What does Lent mean to college students? This is a question I thought about recently while I was thinking about what Lent means to me.
Being Catholic, I have been taught that Lent, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday until Easter, is a time of reflection, fasting and prayer. It is a somber time when we think about the suffering of Jesus leading up to his death and resurrection.
Growing up, and still today, Lent to me means no meat on Fridays, trying to be a better person and giving something up during this holy season in order to do without and realize the more important things in life.
I would say that when most people think about Lent, they think about giving up something. During Lent, many people will give up a certain kind of food or an activity that they enjoy.
I have found some students giving up something even when they don’t consider themselves very religious or attend mass, but just because they know it is a Lenten tradition.
As a kid, I gave up something different every week. In Sunday school class, we got baskets with “eggs” cut out of construction paper that said something different on each one. When I pulled an egg each week, I would follow what it said, whether it was no TV for a week, no chocolate or no computer games, for example.
Fast foods, soda, candy, drinking or cursing are just some of the things I have heard students say they gave up this year. I myself gave up French fries, which is something that is not easy to do, considering how tempting the fries in Cabrini’s cafeteria are!
Making small sacrifices such as these are good, but I believe that Lent is about more than that. Why do we give things up in the first place? For Christians, Lent should be a time when we are thinking about the true meaning behind this time of year.
As I sat in mass last Sunday, I laughed as I heard the priest say, “Lent is not a spiritual Jenny Craig program.” In other words, he meant that we do not sacrifice items during Lent with the sole intention of losing weight and getting a head start on that bikini body for the summer. The point is not to help a diet.
Christians are encouraged to give something up because, if Jesus gave up his life for us, then we can at least make these small sacrifices.
We should be thinking about how we can avoid sin and be better people, not just during Lent but hopefully all throughout the year.
Another tradition my family follows during Lent is giving money to Operation Rice Bowl. This is a program by Catholic Relief Services that donates money to countries aided by CRS, and the money helps with agricultural, water, microfinance, health, education and HIV and AIDS orphans.
We collect our money in containers handed out in our church, which were also made available for students at the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel.
Lent is a time when you should not only think about yourself, but about the needs of others. This is why, during Lent, my family gives up one dinner a week and only eats rice. The money we save on food helps go towards Operation Rice Bowl.
I know students are short on money, but if they can give up just one meal or something they usually buy once a week it would help. Every little bit counts and we have so much more than people suffering in the poorest countries.
During Lent, I believe that it is good for students to give up something, but Christians should also take some extra time to reflect on what Lent is and think about what else they can do during this holy time.