It’s Ash Wednesday, and it’s not too late to start the season of Lent by giving up something as a sign of sacrifice and to test your self-discipline in representation of Jesus’ sacrifice when he went into the desert to pray and fast for 40 days.
I often would give up candy or soda because why not do something I needed to do anyway – two birds, one stone, right? No. And then there was the year I gave up multiple things and as long as I ended with one, I thought I was good. Ha. Clearly my self-discipline was lacking as well as my reflection.
Take a Good Look
But years ago, after taking a hard look at myself, I started looking at this practice in a new light. What about adding something to my life? In truly reflecting on what this practice means, I needed to dig deep. I wanted a new level. It should change and grow my heart. That year I wrote out 40 names and mailed 40 letters to people who inspired me whether they knew it or not. And we’re not talking about one or two lines. And it ranged from an acquaintance who took the time to a best friend who happened to call at the right time. … I took time to think of a key interaction that changed me as a person and thanked them for it. It was cathartic, to say the least. And the return to my heart was ten-fold.
40 Ideas for Lent
So this year, I invite you to open yourself to new ways to honor Jesus’ sacrifice. And by no means was I belittling giving up your favorite foods or drinks. It’s a sacrifice when there’s meaning behind it. So what should be given up for Lent? Here are 40 ideas to make this a fruitful season:
- For every item of clothing you purchase, donate an item from your clothes closet.
- Don’t buy anything you don’t need.
- Every day through Lent, throw something into a donation box. At the end of Lent, take it to your donation center of choice.
- Take care of the body God gave you: exercise daily.
- Say encouraging words to your family and friends daily.
- Don’t eat after dinner.
- Don’t eat out.
- Pray for 30 minutes a day instead of 30 minutes of screen time.
- Don’t gossip.
- Don’t speak negatively.
- Bring back the meal at the dinner table. Together with family or a friend.
- Turn off the radio in the car. Be silent on your drive.
- Be present. Daily. Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow.
- Don’t complain.
- Volunteer weekly – help pack lunches for kids or in the elementary school garden.
- Fast an extra day during Lent, not just on Fridays.
- Volunteer in a ministry you care about.
- Arrive early to Mass.
- Make someone feel welcomed at church.
- Stay after Mass to see whether you can help with anything – maybe help sanitize the church since we’re all in this Covid-era together.
- Volunteer for helping during the Mass. Ask to become a lector. Step outside of your norm.
- Give up chocolate.
- Give up soda.
- Go through your pantry and donate to your local food bank.
- Practice temperance.
- Wake up a half hour earlier to pray or read a devotional.
- Abstain from online shopping.
- Abstain from swearing.
- Lower the temperature on your showers.
- Memorize a weekly Bible verse.
- Write cards to the homebound members of your church.
- Make an appointment to talk with your priest or deacon.
- Join a Bible study.
- Join a small group.
- Say the Rosary.
- Arrive early to your appointments.
- Take a meal to someone who is sick.
- Forgive someone.
- Pray with St. Ephrem.
- Write 40 letters to 40 people.
Kimberly spent several years in communications and graphic design roles, including at a Florence church that uses ACST solutions, before joining ACST in October. Before her communications roles, she managed a local newsroom as the content editor. Kimberly is a cradle Catholic who’s active in church life, serving in volunteer roles and participating in Bible studies.