I’m not Catholic, but my Dad was raised Catholic.
Even after he was no longer a practicing Catholic, he still participated in Lent. One of my fondest memories from my childhood was my Dad giving up Pepsi every. single. year. for Lent. You’re probably thinking, “So what? It’s just Pepsi.” But let me tell you a little something about my Dad: he lived off Pepsi. He drank one cup of coffee in the morning and Pepsi the rest of the day (even late at night).
So each year he would give up Pepsi and each year his doctor would be astonished by the dramatic drop in his cholesterol level. His co-workers would tease him by putting ice cold cans on his desk while he was eating lunch. But, like a good man, he never gave in.
Lent was always a weird concept for me and I’m not exactly sure why. I grew up in the church so I knew about Easter and Ash Wednesday but we didn’t really talk about Lent.
It wasn’t until my first year of college that I learned exactly what Lent was all about:
dirt on your forehead.
(kidding, but this is how I found out)
I attended the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio for my undergraduate career. UD is a Catholic Marianist university. UD has a beautiful chapel on campus, crosses in every classroom, and you are expected to uphold the standards they set forth.
The Catholic faith is the root of what UD is all about.
Welllll during my first year, on Ash Wednesday, I woke up and went to class. I had an early class and was very tired so I didn’t pay much attention to the people I was passing on my way to class. However, when I reached my classroom, something was off.
Everyone had dirt on their foreheads. I was confused.
No one said anything about it. They all acted like nothing was different or out of place. Not even the professor said anything. So I sat in class wondering if there was a patch of ice somewhere that everyone slipped in and hit their heads in a pile of dirt.
When I got out of class, I headed back to my dorm, but noticed that so many more people walking around also had dirt on their foreheads. I started wondering if I was imagining it because I was so tired…
As I was relaxing in my dorm room, my roommate comes back with (you guessed it) dirt on her forehead.
I gave her a weird look and she stopped, “What?”
“Why do you have dirt on your forehead? Did you and everyone else on this campus fall down somewhere?”
The look on her face was priceless. Her facial expression went from being confused to finding the situation very amusing.
“It’s Ash Wednesday!”
“So? These are ashes! We all went to Mass!”
It was a definitely face palm moment.
So she explained to me how the whole process worked and I felt really ridiculous for the rest of the day.
Lent is a period of religious observance starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on the Thursday before Easter.
Many Christians observe Lent by giving up some sort of luxury (which is why a lot of my friends give up candy or chocolate). Many Christians also have some sort of Lenten spiritual discipline that they follow to become closer to God.
While in college, I had several roommates who are very rooted in their Catholic faith. They all gave up some sort of luxury, followed some sort of religious discipline, and did something each week to give back to the community.
Learning more about Lent and seeing how my roommates observed it changed my perspective completely.
While I may not be Catholic, or part of the other religious groups that observe Lent, I still observe Lent because of my Dad.
Each year, I plan out how I am going to spend my time during Lent. And each year, no matter how well I go about planning it, I still end up faltering in some way. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s okay.
How I plan on spending my time during Lent this year
Similar to my Dad, I plan on giving up a food/drink item that seems to be my life.
Anyone who knows me could probably guess what it is….
I know these things are not the greatest thing to eat, but they are so delicious! Even now that I’m pregnant, I find myself still wanting to eat them (but not as often as I used to).
So this year I plan on giving up Hot Cheetos and commit myself to eating more healthier foods. It’s hard for me to eliminate a food group or something I eat often because I’m pregnant so only certain foods sound good, haha.
As for my spiritual observance of Lent, I started following She Reads Truth‘s Lent study. This is a daily study, and I subscribe to SRT anyways, so it’s sent to my email each morning and it’s available on their app.
If you’ve never heard of SRT, I encourage you to check it out!
I also plan on watching more of my churches sermons online. Since I haven’t been driving down to my Mom’s house that often, I haven’t been physically going to church. I’m hoping Lent will help me get back into the swing of things.
If you’re looking for some great sermons, check out North Coast Church!
Whether you religious or not, I hope you enjoyed this blog post. It’s a little different than what I was usually write about but I was feeling inspired (and was missing my Dad).
[I called this post “Ash(craft) Wednesday” because my Dad used to call it that; he just thought it was so funny. Now that he’s gone, I find that that’s the only way I refer to it too. I am a little jealous that he gets to spend Lent and Easter (and every day, really) with Jesus. And while I miss him terribly, I know he is right where he belongs.]
As an added bonus: here’s my Dad and I on the last day of Move-In Weekend!