Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lenten Penances: Self-Denial or Dieting?

Happy Shrove Tuesday!

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 diet penance, hit myself where it hurts, and actually strive to fast and do penances for the right reasons. I have a hunch that slashing internet time, excess sleep, and meat, and filling the void with Adoration, almsgiving, and fasting might be better for my soul than the Atkins diet.

What are you giving up (doing?) for Lent?


p's w said...

this post rocks!

here's my take: http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-are-you-giving-up-for-lent.html

Kate said...

We're going meatless.  Lots of beans, brown rice, and edamame.  Dan.  Is.  Not.  Happy.  +:)  (Heehee, ash face!)

Susan said...

I like what you say here. What am I doing for Lent? 40 days on not saying one negative thing about my mother. Amen.

Masha said...

We always do the same fast - it's a Byzantine discipline: Nothing enjoyable at all, essentially. No meat, dairy, eggs, oil, wine, sugar, etc on the three uber penitential days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), oil and wine are ok the rest of the week, and on Sundays - we get fish!! It makes fish very exciting. This year, because our chickens are way too productive, I'm allowing eggs and avoiding wine.

It is diet worthy, as I generally drop a bit during lent, but it manages to avoid being a diet for me because I'd never do this just to lose weight. I love the discipline it gives me, and the opportunity to let fasting change me spiritually. I'm a better person during lent, after the first few days. :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks, P's W! We seriously and sincerely considered doing the Byzantine fast this year, but in the end decided that with 25 laying hens we can hardly give up eggs, and our supply of milk might dry up if we cut out dairy, too :).
I hope some of the abundant graces coming your way are wafted in this direction by association :-D. Pray for us, this Lent, please!

Farmer's City Wife said...

LOL... my husband was er... less than enthusiastic as well +:) (I love the ash face! hehe). I went to the grocery last night and stocked up on beans and brown rice -- good thing there's a million ways to make 'em, right?

Farmer's City Wife said...

Ouch! Will you break for Sundays? hehe

Farmer's City Wife said...

I love this thoughtful comment, Masha! :-D. Thanks for weighing in! I have a lot of Byzantine Catholic friends up here and a lot of them are doing the full fast (or a slightly modified form)... it makes our get-togethers during Lent a lot more penitential (carrot sticks, anyone?... and no ranch dressing!) but is really a wonderful discipline that inspires the rest of us to more penitence. God bless you!

priest's wife said...

that is what hummus is for! (meatless is quite enough! eat those eggs!)

anon said...

I'm giving up sweets.  I know it sounds like a diet BUT... I lost all the weight I want to loose between New Years and Ash Wednesday, so that I no longer have the motivation of wanting to diet.  I thought that was the surest way to make sure I wasn't dieting with my fast!  And it is working well.  Especially since I technically gave up sweets until the HCC mandate is dropped!  It could be awhile........ And meanwhile I am busy finding new food since I *lived* on scones for breakfast, a small square of fudge for lunch, and a bowl of ice cream after dinner (no joke - the first two meals were pure junk!)  

Farmer's City Wife said...

Woah... I hope you're not going to have to be in it (the sweets fast) for the long haul! Let's pray it's over quickly, hm? :-D

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