Ash Wednesday sneaks up on me every year, no matter what month it’s found in.
It’s that time to prayerfully consider what sorts of prayer challenges, sacrifices, and works of service/almsgiving you are called to participate in this year.
The following is a reflection called Why Are We Called to Sacrifice? reprinted from a year ago.
My Standard Sacrifice
Since I was a child, I remember my father doing the same things for Lent every year. He would go to daily Mass and observe a modified fast by avoiding eating between meals.
When I was in high school, I too began to eat only three meals a day during Lent. Unfortunately, the great temptation with this sacrifice, as with most, is to live the letter of the law rather than its spirit. Instead of eating three normal, everyday meals and offering up the time in between as a sacrifice to unite with the cross of Christ, it’s all too easy to eat a big meal…and keep eating…and tell yourself that as long as you haven’t stopped eating yet, the “meal” hasn’t ended.
After a two-hour dinner, including the sit-down part and the grazing in the kitchen immediately after, I would find myself feeling stuffed, bloated, and guilty. I think I actually gained weight during Lent some years! Other years I did well, restraining myself (or refining my sacrifice to keep myself accountable) and truly learning the value of hunger, fasting, and sacrifice.
Two years ago my husband and I actually changed course from the “no eating between meals” mid-Lent. We decided that forgoing second helpings and all sweets would be a better sacrifice, better for our waistlines, and that we would be more likely not to push the envelope. As tempting as it was to take gargantuan helpings at dinner, we were on top of it, and we were able to offer up our hunger. We were better Christians and better people for the decision.
Why do Catholics Fast?
I’ll let the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, take that one:
See the quote from Pope Benedict here.
What’s important to remember is to fast for the right reason: not to lose weight, or to accomplish something for your own pride, but to unite your sacrifice to Christ (Col. 1:24…more on suffering and sacrifice here). Allow your hunger to remind you NOT of what you’re not eating or to make you grumpy, but to be a reminder to pray…like a cell phone alarm in your tummy. “Gurgle, I’m hungry!” =Time to pray. See? Simple. It’s the easiest way to answer St. Paul’s call in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
Ideas to Share
Here are some of the ways you can fast from food:
- No eating between meals
- No sweets/desserts
- No second helpings
- Forego condiments (I read about a convent that does this daily)
- Bread and water fast one day a week
- Foregoing X (sweets, cheese, whatever is your tough spot) on just one or two days a week. I often do it on Wednesday/Friday because that’s when Our Lady of Medjugorje (or here) asks us to fast and pray.
- Adding a meatless Wednesday to the traditional meatless Fridays
When you are hungry for food, be hungry for Christ!
By the way, some Catholic mamas will be hosting a “Meatless Meals Carnival” next week, just about the time you’re running out of ideas for Friday meals. I’ll let you know where and when!
Some other ways to fast:
- From complaining
- From television
- From snapping at your spouse/kids
- From the snooze button
- From purchasing anything you don’t NEED
People have such helpful and challenging ideas to share when it comes to “What are you doing for Lent?” This Friday, I’ll host a Lenten Linky, and if you’re posting about your challenges for Lent or anything about prayer, sacrifice or service for the season, you can link up HERE. I’ll leave it open through next week to give people time to post and join in the discussion.
I challenge you to make some kitchen stewardship sacrifices this Lent. Whether you appropriately fast by not eating between meals, give up seconds and/or sweets, or find some other way to make Lent a prayerful time in the kitchen, make it count. Offer it up. Improve your prayer life by learning the value of sacrifice.
Photo from akahodag