Being content during the season of lent


This past week, the University of San Diego campus was swarming with students marked with a black, ashy cross on their foreheads. These are the students who chose to attend the Ash Wednesday service kicking off the religious season of Lent.

In short, Lent is a 40-day fast that ends on Easter Sunday in which participants choose to give up an indulgence of their choice. Traditionally, this fast is a religious representation of commitment, faith, and honor to God.

Though this season is historically a holy representation of something much bigger than fasting, I feel that our society has turned it into something much more nonchalant. While there are still large numbers of people who honor Lent for the traditional or religious reasons, many choose to follow Lent for their own personal gains and goals. Some Catholics may find this bothersome and insulting to their religion while others see no wrong in using this period of time to practice personal self control.

Sophomore Bentley Porterfield participates in Lent every year as a commitment to her Catholic faith.

“For me it’s just important to show that you’re able to give something up and have will power,” Porterfield said. “The whole point is that Jesus gave up so much for us and so I feel like it’s kind of a way to show respect and give something up for him.”

Although many choose to participate in Lent as a testimony to their religion, some use Lent for various, completely unrelated reasons. While sophomore Kendra Rudd-Gloster considers herself a religious person, she does not necessarily use lent for its traditional religious purpose.

“Basically I look at Lent as a second chance for my New Year’s resolution,” Rudd-Gloser said. “But I feel like it’s easier to stick with than my New Year’s resolution because everyone around me is trying so hard to do so but because of their religious own, personal, reasons.”

As a religious person who chooses to participate in Lent every other year or so, I can relate to both sides of the argument. There is a part of me that wants to respect and honor the religious practice in its traditional way. When Lent is followed as it is supposed to be, there can be many unique and enriching religious benefits.  Lent can be a great time to cleanse your mind of the typical day-to-day distractions of our world. With that being said, if someone chooses to participate in Lent for no other reason than to test their personal willpower, I see no wrong in that. I will not let my personal religious choices and preferences affect how I view what others choose to do with theirs.

“It doesn’t necessarily bother me [when people use Lent in a non-traditional way] because I don’t really see anything wrong in testing your willpower,” Bentley said. “I’m not super extreme but I could definitely see some people who are really into their faith taking it kind of personally.”

I think if one chooses to follow Lent for religious purposes, there are ways that result in greater benefits. While giving up chocolate or soda may be hard, it would be much more valuable to take something on rather than give something up. For example, you may try to go to church every Sunday or pray a little more often.  This way, you avoid falling into the trap of making Lent a diet of sorts and focus on this time as a spiritual and personal endeavor.

Sophomore Kiersten Nordli shares why she is choosing to participate in Lent but not by giving anything up.

“This year I decided to take on a personal challenge,” Nordli said. “I want to do something for Lent but I don’t like when people use Lent as an excuse to diet.”

Since these 40 days can be such a personal, spiritual, and emotional endeavor, there really is no right or wrong way to go about it, just ways that could potentially result in greater spiritual gains. It is not my place, nor anyone else’s, to judge whether others’ intentions with Lent are justifiable. Whether you are participating in Lent for religious purposes or your own personal reasons, more power to you.