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Penance during Lent: what can we give up?

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FILE PHOTO: Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church in Bantayan Town on Bantayan Island in northern Cebu is a favorite destination for pilgrims and tourists during Holy Week. —DALE G. ISRAEL

MANILA, Philippines — Doing penance, described by Filipino Jesuits as an “act of mortification,” is a crucial part of Lent for many Catholics.

Penance, the Jesuits said, “is all human pain observed or experienced as a sign remembered and wished to share in the sufferings which our Lord, Jesus Christ, passed through for the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation.” .

The two canonical forms of penance during Lent are fasting and abstinence, which Catholics are expected to practice – along with prayers – as a chance to prepare for Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.

READ: Lent: The Filipino way

“We seek the Lord in prayer by reading Holy Scripture; we serve by giving alms and we practice self-control by fasting,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

Fasting and abstinence

Fasting, as defined by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), is “the act of doing with less”. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

“The law of fasting prescribes that only one full meal per day is taken. Two lighter meals are permitted to maintain strength as needed. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices, are permitted,” the Filipino Jesuits said.

Abstinence

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

Abstinence refers to the act of “going without”. The practice is commonly observed on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and every Friday during the 40 days of Lent.

“The abstinence law prohibits the eating of meat, but eggs, dairy products and meat condiments can be consumed. Fish and all cold-blooded animals can be eaten, eg frogs, clams, turtles, etc. said the Filipino Jesuits.

“The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year and above. We are not bound to the fourteenth birthday, but we start abstaining at midnight at the end of the birthday.

Available during Lent

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

Certain people are exempt from these practices, including the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women, those under 14, the very ill, the materially poor and homeless, and workers who have to work more than nine hours a day. . .

READ: FAQ: Fasting and abstinence during Lent

But for those who practice fasting and abstinence as a form of penance, are there other things to give up for Lent that might also express a person’s self-mortification?

What else to give up for Lent

In addition to cutting meals and moving away from certain foods, Catholics who practice penance in the form of abstinence may also give up other things for Lent.

Rules of fasting

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

In his message for Lent this year, Pope Francis reminded the people: “Let us not tire of eradicating evil from our lives. May the bodily fast to which Lent calls us strengthen our spirit for the fight against sin.

“Let us not tire of asking for forgiveness in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, knowing that God does not tire of forgiving,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us not weary of fighting against lust, that weakness which incites selfishness and all evils, and throughout history finds various ways of enticing men and women into sin”, a- he added.

One such temptation, according to the pope, is addiction to digital media, which he says “impoverishes human relationships.”

Pope Francis has emphasized resisting such temptations and cultivating a more integral form of human communication made up of “authentic encounters” face to face and in person.

Pope Francis - Message of Lent

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

According to the British online newspaper The Independent, some of the most common Lenten things dropped by Twitter users, based on responses (serious and non-serious) tracked by the openbible.info website, include:

  • Chocolate
  • Social networks
  • Alcohol
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • school
  • Meat
  • Candy
  • Coffee
  • Soft drinks

“Certain vices like alcohol, swearing and sugary drinks almost always make the list – which is compiled annually – but trends and current events influence people’s choices,” said The article. Independent.

However, he noted that the algorithm used by the website does not pick up tone, “so not all suggestions are entirely serious.”

Meanwhile, some environmentally conscious groups have recommended practicing self-control this Lent so as to have a positive impact on the environment.

Here are some examples of environmentally friendly practices for Lent:

  • Ditch foods wrapped in plastic (like junk food).
  • Reduce energy consumption by turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use, running air conditioning or heating only when needed, or reading a book instead of watching television.
  • Give up animal products.
  • Avoid unnecessary purchases or frivolous expenses.

Seek, don’t avoid

As the world continues to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, as well as Vladimir Putin’s barbaric assault on the sovereign nation of Ukraine, the Catholic group Caritas has reminded that the people are called to actively unite with the “abundant goodness” of God.

“As Pope Francis reminds us in his message for Lent 2022, we are called to ‘sow seeds of goodness for the good of others, to take concrete daily actions in favor of our brothers and sisters'”, said Caritas said in a statement.

“It means actively choosing to make visible and hear the voices of those people who are on the margins. It means actively seeking out and reaching out to those whom society has excluded and making room for them,” he added.

“It means sowing seeds of hope even in the darkest times. It means putting into practice our call to love without exception.

Rather than simply giving up something for Lent, Caritas asked the public to instead consider ‘taking something up’ and committing to taking simple steps each day to draw closer to God.

“Lent is a favorable time to seek out – not to avoid – those in need; reaching out – not ignoring – to those who need a listening ear and a good word; visit – not abandon – those who are alone,” Pope Francis said in his Lenten message.

“Let us put into practice our call to do good to all and take the time to love the poor and the needy, those who are abandoned and rejected, those who are discriminated and marginalized,” the Pope said.

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