Well, Lent has snuck up on us once again. Indeed it begins early this year, with Ash Wednesday this week. Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and abstaining and when I was growing up, we took it very seriously. We were encouraged to give up something that was really significant to us, a real sacrifice When you’re a kid, significant can be summed up in one word: CANDY. If you could hold out for the entire 40 days, you would feel pretty pleased with yourself by Holy Saturday night. Especially, if your mom had stocked up on marshmallow chicks, jelly beans and chocolate eggs so you could end your big sacrifice with a candy binge on Easter Sunday morning!
Luckily, I had a progressive-thinking Nana who insisted that our Lenten sacrifice did not include Sundays. So when we visited her on Sunday, usually after Mass, she would take out all the goodies she was hiding from my sweet-toothed grandfather and her table would become laden with our favorite candies, Court Pastry cookies and pastries (not to mention some fried meatballs). We would say, “But, Nana, it’s Lent!” and she would always respond that Sundays don’t count. Well, that’s not what the nuns told us but as dutiful/hungry grandchildren, we listened to her and ate up.
I have even less willpower now than I had back then. How can I possibly give up candy when the day after Ash Wednesday is Valentine’s Day?! What will I do if somebody brings me some chocolate?
I know people who regularly give up bread and pasta for Lent! As someone who once foolishly gave up pizza for Lent, I cannot understand how they do this. At the time, I thought to myself that, being my favorite food, pizza would be a real sacrifice. What I didn’t plan on was how terribly difficult it would be to avoid pizza on Fridays during Lent when we are not allowed to eat meat. My family has been having pizza and calzone (WITHOUT HAM) every Good Friday from the House of Pizza & Calzone for decades. Not having pizza on Good Friday? What was I thinking?! It was really too hard to live without pizza that year (or, well, for 40 days that felt like a year) and I will never make that mistake again.
Last week, Monsignor Massie of Sacred Hearts/St. Stephen’s Church told us that the three basic elements of Lent are prayer, sacrifice and charity. He stressed that these should be done with humility and, so if you give up something, you should not moan and groan about it. He made what I thought was a great suggestion: If you decide to give up lunch once a week (that’s the sacrifice), you can use the money you would have spent on lunch and donate it to a soup kitchen (that’s the charity). But remember to carry these actions out humbly. I like his thinking. Plus this sounds much easier to pull off than going without pizza for 40 long days!