Having attended Catholic schools all my life, I can’t really remember a time Lent did not go unnoticed, and a Lenten resolution not discussed.
I was probably in Prep or Grade 1 the first time my teacher asked what my Lenten resolution was. I proudly declared I would have no soft drinks throughout the season; my teacher patted me on the back. Little did she know that I was not allowed to drink soft drinks anyway, which made my resolution unnecessary.
A few years later, I came up with the usual “no sweets” sacrifice. Now that was a real sacrifice for me, considering my sweet tooth.
Growing up, I found a number of ways to get around this. I declared that fruits weren’t sweets as they were a nutritional requirement. Other times, sweets were limited to cakes and ice cream but did not include cookies and biscuits.
The last few years, I have been thinking more about the definition of sacrifice. I can’t help but feel I have outgrown my resolution. There was one year my confessor suggested that, instead of giving up sweets, I banish anger toward anyone, especially old enemies.
That was tough and it took a while (almost the whole 40 days, actually); but eventually, before Good Friday, I managed to swallow my pride, make a call and reconcile with an old friend.
It’s been years since I had what I would like to call an “inspired” resolution and, over the years, I have gone back to my default mode of having “no sweets.”
But this year, with my daughter getting older and beginning to learn more about our religion, I find myself getting inspired to deepen my faith so I can be a better model for her.
It’s hard to answer her questions without looking at myself and thinking about whether I am living the faith myself or, if in some ways, I’m operating on “default” mode as well.
Last Ash Wednesday, Adriana and I discussed fasting and abstinence and Lenten resolutions. When she learned I would be skipping meat that day and all Fridays of Lent, she immediately declared that her resolution would be to give up meat and chicken as well.
I thanked her, but I had to point out that, at six, she is too young to fast and abstain, that she is a growing child who needs sufficient nutrients. I had to stop myself from laughing at the look of disappointment on her face, because she had also chosen to give up something we both knew she never liked anyway.
The list starts out with basic questions, and a suggestion to go forward from the answers. We’re a week into Lent, but that’s not a problem if you find something you would like to try out.
Practical fasting ideas
What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?
To what material things am I too attached?
What areas in my life are unbalanced?
To what do I devote too much or not enough time?
“101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent,” by Nick Senger
1) Give up candies/sweets.
2) Give up television time.
3) Give up eating snacks between meals.
4) Give up or limit soda or coffee.
5) Give up or limit video games.
6) Spend more time with family.
7) Give to the poor.
8) Do an extra chore each day.
9) Perform a random act of kindness.
10) Spend more time in prayer.
1) Pray a book of Scripture using lectio divina.
2) Attend Mass on a weekday (every day, if possible).
3) Pray the rosary each day, alone or with your family.
4) Prayerfully read Abandonment to Divine Providence.
5) Make a special prayer notebook and list all the people in your life who need prayers; pray for them each day. Add someone new every day.
6) Learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
7) Make a commitment to attend Eucharistic Adoration regularly.
8) Commit to examining your conscience each evening.
9) Pray the Jesus Prayer throughout the day.
10) Pray the Angelus each day at noon.
For those addicted to popular culture:
1) Switch from regular radio to Christian music radio or Catholic talk radio.
2) Avoid shows with gratuitous sex or violence.
3) Give up or limit watching sports on television.
4) Listen to classical music for the next 40 days.
5) Drive to work in silence each day.
6) Read a work of classic literature.
7) Read a classic Catholic story.
8) Read a story to a child.
9) Sit in 15 minutes of silence each day.
10) Write a letter to God each day.
For Internet users/bloggers:
1) Set time limits on overall online time.
2) Limit Facebook time.
3) Limit MySpace time. (Or Instagram time.)
4) Resist making or adding to lists that rank people.
5) Share one spiritual video with your online network once a week.
6) Blog about the poor once a week.
7) Add a spiritual blog to your blog reader.
8) Subscribe to a prayer podcast like Pray As You Go or Pray Station Portable.
9) Leave an encouraging or positive comment on a different blog each day.
10) Help a new blogger by sending traffic their way.
For those who need to be grateful:
1) Each week, write a letter of thanks to a different member of the clergy, beginning with your bishop and parish priest.
2) Each week, write a thank-you note to your parents.
3) Write a poem of praise for each person in your family.
4) Get a stack of Sticky Notes and write one sentence of thanks each day and stick it to the bedroom door of each person in your family, so that by Easter they each have 40 notes.
5) Find psalms of thanksgiving or praise in the Bible and pray them.
6) Write a list of the ways God has blessed you, and add to it each day. This could be done in a notebook or on a big poster hanging on your wall.
7) At dinner each evening, ask your family to share one thing for which they are grateful.
8) Make a CD or iPod playlist of praise and worship music and listen to it each day.
9) Make a point of saying “thank you” a certain number of times per day.
10) Help your children write thank-you letters to their teachers.
For those with lives out of balance:
1) Go for a walk each day with a loved one and talk about life and faith.
2) Take the kids to the park each week for some carefree time.
3) Give up fast food and give the money to charity.
4) Exercise each day.
5) Spend at least half an hour each day in meaningful conversation with your spouse.
6) Go on a Lenten retreat.
7) Pray with Sacred Space each day.
8) Commit to a daily three-minute retreat.
9) Begin the online 34-week Retreat for Everyday Life.
10) Give up your most unhealthy habit.
For spiritual nourishment:
1) Read the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes.
2) Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
3) Sign up for adult formation classes at a local parish.
4) Join a Bible study.
5) Attend Stations of the Cross at a local parish.
6) Find a spiritual director.
7) Read “The Imitation of Christ.”
8) Listen to a free Catholic audio book from Maria Lectrix.
9) Read “Introduction to the Devout Life.”
10) Read a spiritual autobiography (i.e. Augustine’s Confessions, “Story of a Soul,” “Journal of a Soul,” “Witness to Hope”)
To increase service to the needy:
1) Volunteer at a soup kitchen or other food program.
2) Coordinate a food drive at your parish, school or place of employment.
3) Find out who in your parish is sick and offer to visit them or bring them food.
4) Call your local Catholic Charities office and volunteer.
5) Visit a nursing home.
6) Help an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood with yard work or other difficult chores.
7) Be a hospital volunteer.
8) Get involved in a prison ministry.
9) Coordinate a clothing drive.
10) Make rosaries and give them away.
To be more active in your parish:
1) Volunteer to be a lector.
2) Volunteer to be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.
3) Volunteer to help the parish youth group.
4) After each Mass, stay awhile and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
5) Join the Knights of Columbus.
6) Offer to be a Confirmation sponsor.
7) Volunteer to be an usher.
8) Offer to help with funeral dinners.
9) Help with the RCIA program.
10) Volunteer to do lawn work, cleaning or other needed maintenance for the parish.
1) Receive the Sacrament of Penance weekly.
2) Give up foul language.
3) Give up gossiping.
4) Read and study “Healing the Culture.”
5) Study the life of a different saint each day.
6) Cook dinner each night for your family if someone else normally does it.
7) Pray the “Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.”
8) Bring extra food in your car, purse or backpack to give to street-corner beggars.
9) Begin practicing socially conscious investing.
10) Spend a week meditating on each of the seven principles of Catholic social teaching.
11) Prepare breakfast each morning for your family.