One of the most common conversation starters for Catholics around this time of year is, "what are you giving up for Lent?" or more commonly, since "doing something extra" for Lent is trendy these days, "what are you doing for Lent?"
I'm in the annoying camp who loves to ask this question but dances, dodges and darts around the answer myself. It's a matter of humility, actually... and not the false kind.
"What are you doing for Lent, Jane?"
"Oh, I'm praying all 20 decades each day, donating my life savings to charity, going on a mission trip to Africa, and fasting on egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free rice cakes until Easter. What are you doing?"
"Uum... I'm gonna 'try to lay off the sweets.'"
My Lenten regime of the past few years looks more like a diet than an observance of voluntary self-denial for the penitential season of Quadragesima. "No sweets, no white sugar, no white flour" suspiciously resembles my doctor's recommendation for weight loss.
There are many good reasons for fasting and abstinence. Among many others, 1) It's a form of loving solidarity with those who really have nothing to eat. 2) It's an act of sacrificial love for God, united with Christ's suffering on the cross for the salvation of sinners, including ourselves. 3) It's a training and strengthening of the will against sin by denying ourselves licit pleasures so we will be better able to reject illicit ones. 4) It's a purging of selfishness and an awakening to the needs of others. 5) It's an expression of trust in the providence of God, from whom all good things come. 6) Voluntarily being hungry for earthly bread makes us hunger for Christ in the Eucharist.
But... er... lose 10-15 pounds to look smashing in that new Easter dress doesn't actually fit on that list, come to think of it.
So this Lent, with the grace of God, I'm going to break with my traditional Lenten
What are you giving up (doing?) for Lent?