Giving it up for Lent

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 26. Prompt by Priya Parker.

I was raised in Roman Catholicism, and consider myself to still be part of the community today, despite how lapsed my engagement currently is. I remember attending CCD/Faith Formation weekly, and much of the later part of the year was dedicated to discussing Lent and Easter. For several of my early years of Faith Formation, I was part of the Wednesday sessions, which was very fortunate as during those years my class would get to attend a prayer service and receive our ashes for Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent, forty days of resistance before Easter. It’s meant to emulate Jesus’s forty days in the desert where he was tempted by the Devil.

Catholics commonly vow to give something up for Lent, usually a poor habit, or inversely, vow to do a good one more often. One year, I gave up all hard candies, lozenges, and gum. That was an incredibly difficult one, but I did it. Other times I vowed to make my bed more, clean up a little more, cut out crackers, chips, and other temptations. One year I gave up the “Big Three” social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Since that year, I mostly kicked the habit of Twitter and Instagram. I had updated there sporadically since then, but not nearly as much as I had before. I was glad to be rid of that itch to check them, as between the three Twitter and Instagram made me the most unhappy. They were the bigger magnets for jealousy, negativity, and general spite (not that Facebook is entirely immune to that, but I appreciate the allowance to customize what you can view while saving face and maintaining your friends list). This year I attempted to keep in touch with friends more often, as I’ve been out of work and school and it’s been hard to stay in the loop, but with the Covid-19 pandemic I did not get to accomplish this vow to the capacity which I desired.

It’s a little like a New Year’s resolution but with a more digestible period of time, as you have a designated start and end time. More importantly, it’s cutting back instead of fully cutting something out, which is less daunting. I imagine an exercise like this would be helpful even for non-Catholics if they want to change those pesky behaviors.

The grand finale, Easter, has varied over the years. We generally receive a basket of candy and have a feast. Sometimes a brunch, sometimes a dinner. We celebrate the Resurrection and our own willpower and how it emulates that of Christ’s. Finally, we remain steadfast throughout the Easter Octave, awaiting later celebrations like Pentecost and the May crowning and procession of Mary.

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