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Thoughts on Lenten Dieting

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Almost every person I have met at SLU observes Lent, at least for the first few weeks. As a non-Catholic student, I had never been exposed to Mardi Gras celebrations or Ash Wednesday services, and so the mass observance of Lent is new to me. Growing up in a Presbyterian family, we spoke of Lent, but not in the formalized manner that I have seen practiced at SLU. As a family, we understood Lent to be a time where we prepared our hearts for Jesus’s coming. My parents would decide on something we would do as preparation; normally this was praying for a specific cause or doing a devotional as a family for the 40 days. I have come to realize that this was fairly unique to my family.

After a quick google search, I learned that traditionally Lent was meant for individuals to focus on praying, doing penance, and practicing self-denial. This seems an appropriate response to the weightiness that comes with the realities of Good Friday and Easter. However, the observance of Lent I have witnessed does not carry this weight. Most people decided to give up chocolate, desserts, or some kind of unhealthy food. It is interesting that the practice is meant to be spiritual but has been drastically Americanized. It seems that Lent has become a variation of a pre-spring break diet—something you would likely read about on Cosmo. Lent is viewed as an opportunity to get bathing suit ready with the added benefit of sounding religious; I would bet there is little praying or penance involved in saying no to the chocolate ice cream in the freezer.

Now understand that I am not condemning those getting ready for spring break, but I do believe it could be more effective on its own, separate from the spiritual practice. Instead, can you imagine if we, as a body of students who want to honor Jesus’s death and resurrection, decided not to settle for shallow goals but utilized these 40 days? What if we committed to praying for our surrounding community every day and trusted to see God do great things just as He promises? What if we focused our energy on thanking God for what He has given us, namely His Son, instead of complaining and perpetuating our Midterm stress? I believe we would be shocked by the results. SLU would have a student body that is constantly looking to support one another and seeking to be thankful for our many blessings. We would enter into Easter with a correct posture, one of humility and gratitude, instead of the guilt of eating chocolate three weeks early.

It is interesting that the practice is meant to be spiritual but has been drastically Americanized.

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Thoughts on Lenten Dieting