I vividly remember finishing my packed lunch in my middle-school cafeteria and then actively trying to stop myself from going up to the lunch counter and buying a pre-packaged (and, in hindsight, probably repulsive) cookie as an after-meal treat. I remember counting my change, realizing I had enough to afford the sweet snack and then thinking about how I should not have it. No, this is not one girl’s story of her battle with junk food. This is one girl’s battle with Lent.
This is what the Lenten season was for me: I would vow give up something, like cookies or ice cream, and then struggle to live up to that promise for the next 40 days. I think this was probably the pattern for most adolescent Catholics—attempted sacrifice followed by a sugar binge on Easter.
However, as I got older, I started to forgo the yearly ritual. And this year, instead of sacrificing for a month and a half, I’m trying to live a healthier life year-round.
“In my experience, people take it very seriously,” says Father John Daya of St. John’s on South 13th Street. “I think Lent is a time of personal renewal. People really wish to deepen their relationship with God. They pray more often and go to church more often.”
OK, so maybe this is just me not being very serious about Lent. I understand the point. It’s an opportunity to cleanse your soul and create a deeper connection with God. But Lent also sort of seems like a second chance to make good on the New Year’s resolutions people have broken by Ash Wednesday.
New Year’s resolution: Work out three times a week and lose 40 pounds in the next year.
Reality: Have actually gone to the gym maybe three times since New Year’s. Cutting ice cream out for Lent is a step in the right direction.
That may not be a very religious thought, but it’s a realistic thought. Sticking to your resolution is tough. Why shouldn’t we be able to start over and give it a second try? We can. It’s about time I start admitting the truth though, that I’ve been lazy, not that I’m suddenly feeling religious.
“People do a variety of things for Lent,” says Father Daya. “There is the traditional thing of giving stuff up like desserts or going to the movies. There is also a new concept. People may be fasting from gossip or from being angry or rude. Behaviors that need to be challenged. People choose to give those things up.”
It is said that if you can give up a bad habit for about 30 days, you can quit it for good. Go more than a month without nasty gossip, and you might just realize how negative blabbing about others can be. On the other hand, that coconut cream pie is going to taste just as delicious in 40 days.