Is Lent sacrifice a private thing?

So I started looking for people who are making sacrifices for Lent last week.

The Living staff has been bantering about it and telling stories, so it seemed like a natural story. After all, Lent is a pretty big deal to many Christians.

So I tapped my usual channels for seeking sources… And came up pretty dry.

It seemed almost as though people didn’t want to talk about it — pastors or parishioners. Now I just did a story about how busy this time of year is for pastors, so I didn’t think too much of it.

Then I came across this Michigan newspaper, which drew the ire of readers by asking on Facebook what they were giving up.

And this morning, I read newly minted Cardinal Timothy Dolan claiming that “you’re not supposed to tell!” what you’re giving up.

Dolan was joking, I think. As a neophyte religion reporter, I ask in all sincerity, did I commit a faux pas by asking about Lent sacrifice?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Is Lent sacrifice a private thing?

  1. Joan says:

    Well, I can only speak about my personal views… but I’ve got two thoughts.

    First, IF you’re going to give something up, then, yes, “Don’t do your good works before men, like the Pharisees do, but do them in secret so that the Lord will see them and praise you in the light.” (Revised Joan Standard Version, meaning I didn’t go look it up exactly, but that’s the general idea.) My all-time favorite pastor did not do imposition of ashes for the same reason, and I still choose not to receive them if I attend a church where they’re given (unless it’s, you know, obviously rude to do so.)

    But here’s the thing I follow. I don’t give stuff up. I don’t think an all-powerful God is glorified by my lack of doughnuts or Diet Pepsi (but I don’t fault anyone who does think that … that’s just my thing.)

    If there is something in my life that’s “an idol” – a thing that’s too important to me and shouldn’t be – then I need to get rid of it, period, and I like to think I can and do, whenever in the calendar year that might be. And by the same token, if there’s really something like that which I need to give up, then I’m not giving it up for 40 days and then picking it back up. If it’s done… it’s done.

    Now, I’m not opposed to things like temporary fasting or silent retreats or the like, where you’re specifically giving up something MAJOR (food/speaking) for a fairly short time to devote all your focus to God. In that case, it’s not about what you’re “giving up,” it’s that you’re devoting so much more time and thought than usual to prayer. So when I hear that people are doing things like that, I don’t have a hard time with it, though again in the “good deeds in secret” vein, I don’t want to see all over someone’s Facebook page a play-by-play during their silent retreat. (Yes, that really happened.)

    … and this comment is why Joan shouldn’t be allowed to stay up til 2:26 a.m. and address deep questions of religious implication!


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