Beyond Giving Up: Fresh Ideas for a Fulfilling Lent

Let’s talk about Lent.

For some of us, the thought of Lent beginning on February 14th might bring on a sense of dread.  Lent is long, challenging, and spiritually taxing, to say the least.  It is meant to be.   During Lent, we are called to be selfless, to be virtuous, and to overcome temptation as Jesus did when he toiled in the desert for forty days. 

That is a large goal, and to even begin to accomplish it, we have to be practical about our Lenten resolutions.  It is so important to do and sacrifice things that are both reasonable but truly challenging for us.  If you are too ambitious with your goal, you may give up after one week.  On the other hand, if your goal is too easy to reach, you probably won’t actually change or develop a deeper relationship with God.  We want to help you find the happy medium: a resolution you know you can stick to but one that will also inspire true spiritual growth by the end of this liturgical season.  

At this point, you might be thinking, “Okay, so what should I give up for Lent this year?” If you are struggling to come up with a resolution, here are some ideas on how and what you can do to have a spiritually enriching, meaningful Lenten season in 2024! 

Tips and Ideas for Your Lenten Resolution: 

  • Pray differently 

If you are striving for spiritual growth during Lent, a great way to start is by altering or adding to your prayer.  Praying in different ways than you usually do is beneficial because it forces you to be intentional and recognize the importance of this season. Some different ways to pray that are especially meaningful during Lent as we prepare for Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection include Eucharistic Adoration, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Lectio Divina, starting the Bible in a Year or another spiritual podcast, and spiritual reading like Meditations on the Passion of Christ.  Choose a form of prayer that you want to learn more about, and commit to praying in that way regularly throughout your day or week. 

  • Give something up that is meaningful to you 

One issue people have when giving something up for Lent is that what they gave up is either a) not a noticeable sacrifice, or b) not necessarily helping them grow in virtue.  To that point, if you don’t watch TV very often, that would not be the thing for you to give up because you wouldn’t actually be making a change or a sacrifice to make it happen.  Likewise, if giving up coffee for Lent is going to make you and everyone else around you miserable because you’re in a crabby mood every day, that might not be the best choice either. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.”  What we give up should be noticeable to us, but not to others.  It should be difficult and should point us toward virtue.  Some ideas of things you might consider giving up include: screen time, all drinks except water, swearing, hitting the snooze button, snacking, alcohol, hot showers, taking the elevator, or listening to music.  If there is a way to replace a comfort or distraction with prayer, quality time with family or friends, or silence, try to do so as often as you can!

  • Do something extra

The Catechism of the Catholic Church characterizes almsgiving as "a witness to fraternal charity" and  "a work of justice pleasing to God.”  This can manifest in so many different ways, but the essence of almsgiving is giving of oneself for another.  This could be offering your Mass for someone specific every day or week, making your spouse’s lunch for work, bringing a meal or babysitting for a friend, smiling at people as you pass them, volunteering at an organization you believe in, or donating money to a charitable cause.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta says, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  Whatever you are able to offer is enough as long as your intention is to go out of your way to provide for the needs of others. 

During Lent, we are called to embrace a spirit of sacrifice, prayer, and generosity.  We hope these ideas help you to make meaningful Lenten resolutions and that you can grow in virtue throughout this season!