Giving up, giving of

Here comes Lent and with it the question so many Catholics ask one another: “What are you giving up?” My go-to give-ups are salty snacks and/or diet soda. But while doing without Doritos and Diet Coke for 40 days is physically healthy, I don’t think that “sacrifice” alone increases my spiritual health in anticipation of the Easter Triduum — especially if I go to the cookie jar instead of the snack bag.

In the smartphone age, the give-ups are going high-tech. We hear of people planning to sign off Facebook for Lent, for example. The Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut is promoting “I Phone Fast. Will U?,” a challenge to fast from using cell phones on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Could you live without your phone for a day?

“Silencing our busy phones gives God a chance to call our hearts,” according to the initiative. “Please consider including this practice in addition to fasting from food, almsgiving and prayer, which are traditional disciplines by which the Church observes Lent.”

Ah yes, almsgiving and prayer — the “giving of” part of Lent that isn’t as widely discussed. But the giving up needs to lead to the giving of. Lent is a journey of conversion. The pangs of hunger, we’re told — whether for Doritos or to check Facebook status — need to remind us of our hunger for God and the hunger of those in need around us.

This issue of The Catholic Post includes some options for giving of ourselves:  the traditional Rice Bowl of Catholic Relief Services, the new Sophia’s Lunch Box described on page 3, the “Gift of Self” series that this spotlights volunteer needs at St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley, and a host of parish missions and prayer opportunities around the diocese.

And so we ask: What are you giving of this Lent? — Thomas J. Dermody

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