What Are You Giving Up For Lent?

What Are You Giving Up For Lent?

Peter Stuart talks us through the trials and tribulations of what Lent means to him.

CATHOLIC CHRONICLES: LIVING LENTEN ABSTINENCE IN A HIGHLY SECULAR WORLD. 

Well folks, for those of you who are Christian and consider yourselves relatively observant of traditional Roman Catholic rules about Lent, this past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. This marks the beginning of the period in the Christian calendar known as Lent, which is symbolic of the forty days which Jesus Christ’s spent in the desert, fasting and abstaining and being tempted by the Devil, before entering his public ministry, which ultimately led to his crucifixion, death and resurrection from the grave on the third day. 

As Christians, we still observe Lent as a period of fasting and abstinence in honour of the sacrifices which our Lord made for us and especially, in doing so, hopefully purifying our bodies and thereby our souls so as to better appreciate the ultimate sacrifice which our Lord made for all of us, pouring himself out for our sins and overcoming death as a result, redeeming us in the process. 

So every year, around this time of Lent, I decide to give up something as a Lenten offering. I’ve already foregone alcohol and drugs thirteen years ago now. I gave up smoking over twenty years ago. And I’m single, so there’s none of that to be had either. I don’t gamble or play the lottery, so that rules that out. So that leaves me with my one little vice which is food. 

I love to eat. Especially what I like to call the ‘three food groups’, as defined by the industrial agri-food business: Fat, salt and sugar! Never mind the true ‘four food groups’ of the Canada Food Guide. I valiantly struggle on a day to day basis to eat my five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables or whatever it is they recommend. I usually manage to get two pieces of fresh fruit in for sure on any given day. 

Where the struggle emerges is the fresh vegetables. It goes in fits and starts. Some weeks I’m really rigorous about fixing fresh veggies: I get up at 5:00 AM or thereabouts and integrate prepping some broccoli, green or yellow beans, cauliflower or snow peas before heading out to work. Or I’ll make a big honkin’ casserole on the weekend with fresh veggies baked into it which then lasts me the whole week. 

But sometimes I slip. Sometimes the thought of prepping those fresh veggies after a long days’ work is just too much for me and I go the easy route and maybe open a can of ravioli or make myself a sandwich and a can of soup, or some Kraft Dinner with tuna mixed in. So sometimes the fresh veggies go by the boards for a couple of days in a row, unless you count raw carrots or tomato in my ham sandwich as veggies. 

So what I’m getting at, is that if keeping that kind of discipline all year round is tough regarding things which are good for you, but require some effort and acquired taste to keep within your diet, imagine what it’s like when it comes time to offer up the one thing which is really bad for you, but which gives you tremendous pleasure and gratification when you have it and requires absolutely no motivation to integrate into my diet, rather, being the contrary that I should theoretically abstain from it permanently! 

Such is the situation with me with chocolate and other sweets. My Doctor basically told me flat out that in principle, it should be Lent for me year round. Imagine! Never ever drinking a Coca Cola or having a Kit Kat ever again in my life! That’s just too much! So I’m trying moderation right now. That’s why I appreciate Lent so much because I can really focus on putting things back into the hands of God and letting Him control the show. 

It’s really not easy observing something like Lent in such a secular world that we live in. We live in a world of overabundance of everything. All the stores are already overstocked with Easter eggs, Easter chocolates and recently it was Valentines Day chocolates. The cards are basically stacked against us. Everything is geared towards making us consume more of everything, including food, with coupons for fast food in our ‘Publi-Sac’ door-to-door bag of flyers which are delivered to every household in town. 

So you really have to want to do something Godly in our very secular, un-Godly world if you have any chance of living within the bounds of the observances of your faith. So far I’m hangin’ in there. Haven’t cheated at all and have lost a few pounds in the process since Ash Wednesday. Must get on the exercise bicycle or go for a walk today while it’s still light out. 

God is calling me and all of us to do His will and act according to His laws, foregoing the temptations of sin and evil. Yup, I think a good thirty minute power walk will do the trick. Just what the Doctor Christ ordered. Hope this Lenten period brings a time for reflection and renewal to all of you, regardless of your spiritual orientation. God Bless.

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About the author:


Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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