The Lenten season is a time of fasting and almsgiving in repentance and preparation for the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Most Catholics are asked to fast from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday for 40 days, a sacrifice made to express love for God and acknowledge one’s sins, demonstrating that repentance as well as gratitude and love for Jesus, who gave His life for all sinners on the cross.
Many Catholics choose to abstain from something additional during Lent in order to unite themselves more closely with the salvific selflessness of Christ.
For Judy Cooper, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Warsaw, making the Lenten season deeply felt is important to her. “I become closer to God, on a more personal level during this time. The older I get, the more personal it becomes. I know I can talk to Him not only with my mind but with my heart. I try to find some quiet time throughout the day to do that. Once you try to achieve that goal, you can hear His answers. He will answer you no matter what the storm may be. You just have to listen.”
Peter 5:6 says to “… Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Abstaining from pleasurable earthly things is a sign of sacrifice and develops a disciple’s self-discipline. Some common things people give up for Lent are forms of entertainment, fast food and sweets.
When selecting what to abstain from each Lenten season, Cooper said that she never chooses the same things twice. “I know some people give up a special candy or drink. I have favorite TV programs I avoid and when I do that, I pray to God instead and think about what His Son went through for us. That way I am giving more back to Him.
“As a former smoker, that was one of the hardest things to abstain from. That was very personal for me because of the strength it took to avoid it. I forced myself to give it up and afterward I realized that once I got through it, I no longer needed it.”
While it may be easier to abstain from superficial pleasures like a certain food or entertainment option, more profound sacrifices tend to have more of an impact on the penitent.
Cooper said she is excited about the upcoming Lenten season this year because last year, the pandemic made it hard to attend Mass, receive the Eucharist and be together as a parish to support one another. “This year I will be able to go to church more often during the week, rather than just on the weekend. I’m going to try to go to confession more and try to receive Communion more frequently. I’m looking forward to that.”
She also feels that Lent is a time in which to support and seek support from others. “By reminding someone else that that we all go through this together and that we are a family in the parish is comforting,” said Cooper.
Cooper added that “with all the problems going on in the world right now, the one thing that people need to do is to listen to God. You can be busy, busy, busy, but there has to be a time of day to talk to God. That’s important. You put yourself in that zone and say a prayer to Him to help you come closer to Him. I do that every day, even outside of Lent. Love Him with your whole heart. Give that time back to Him.”
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