Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Mardi Gras was this past week. To us Catholics, this doesn’t just mean “party party party.” It also means Lent is coming. (Yes, I’m aware that other sects of Christianity celebrate Lent, too. But I’m just Catholic, so I can really only talk about the way we do Lent.)
Step 1: Choose something to give up for 40 days.
Most people have heard about this. In order to struggle – Lent isn’t supposed to be easy – you give up something that you like for all of Lent. Yes, you should also probably be a decent human being/Catholic in general and go to church, volunteer, be a better person, etc. But choosing to do that does not excuse you from giving something up for Lent. This year, like many years, I’m giving up chocolate. I’ll admit that I have an ulterior motive for giving it up – chocolate is one of the things that has made it harder for me to look the way that I want to despite all of the other lifestyle changes that I have made recently. Yes, I eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And I also have 3-5 servings of chocolate.
Step 2: Go to church on Ash Wednesday. You should probably fast, too.
Get ashes on your forehead. Confuse people who aren’t Catholic/forget that we do this every year. Also, once you’re older than the age of 16 (I believe), you’re expected to fast on Ash Wednesday. This really means 1 big meal and 2 small meals without any snacks and just water. If you’re pregnant or have a medical condition where you need to eat – such as you have to eat to take medications or your doctor is saying, “Don’t fast” – then you are exempt from this rule. I’m exempt.
Step 3: Stick with what you gave up.
This is probably the hardest thing. Growing up, we always didn’t give it up on Sundays. I guess Sundays don’t technically count as Lent? I’m not sure. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped doing that. It’s so much harder to stick with what you gave up when you’re eating it every 7 days.
Step 4: No meat on Fridays.
Self explanatory. Goes along with the non-self-indulgent thing Lent has going on.
Step 5: Church every Sunday.
We’re supposed to do this anyway, but you definitely should during Lent.
Step 6: Go to church for Holy Week. Fast on Good Friday.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are all technically a part of the same mass, which is cool. I don’t think any of these are Holy Days of Obligation – aka YOU MUST GO TO CHURCH – which is interesting, but it’s still the right thing to do.
Step 7: Break the fast on Easter!
Start doing whatever it was you gave up, go to church, have a big Easter dinner, be joyful, etc.
Welcome to Lent, Catholic style!