Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and most of us have already been asked (or have asked) the question of the season: What are you giving up? Many of us may have been caught off guard by the question.
Lent? Already? It’s still January!
February just started!
Um … when is Lent this year?
Yep, it’s definitely coming around a tad early this year!
But you don’t have to only “give something up” for Lent. It’s certainly a good idea to do that, but you can offer up other sacrifices instead of or in addition to giving something up. What we need to remember is that the whole point of Lent is to remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. It’s a time of sacrifice and penance, a time to unite our sufferings with the crucified Christ, and a time to deepen our relationship with Christ. When we give something up for Lent it should be something that truly feels like a sacrifice. For some people, giving up something may not truly be a sacrifice, but adding something to their day, especially something spiritual, is what they need to grow deeper in their faith. That sacrifice of time can be a biggy for many of us.
In the spirit of growing deeper in our faith and our relationship with Christ, I asked friends on Facebook, checked out some blog posts, and came up with a list of Lenten sacrifices to give us all some ideas for this Lenten season. This list still contains the traditional “giving something up” items, but goes a step further as well with things you can add to your daily routine and other types of sacrifices you can make individually or as a family.
If you’re like me and haven’t yet made a commitment to something yet, I hope this list helps you out. Just remember, whatever you do, it should be something that brings you closer to Jesus Christ.
Things to give up
- No TV and/or video games
- Do a computer fast or replace a certain amount of time on the computer with time playing with the kids
- Give up Facebook
- Give up all drinks except water or give up a particular drink (coffee, soda, wine, etc.)
- Forego sugar in your coffee or tea, or better yet, give up the coffee entirely. Another option, give up the drive-thru for coffee on your way to work each day and make and take your own.
- Give up whining and/or complaining, raising your voice, laziness, impatience, etc.
- Give up some sort of “convenience” item like prepared foods, the dishwasher, or paper towels/napkins
- Forego hair products, make-up, nail polish, etc. Basically no primping during Lent.
- Give up eating out and doing take out and donate the money saved to charity
- Forego listening to music in the car
- Give up chocolate, desserts, and/or candy
- No hot showers
- Give up the “snooze” button on the alarm clock
- Give up lights in the evening after the kids are in bed, use only candlelight
- For more ideas on what to give up for Lent this year check out the links here and here and here.
Things you can add
- Prayer: Add in an extra block of time in your day for prayer. Doesn’t have to be long, 15 minutes is good, longer if you can do it.
- Add in a daily Rosary if it’s not something you already do or the Divine Mercy Chaplet or a novena (or two or three)
- Lent is often a good time to add in doing the Way of the Cross devotion.
- Replace one snack a day with a prayer instead
- Read the Bible and/or memorize a Bible verse each week
- Add in extra reading for you or the whole family (reading aloud as a family is a great idea!)
- Listen to some good Catholic podcasts. Fr. Z even has some podcasts geared specifically toward Lent and Holy Week over on his blog. Find more podcasts over at SQPN.
- Add in some extra days of fasting from food beyond those that are already required. You could also consider this a “giving up” item as well.
- Go to Daily Mass each week, even just one extra Mass a week can make a difference in your relationship with Our Lord. Try for all 40 days of Lent if you can.
- Make a list of 40 people who have touched your life in some way and write each one of them a letter during Lent letting them know why they are special in your life. Take some time that day to pray for them as well. You can also get the whole family involved in this project, check out how this family does this each lent.
- Read the daily Mass readings
- Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. If you already go to Adoration, add in an extra time slot for it during the week.
- Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly
- Do a random act of kindness every day
- Participate in the Sistas’ 2014 Lenten photo challenge
- A lenten journal put together by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
- Rent movies through this new Catholic “netflix” type service!
- Lenten reflections with Father Barron
Other Types of Sacrifices
- Instead of buying bread, make all your own bread at home. Or, in this same vein, are there other ways you can provide for your family at home instead of buying something at the store?
- Instead of pants, try wearing skirts for all of Lent. Here’s a site that may give you some inspiration or help along the way.
- You know that sin (or sins) that you seem to have to confess over and over again? How about working to not have to confess that sin during Lent?
- How about sleeping on the floor during Lent instead of your bed. There’s a convenience that’s a big sacrifice! Or, if you’re not ready to give up your bed entirely, how about giving up your pillow for all of Lent?
- A friend of mine once told me that he put a pebble in his shoe for several days while a friend of his was on a retreat. It as a constant reminder to him to pray for his friend. Why not try this during Lent?
- Practice silence: one day a week, each night after the kids are in bed, etc. Silence is important to our spiritual growth in the midst of our noisy world, the Pope tells us.
- Park in the last spot at the shopping center or at work and say a prayer as you walk in and walk back to your car when you leave.
- Buy a pair of used shoes from Goodwill and wear them every day of Lent.
- 40 Bags for 40 Days: fill up 40 bags of stuff you don’t need and toss it or donate it. It’s a good sacrificing way to take an honest look at whether you REALLY need something.
- Volunteer! Check with your parish, the diocese, local organizations, or organizations like Volunteer Match or Volunteer Guide.
- Check out the “pins” on the Catholic Sistas’ Pinterest Board for Lent for more Lenten inspiration.
And if you want some help keeping track of your Lenten sacrifice this year, check out the Lenten Sacrifices Cross available at Casia Books, it’s something the whole family could do. Or check out the Lenten cross from this post here from this morning.
Whatever you decide to do during Lent just remember the whole reason why we live in this desert of 40 days. We are uniting our sufferings with Jesus’ and we will celebrate his resurrection with great joy on Easter Sunday when it is all over. And if we are successful and stick to our plans, it will be a sweet joy indeed!