“Giving up” something for Lent is a form of fasting. Observers can choose to either deprive themselves from small pleasures and things they they enjoy as a sacrifice to God, for example Netflix or your daily morning Starbucks. Instead of fasting, young people are considering more prayer as part of their Lenten observance. Illustration by Ena Goquiolay

Give up or give more? Lenten practices of young people today

By  Janelle Lafantaisie, Youth Speak News
  • February 28, 2018
Kelsey Jennings is doing something a little different for Lent this year. Instead of abstaining from something for her Lenten observance, she decided to add to her daily devotion.

“I am choosing one person each day and making a point to go out of my way to let them know I appreciate them,” said Jennings, 27, who lives in Winnipeg. “One day it was a card in their mail slot and another was a nice long text letting them know I was thinking about them.”

Jennings said this Lent is an opportunity for her to practise gratitude for the people that God has brought into her life. “It’s also helped me to connect more fully with these people in a new, fresh way.”

In the past few years, there has been a growing theme of dropping the “give up” and embracing other forms of Lenten observance. Like Jennings, more young people are focusing on giving more — more time, more donating, more prayer.

Lent is the 40-day period leading up to Easter in which Catholics acknowledge and observe the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert without food or water where He was tempted by the devil. “Giving up” something for Lent is a form of fasting. Observers can choose to either deprive themselves from small pleasures and things they they enjoy as a sacrifice to God, for example Netflix or your daily morning Starbucks.

Jesuit Fr. Jeffrey Burwell, campus minister and professor at the University of Regina, said he still prefers the practice of abstaining for the Lenten season.

“I think there is a place in the Church for self-discipline and we shouldn’t necessarily be frightened by the idea of having to give something up,” said Burwell. “We know that the devil attacks us when we are most vulnerable and most easily conquered. Whether it is our pride or anger, our lust or our greed, we need to be aware that it’s often the same sin time after time that causes us to fall short of the mark that God calls us to.”
If we are to attack the evil temptations within ourselves, Burwell said, fasting is sometimes the only thing that can “cast out such evils.”

“As such, if we are greedy, then we fast in such a way that we attack our propensity towards greed. If we are lazy, then we do away with what causes us to be slothful,” said Burwell. “In this way, fasting is very real…. In this way, we adopt a battle plan of adding something but the enemy still remains the same.”

Bill Dykstra, 29, and his wife Sarah are taking their cues on Lenten practice from the Byzantine Catholic rite. For the season of Lent, they are giving up meat and dairy. When asked why, the answer was simple: “Because that’s what Byzantines do.”

“The Eastern Church says that true fasting is ‘to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to resist anger and to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury,’ ” said Dykstra. “However, it has been tradition that fasting during Great Lent is from meat and dairy and while this isn’t a uniform practice anymore, it was a good challenge for us to try.” 

Dykstra and his wife recently started attending Mass in the Byzantine rite and have therefore accepted the tradition that most Byzantine practising Catholics observe.

Laura Bonnefoy, 25, and her husband Eric of Steinbach, Man., are doing a bit of both. Laura has given up snacking at night and Eric gave up coffee. Both are also trying to lessen the amount of sweets and treats they eat. In addition, they have added a Divine Mercy chaplet to their routine in the evenings.

“I think with only giving something up we often forget why we are sacrificing, and it doesn’t really help us grow spiritually,” said Laura. “We have decided to add to our prayer life so that we are remembering why we are sacrificing versus just doing it in habit and not growing in Lent.”

(Lafantaisie, 23, is a freelance photographer in Winnipeg, Man.)

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