I'm going to eat bread and water for lunch, at least on Fridays. Last year during Lent I ate bread and water for lunch every single day. I'm not sure if I can do that again. But I'm going to give it a shot. At the very least, lunch on Fridays are bread and water only.
Before I close, one quick disclaimer: I'm not putting this out here in a brazen attempt to prove how pious I am. Rather, I'm hoping that by showing you what I'm doing it can inspire you to do something similar (if you're not already), or to encourage you in your own pursuit of holiness. Also, by writing this down it provides me with a level of accountability to myself.
Blessings during this Lenten season. Feel free to share your thoughts or what you're doing for Lent in the comment section below.