What I've learned from Lent through the years

By Murphy Obershaw, Copy Editor

We can only master things through trying and failing for a while. Lent is no exception to this rule.

Because I have failed at Lent so many times, I think I have a pretty good grasp of how it’s supposed to work now.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

The Catholic Church says that for Lent we are supposed to do prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This means we need to add more prayer to our lives, give something up and donate money.

There are a number of different options of what you could do for these three categories. Just keep in mind that whatever you choose to do should challenge you but not be so challenging that you can’t keep up with it or it turns into a burden.

Adding more prayer can involve going to daily mass, attending adoration twice a week, reading a reflection everyday, etc.

This year, I tried to do morning prayer in the chapel at 7:30 a.m. The problem was that I was just too tired to leave my bed. Because of this, I had to switch to reading daily Lenten reflections and journaling about them.

For fasting, there has been a recent trend of people giving up social media, Spotify, Netflix and occasionally their cell phones. This is because these things, though good, are distractions.

It can be difficult to give up something like your phone entirely, so people usually just fast from it for a few hours a day.

Please don’t give up too many things for Lent. There was one Lent where I tried to do a lot of different things, but I ended up failing at most of them.

You should try to choose one thing for each of the three categories, and if you feel like doing something extra in the moment, you can but don’t feel obligated to.

In addition to choosing something to fast from, the Church also says we should not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, and Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting where you don’t eat as much as you normally would.

The rule for days of fasting is to only eat one regular sized meal and two smaller meals that when you put them together would not equal the size of the regular sized meal.

Fasting is proportional to what you normally eat. For example, I don’t eat breakfast but I have a plate or two of food at lunch and dinner. Therefore, on days of fasting I should eat something like a sandwich for lunch and a normal plate of food for dinner.

You don’t have to fast until you are 18, but I started when I was 15. It sucked. I was spoken to by two Catholic adults when I was in high school because I was fasting a little too hard core, and they didn’t want me to hurt myself.

Don’t go crazy with fasting because Jesus doesn’t want you to hurt yourself. This is why people who have diabetes or are pregnant are not required to fast.

Almsgiving is about giving some of your money to a charity or the Church. Churches usually hand out rice bowls when Lent starts. Those who want to participate put their spare change or however much they would like to contribute into the bowl. At the end of Lent, the Church gives the money to an organization that helps starving people in Africa.

Almsgiving can also be linked to your fasting.  For example, you can fast from going out to lunch everyday and donate the money you save.

Almsgiving can also be as simple as buying a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks once a week.

I guess the only time I have failed at almsgiving is when I didn’t do it.

Regardless of what you decide to do for Lent, remember why we do it. We do all this for Lent for the same reason an athlete practices and eats healthy - we want to get stronger.

When we commit ourselves to doing something challenging that is good for us, we build good habits, and it is easier for us to deal with temptations or sufferings that come our way.

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