Why I gave up Lent for Lent

Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year. In this photo, Pope Francis leads the Ash Wednesday mass opening Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians, before Holy Week and Easter on February 18, 2015 at Santa Sabina church in Rome.  AFP PHOTO POOL/GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images
Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year. In this photo, Pope Francis leads the Ash Wednesday mass opening Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians, before Holy Week and Easter on February 18, 2015 at Santa Sabina church in Rome. AFP PHOTO POOL/GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Well, it’s not #TastyTuesday. Yesterday was Tuesday. Yesterday was Mardi Gras. No working on Mardi Gras. Only fun times and partying and parades. Unless you’re anywhere else in the world but New Orleans. Then you’re working. 😉

Today, however, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Catholic faith. As many of you know, I gave up Lent for Lent some time ago. And no, I’m not being cute or funny, even though it’s often couched as that. I was raised in a very strict Roman Catholic family. We went to church regularly. I went to Catholic school. I was an Altar Server … the first female Altar Server of my Parish, in fact.

After my mother died, I kind of fell off the wagon; I stopped going to church. My relationship with my higher power, my God, became more spiritual than religious, but the foundation of Catholicism was still there. And in this growth, I realized that I felt Lent was becoming too superficial. I wasn’t going to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee for a few weeks, like most people do. I felt that something so trivial isn’t truly a sacrifice at all.

No Sugar

Instead, I gave up the idea of Lent and decided that I wanted to have two reasonable, achievable goals each day that required something of myself, and that, in effect, was my “sacrifice” … a daily sacrifice .. to make the world a better place. For what it’s worth, my two goals each day are (1) to make a stranger laugh and (2) to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

As those daily habits became life-changers, each year that went by made me not want to participate in “Lent” as it’s commonly practiced because being a “good” person and doing something just for yourself for a few weeks a year is not enough to actually create the change that is needed. I meet my goals each day, and in both, I make the lives of others better, and in turn, I lead mine towards eternal kindness. I do make the world a better place each day and this is the message that Pope Francis would have you hear: Lent is meant to be for the betterment of our community.

So, it seems what Pope Francis is saying is what I’ve been saying for years: why don’t you do something good with Lent instead of saving yourself a few bucks here and there? Be kind. Be mindful. Be good to others. Those are habits worth creating. Give up intolerance and yes, even tolerance. Give up indifference and failure to step up for your fellow man. Practice love and acceptance and assistance. Want to know what’s wrong with the world? Look inside yourself and see how you can make it better. Don’t point the finger at someone else to do something. YOU do something. YOU be better. YOU are the world. YOU are the one who can change your life to make another’s better.

And that my dear, that is the ultimate sacrifice. That is the meaning of Lent, Charlie Brown.

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