As Lent begins, the buzz among Catholics is often `what are you giving up`? Fasting is probably the most recognizable of the three traditional Lenten practices. The other two are praying and almsgiving.
Fasting is a universal discipline. Many religions promote the benefit of denying everyday physical pleasures to better focus on the spiritual self. Even when there are no spiritual goals, fasting is embraced for its health benefits. Smoking, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and junk food are all common candidates for Lenten fasting. Fasting from bad habits such as swearing or gossiping is another way to discipline ourselves as we prepare to celebrate new life at Easter.
I`ve already confessed on a previous blog post my complete and utter failure at keeping Lenten resolutions. I have a dear friend who has amazing tenacity and discipline in Lent. Raised in a family that gave up sweets and desserts, she passed on the tradition to her own children. I tried to tempt her many times, to no avail. If I brought a box of chocolates for dinner, she graciously thanked me and stashed them in the cupboard to enjoy at Easter. (This same friend promised to read this blog for Lent. Hmm, I wonder if you can get an app or widget that offers indulgences for the penance of reading one`s blog? :-))
Giving something up is only one aspect of fasting. The next few blog posts will explore other dimensions of this Lenten practice.