Lent has been a continuous debate among Catholics, Christians, and even families for years. My own family has multiple views on the traditions of not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. My Catholic grandmother always followed the rule. It was a rule I was taught in Sunday School and was heavily enforced in the church and by my grandmother. For my mother, a Protestant, the only day not to eat meat on was Good Friday. But, because of my father’s Catholic background, she still tried to help my brothers and I abide by the Catholic rule. In recent years, fewer Catholics are following this rule, my family included. I’ve heard people say things like, “They only invented the rule because the fish market was down,” or “Poultry isn’t meat.” Whatever you’ve heard, make your own decision. There are other ways to acknowledge your faith during this time of the year.
Not eating meat on Fridays is just one tradition for Lent for Catholics. Many will “give up” something for Lent, like sweets or chocolate. Others will choose to “be a better Catholic/Christian” for Lent, whether this means helping others or attending mass more often. For those of you who have no idea what you want to do (or not do) for Lent this year, I will share ideas with you that I, myself, am going to do for Lent or ones that I have heard others are doing for Lent.
In terms of the no-meat-eating rule, I am not following it this year. I discussed it with my boyfriend, who comes from a Mexican Catholic family, and we made the decision together (since I don’t feel like making two separate meals on Fridays, for one reason). What I am deciding to in place of this “rule,” is to make healthier choices. Instead of not eating meat, I am going to eat more vegetables. Today, I packed a spinach salad for lunch to go along with my normal turkey and ham sandwich instead of purchasing something from the lunch counter in my office. We are not giving up sweets entirely, but we will eat them very seldom.
An idea I heard is to give away an item of clothing each day during Lent. Many of us have closets full of clothes and shoes we hardly wear, so why not give up items we don’t use anymore to those less fortunate. Luckily, the warm weather comes during Lent so as you switch from winter to spring wear, figure out what winter clothes you haven’t worn in a while and toss any spring clothes that no longer fit you. Easy! I will definitely be sorting through my clothes as spring approaches, and getting rid of things I no longer need. But remember, don’t buy new clothes you don’t need!
Lastly, a disclaimer about me. I am not the type of Catholic to attend church every week. However, I do consider myself to be a religious person and I was raised by religious grandparents who I would always go to church with. When my grandmother passed away 9 years ago, I still attended mass with my grandfather. Going away to college and now being busy with a new job (with an ever-changing schedule) makes it hard to attend mass regularly, but I go when I can. Being a Catholic, to me, is not dependent on how many times you go to church. Rather, it is reflected in how often you help others and your spirituality and dedication to your faith. The Catholic Church is changing rapidly, especially with Pope Francis. Faith to your religion (no matter which you practice), however, is what is important.