By Haley Arndt
Yep, that’s right. You heard it (or actually, you read it, since this is a blog; and you read with your eyes, not your ears). This is your typical Lent pump-up. But I still think it’s worth your time to read it.
Depending on how many Catholic social media platforms you may or may not follow, this might just be the three-hundredth blog that you’ve scrolled through with the word Lent in the title.
BUT DON’T SCROLL PAST THIS ONE. Not because I’m selfish or because I need people to read my blog so I can feel validated as a human being. But because this is the Lent pump-up you may need. (Side note: I had written a completely different blog last night, and then at 11:45pm Jesus once again told me to write about a different topic instead. So I truly believe that there is someone out there that needs to hear this message. It might be you. Or not. I don’t know. I am not God.)
So, let’s have some real talk about Lent, y’all.
I think many times we as Catholics struggle with Lent. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always associated Lent with fasting (or starving, in my mind), death, eating grilled cheese and fish sticks on Fridays, not eating chocolate, and basically suffering in general. And because of that, I WAS NOT A FAN OF LENT. It was always my least favorite liturgical season. Plus, my birthday typically falls during Lent which made me even more sad.
But the truth is, Lent is a beautiful time. It’s actually the most beautiful season of the Church (according to me as I’ve realized that Lent doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did back in the day). Because it’s a time of self-surrender. A time of putting our desires aside. And a time of re-clinging to God as our source of life. That’s what the Christian life is all about. But I think that sometimes the beauty and goodness of Lent is forgotten because we have the wrong mindset when it comes to the one question that we are asked ALL. THE. TIME. in the weeks leading up to Lent… Yep, you know what question I am talking about:
“What are you giving up for Lent?”
I mean, seriously, y’all. Have you ever counted how many times you have been asked that question this year? Or how many times you have asked that question to someone else? Don’t count. That’s too many times to count.
As Catholics, we are so accustomed to giving something up during Lent that we forget why we are even giving up stuff (or in other words practicing penance) for 40 days before Easter.
Hold up… Why do we give up something during Lent? Why am I giving up chocolate?
Because we are dying to ourselves, bro. Wow, that got dark real quick.
But that is the reality. Lent is a time to look at what is holding us back from radically depending on God. It is a time to look at what worldly thing has a grip on our heart in place of the love our Father has for us. It is a time to let go of the things that prevent us from being the best versions of ourselves—saints.
So should we be giving up chocolate, or social media, or coffee during Lent? Well, ask yourself this: does [insert whatever you are giving up here] have an actual grip on my heart that is holding me back from being a saint? That needs to be our focus when we are doing Lent. We shouldn’t be giving up something just because that’s what we do as Catholics during Lent. We shouldn’t be giving up something just because that’s what we have always done. We shouldn’t be being giving something up because it’s easy and we can do it with no problemo.
We should be giving up something because that thing is inhibiting us from digging deeper in our relationship with God. Because we know that if we want to be more Christ-like in our daily lives, then we need to cut that thing out to make more time for God.
And I think that’s what gets lost in Lent sometimes. We lose the meaning behind penance. We forget that “giving stuff up” should have an intentional meaning, tailored to our lives specifically, that will help us to grow in holiness. Penance is not just an item on our Catholic checklist that we do because we need to check it off during Lent. It is a practice that is meant to help us detach from the worldly things that have a hold on us and to allow us to re-center our lives back on the One who loves us.
So this year, while you are preparing for Lent (tbh, it might already be Lent by the time I am done writing this), reflect on what your vice is. What is preventing you from whole-heartedly leaning into Jesus? Give that up. And maybe instead of giving something up, you need to add something to your life. Maybe you need to pray the Litany of Humility every morning to give you the grace to overcome pride (#That’sMe). Maybe you need to pray the Litany of Trust every morning to give you the grace to depend on yourself less and to depend more on God (#That’sMeAlso).
Or maybe you do need to give up something. Maybe you need to give up social media because the outside noise is preventing you from listening to Jesus’ voice in your life. Maybe you need to give up negative self-talk because you don’t see yourself as a beloved child of God and that is discrediting God the Creator’s goodness and glory.
Y’all, I don’t know what your penance should be this Lent. But you know. And God knows. Ask Him.
Be intentional this Lent. Don’t give up things that don’t actually matter for growing in holiness. Die to yourself. Will it involve suffering? Yes. Stripping yourself of worldly attachment and vice will always, always hurt. But it is a beautiful and glorious pain because that is how saints are formed. Strive for true sainthood this Lent. Because that is the reason for this liturgical season.
I’m praying for a more intentional and meaningful season as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s sacrificial love this year.