7 Great Lenten Sacrifices for Modern Catholics
It’s no surprise that the battles we face on a daily basis would have been alien to Christians one hundred years ago. Today, many Catholics share unique ideas on what to give up for Lent that takes the bland out of the same old habits, like giving up sweets or soda.
Creativity goes a long way, but we don’t have to stretch our minds to come up with the most unusual sacrifices. Here are seven simple but challenging suggestions for making Lent a more meaningful and prayerful experience this year – suggestions that might surprise you or at least make you think about what people in previous generations did not face.
Perhaps simplicity as a spiritual goal this year might bring clarity of mind, peace of heart, and appreciation for our modern conveniences, too.
Take a Technology Fast
It’s a popular practice to share on our social media platforms that we’re giving up Facebook or Twitter during the forty days of Lent, but fasting from technology in general can extend to nearly every facet of our lives. Consider these when you decide what God is calling you to sacrifice this year:
Airpods or wireless headphones
Laptops and tablets
Streaming music services, like Pandora or Spotify
Bluetooth and wireless devices
Several years ago, when I first became an author and was setting up a small platform on social media, I realized quickly how addictive technology can be – due to its instantaneous gratification in providing solutions or entertainment. This can, in turn, feed our appetitive senses of vanity and envy – vanity at the temptation of showing others a glowing façade of our faces or families; envy at scrolling through photos and posts showcasing other people’s fabulous lives.
When I first fasted from social media, my mind felt clearer to focus on the present moment enjoying my family, and my heart was flooded with the peace that surpasses all understanding. After Lent concluded, my husband and I decided to maintain a low-key presence of technology in our home.
For us, this meant getting rid of all but one computer and television, which we used communally, as a family. We unsubscribed from cable and used our streaming service only for movies we watched together. It has been over five years since we made this decision, and our home is more conducive to quiet activities, such as reading or playing a board game.
Modern Catholics tend to eat out or quickly jaunt through the drive-through for favorite coffee drinks or a juicy burger. Why not consider fasting from the convenience of drive-throughs and use the money for more noble causes instead? Perhaps choosing to be intentional about what we eat and drink by making more food and drinks at home will transform our hurried nature into one that enjoys a satisfying meal or cup of tea.
There is something nourishing about savoring life rather than rushing through it. This Lenten practice may turn into something you choose to treat yourself to on occasion rather than as a daily habit.
Take a Cold Shower
A few years ago, my husband participated in an online men’s group that held a Lenten challenge with fresh ideas. Ben chose to write a few of them down – the ones that really felt like a sting to his sense of comfort and pleasure – and draw one each day from a jar. I remember months later, he shared with me that these included fasting from coffee (a daily treat for him) and taking a cold shower.
I had no idea he was mortifying his senses in such a way, because he never complained about it or even commented that he was doing this as a penance. Instead, he shared with me well after Lent was over how much he appreciated warm water and caffeine.
Suspend Meal Delivery Services
Another trend these days is the plethora of choices for meal delivery services and kits – anything from vegan options for one to hearty and filling dinners for a crew of six. Most of these services appeal to those whose lifestyles are so busy that they do not have time to sit down to a home cooked meal, yet they long to do so.
Meal delivery kits are helpful, I’ve found, especially following a surgery or in the weeks following a funeral and even after welcoming a new baby. But they are pricey and feed into our appetitive need for ease. It seems that most modern amenities we enjoy and even believe we “must” have are really changing the way we view work and leisure.
If you choose to suspend a meal service for Lent, consider making simple and inexpensive meals at home with your kids or spouse. Then donate the money you save to the charity of your choice.
Take a Break from the Salon
Trips to the salon can easily fuel narcissism and, again, vanity. I remember as a teen when I fed those egocentric years with cosmetics and jewelry and hip shoes or flashy clothes. The more I catered to my appearance, the more I thought about how I looked.
This Lent, consider sacrificing your weekly visit to the nail salon or forgo getting your hair colored and try letting the natural colors of your face and hair emerge. There is something intriguingly beautiful about a person who unpretentiously bares their face without concealing it behind all sorts of phony applications and accessories.
For me, focusing less on my appearance (not neglecting it, just not obsessing about it) has led to spending more time pondering the condition of my soul.
No Online Shopping
I rarely go shopping. What I mean is that I seldom leave my house to purchase anything at a local retailer. But I have no qualms about popping online to check out the latest deals on Amazon or sale from my favorite children’s store. I’ve discovered, in turn, that online shopping can be both addictive and lead to impulse buying – which contribute to more clutter and the weight of materialism in the home.
Lent is an opportune season to absolutely shut out online shopping. First, unsubscribe from those daily deals you get in your inbox. Next, resist the urge to click on those ads if you are reading an article or scrolling through Facebook. Temporarily delete the shopping apps on your phone. Try being more deliberate about what you purchase and, more importantly, why.
You just might find that the less stuff piling up around you leads to a sense of spiritual freedom.
Turn Off the Radio in the Car
I’ve done this in the past, and it’s like creating a mini-sanctuary while driving. I admit that driving in an urban area can be incredibly stressful, but doing so in silence actually forms a sort of monastic ambiance – that is, if you are driving without small, hungry children along.
Even if the whole family is scrunched in that small space of your vehicle, use the time to pray a family Rosary or engage in a trivia road game. Start talking to each other again and regain a sense of community.
All in all, Lent is not about perfection. It is about growth. Not all of these ideas will fit your family or your life. In fact, none of them might. But you can glean an inspiration or two from what is listed here so that your Lent will be fruitful. In the long run, the goal is to bit by bit discipline ourselves. We do this by ridding our lives of bad habits, even if they are not overtly sinful ones. Then, we replace them with holy habits that establish virtue in our lives, so that we can see ourselves more clearly and love those around us with greater attention.