Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
It is important to give things up for Lent. Some pastors rightly warn some congregations about the wrong approach to Lent. It isn’t a spiritual bodybuilding contest … you aren’t supposed to do astounding things in Lent so you can look in the mirror and flex your spiritual muscles.
But you are supposed to regain some control over your life. As St. Paul says, for some, their god is their stomach. If you’re in that boat with me, let’s cast away that idol.
The public recently learned that Pope John Paul II went to great lengths to practice mortification in order to leave him freer to love God more. That’s what you and I should do, at our own level. If there’s something in your life that you can’t imagine possibly being able to give up … that may be just the attachment that you need to sever.
But always do it by adding something: More prayer, more Mass, more frequent confession, etc.
And so … the list!
Ideas for Adults
• Fast with one full meal, no snacks one day a week.
• Skip meat an extra day (or two) a week .
• Give up alcoholic beverages. (Except in social situations; then you get just one!)
• Give up coffee (or reduce to one cup a day).
• Give up all desserts.
• Give up all unnecessary shopping.
• Fast from music in the car.
• Fast from talk radio.
• Begin (or begin again) the daily Rosary.
• Meditate for 10 minutes a day (get a Magnificat to follow those).
• Choose one extra devotion per week during Lent: Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic adoration or a weekday Mass.
• Read a book on the Life of Christ. For example:
Alban Goodier’s The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Fulton Sheen’s The Life of Christ
Frank Sheed’s To Know Christ Jesus
Romano Guardini’s The Lord
• Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s 74-page section on prayer. (Section four; less than two pages a day!)
• Visit a nursing home with your children.
• Forgive someone and patch things up in a visit, or, if necessary, by phone or letter.
• Give up gossip, judging or profanity.
• Find one “act of forgiveness” to make every day: A driver who cuts you off, a co-worker who annoys you, a shopper who cuts in line, a store clerk who is rude or a family member who ignores your needs.
• Say a kind word to everyone you meet.
• Pay a significant compliment (or more!) to each of your children every day.
• Offer to watch the children of a new mother one day a week throughout Lent.
• Visit an elderly friend or relative.
• Save up a significant amount of money for a deserving charity or apostolate.
For Children and Teens
If none of the adult ideas work for you, try:
• Do chores without complaining
• Draw pictures of Holy Week events.
• Restrict your TV, Internet or music time.
• Restrict your phone time.
• Send a letter or picture to a grandmother, aunt or Godparent.
• Make a new friend outside your “crowd.”
• Be a friend to a shy person.
• Give up that bad place, person or thing.
• Choose a favorite toy, book or piece of clothing and put it away until Easter.