For people who have been observing Lent for a while, it can become somewhat rote. Rev. Coxe, and many other religious experts, suggest a three-pronged approach to making it more meaningful. Those prongs are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Christy Kennedy, a medical sales professional from Cincinnati, Ohio says she's giving up Facebook for the Lenten period, not because avoiding the social media platform is such a sacrifice, but so she can devote the time in other ways.
"If I replace the time I look at Facebook with a short or long prayer, I will be in better shape," she says via email. Coxe adds that increased attendance at weekday mass can also be helpful for prayer time.
Kate Adams, a high school math teacher in Athens, Georgia, also hopes to renew her family's commitment to prayer during the upcoming Lent. "Instead of giving something up, I am going to make an effort to pray more ... by myself and with the kids," she explains in an email interview. "I feel like I've let the business of life get in the way of that too much lately."
Fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by Catholics from age 18 to 59, and is defined as a reduction in the amount of food one normally eats. The Catholic Church lays this out as one meal per day, with two much smaller meals (those two put together shouldn't be larger than the main meal). People within the age range who don't have to fast include those who are sick, pregnant or nursing, manual workers who need the calories for their health and even people who are guests at a meal who can't fast without insulting their host. Some people may elect to fast on additional days throughout the season.
In addition to fasting, the Catholic Church requires people age 14 and older to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Fish, shellfish, amphibian and reptile meat are OK, not that you'd necessarily find roasted snake on a dinner menu anywhere!
Almsgiving is the giving away of superfluous goods, particularly to help the needy, according to Rev. Coxe. The 40 Bags in 40 Days movement is a popular decluttering/almsgiving effort. Every day, people tackle a different area of the house and fill a bag with unwanted times, with the intent of simplifying their lives. It intentionally coincides with Lent and at then end of the period, the items are donated, helping others in need. (One variation is collecting 40 items rather than 40 bags.)
This concept of doing a good deed is often incorporated into Lenten observances, so that the observer is not just giving up a vice, but also starting a virtue, whether it's doing volunteer work, contributing to a cause or trying to incorporate something positive in their life, such as being more grateful every day.
Originally Published: Mar 6, 2019