New Year, New You, New Lent?

For every Lent that I can remember, I have given up chocolate. As a kid, it was “straight up chocolate,” basically I wouldn’t eat chocolate chips straight from the bag and then I slowly expanded the sacrifce, until finally last year I completely cut chocolate out.

This year I have decided not to give it up. I have found that it just makes me discover all desserts that don’t have chocolate and causes me to eat an enormous quantity of chocolate on Easter only to feel no different the day after Easter. Yes, it was a sacrifice and I was doing it for the sake of Lent in Jesus’s name, but it did not really have any impact on my spirituality. It did not bring me any closer to Christ when I was deprived of my love, chocolate.

This year I have decided to change it up. Being at Notre Dame, there is so much encouragement toward spirituality and it has inspired me to dig deeper to get more out of Lent this year. When I came to ND as a freshman, I had the mission of taking advantage of every opportunity Notre Dame had to offer, strengthening my faith being one of them.

As my rector said the other night, Lent is about the suffering, the death, and most importantly the resurrection. At the end of Lent in my chocolate years, I can certainly say I did not come out of the other side feeling resurrected. As Father Kollman stated at Ash Wednesday service, Lent is a time of change for us. It is a time for us to reflect on what we want to do better in our lives, what is restricting us and our relationship with God or the people around us, or what is holding us back from living the life we should be living.

I did a couple Google searches with the subject “what to do instead of give up chocolate for Lent” and came across a lot of cool websites. One of which I have included here, has some odd things like not calling your sister an alien... but also things like not using your smartphone around people, journaling, or taking a new person to lunch. They touch upon both the giving up and the giving that can be brought into Lent.

Another website that can be found here, had the usual ideas of sweets and caffeine, but also cool ones like writing a letter every day (which I am going to do this Lent) and not looking in the mirror as often and being critical of yourself (an idea I also really like, who would have ever thought of giving up those extra glances in the mirror?).

The point? For me it is to find something that is challenging in a new way different from not eating chocolate. One that makes me reflect upon me. Badin spirituality commission sent out a wonderful email on the eve of Lent, with the quote, “Lent is not about our own success, about doing Lent 'right.' For most of all we remember our failures and God's mercy, so as to sing infinite praises to the God who never stops loving us.” That's the idea, isn’t it? The whole Christian idea - God will always love us and that’s why on Good Friday Jesus dies for us and then is resurrected on Easter Sunday. If God loves us, we should work on loving ourselves. I know I need to work on it and Lent is the perfect time to do it. It's like the New Year’s resolutions of Catholic faith, only it goes for 40 days and allows you to act upon your goals that hopefully go beyond hitting the gym.

Whether it's writing a journal, giving up a bad habit, or giving yourself five minutes a day to think (yes, you really do have the time ND student I am looking at you, make it for yourself!) find something that makes you stop and think about you and who you want to be as a Christian or just a human being.

Another recommendation, a friend in my dorm got me to sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever. They send you daily emails with reflections and little clips. So, yes this morning I took an extra three minutes before getting out of bed to read this email. Spoiler alert- the theme of this week is God’s dream for you. Is giving up chocolate on the path of God’s dream for me? I doubt it. Check out Best Lent Ever. Or, (and again credit to my spirituality team for informing me of this) there are many many sites out there that will send you daily reflections or videos (there's even one called #ShareJesus). So, check one out that you think may be good and add it to your new Lent this year!

We are at a really cool place because we have the opportunity to explore our faith through the many resources ND has to offer and the supportive community that's around us. Even if you are simply one who dips their toe in Catholicism, I think Lent can be a great opportunity to reflect and explore a little further the deeper questions that only come up in our philo or theo classes. Most importantly for me in my new Lent experience, I hope to have a sense of content on Easter day. A sense of completing a journey that has helped me become a better me in whatever way that may be.

How I felt after lent last year

How I hope to feel after Lent this year

I encourage you to reconsider just using Lent to diet this year. Bring in the bigger picture and the idea the God loves you and that you can reflect his love in your life.

Let the 40 days begin!    

 

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Images: 1, 2 4, 5, all others provided by author