Lent is coming. It’s a time of prayer, almsgiving and—what it’s probably most known for—fasting. The week preceding Ash Wednesday, a question pops into the heads of Catholics. What shall I give up for Lent? There are the usual sacrifices: giving up chocolate or soda, taking cold showers, fasting from caffeine , etc. But for some, the same old sacrifices have become tired and they’re looking for something new to give up to reinvigorate their Lent. They’re wanting a little extra challenge. For these souls, I have compiled such a list.
- Instead of taking cold showers, purchase an undersized water heater. Some might think an entire shower of cold water would be more sacrificial than just the last few minutes of a shower. These naïve souls are underestimating the psychological horror of experiencing the warmth and comfort of a warm shower and then feeling the water start to cool with a little over half of the shower routine not yet gone through. Then it becomes a race to finish before the water turns to ice. A race that one rarely wins. The promise of a warm, cozy shower only to have it ripped away in the last minutes is much more sacrificial than a cold shower that one is prepared for.
- Instead of giving up certain food favorites such as chocolate or soda, switch to their generic versions. In most cases, I would rather give up the item entirely rather than have to endure eating the generic version for 40 days. Hence, the generic version is more sacrificial. (You get a penance bonus if the generic food product changes in substance if allowed to reach room temperature.)
- Sleep without a weighted blanket. I have read about saints sleeping on the hard floor, on dirt floors, without pillows, on beds of nails, etc. All of these I could do, as long as I had my weighted blanket. I could probably sleep in hell itself, as long as I was under the cozy heaviness of my weighted blanket. In fact, just thinking about sleeping without it gives me cold sweats, which are easily cured by wrapping myself in my weighted blanket. 40 nights without it would be on par with living like the desert fathers.
- Unless you have a doctorate in psychology, are teaching Greek mythology or work with hazmat chemicals, go all Lent without saying or typing the words toxic or narcissist. If you in anyway have the urge to argue with me about this, you have no need to go further on this list. This is your sacrifice. Godspeed.
- Do not dye your hair. Yes, people are going to think you look older. It’s okay. They assumed it anyway because you listen to better music than them at a reasonable volume and you yell at kids to keep off your well-tended lawn while popping Tums like candy. Wearing your natural hair color won’t shock anyone, it will only confirm their suspicions. And a happy aftereffect will be having extra money to offer alms. The Bible probably says, “God loves a cheerful, old-looking giver.” (Full disclosure: I don’t dye my hair and would like to stop always looking like the old lady of the bunch while out with my friends, at parties or at nursing homes. I may or may not be using Lent to get a new ‘old lady hair’ trend going).
- Since everyone is wearing masks, this is a great opportunity to actually wear sackcloth on your head without worrying about calling the unnecessary attention to yourself that Jesus forbids in Matthew Chapter 6. Just cut it out into the shape of a mask and voila! You’re being penitential Old Testament-style and no one around you has any idea how holy you are being. (You get a penance bonus if you think masks are pointless and still do this.)
- Black coffee drinkers, IPA drinkers, Crossfitters, Marines, Texans and anyone on any kind of trendy diet—don’t talk about it. Don’t post about it. Don’t even write “I’m drinking my coffee black” on a scrap of paper and pass it to the person behind you in line. When buying $600 worth of protein and dairy products, avoid hinting to the cashier checking you out that you are on Keto. Crossfitters, do not wear a thread of Crossfit merchandise. Not the t-shirt, the sweatshirt, the hat, the pants, the socks, the underwear, the shoes, the sweatbands, the belly bags, the back packs, the sunglasses, the watch, the pinky ring, the bandana, the ironic mullet or even the “No Bull” towel. Marines, don’t correct someone when they say “ex-marine.” All of you, for 40 days, nobody around you gets to know about the thing that makes them inferior to you.
- Go to daily Mass at a Catholic parish that uses the Gather Hymnal and force yourself to sit through lyrics like “ride on, Jesus, ride” and “raise you up on eagle’s wings” without running screaming from the church, hands over your ears. Depriving yourself of good music at Mass will give you a new appreciation for it on Sundays and at Easter.
- Call the cable company and try to speak to an actual person. Nothing robs you of pride (and human dignity) like getting stuck in the phone tree of a giant corporation while having to hear a recorded robot voice say, “We care about you, please stay on the line,” every 30 seconds for hours on end. It really juxtaposes with the fact that the guy that created and runs the universe — which is easily twice as big as the largest corporation — not only knew us intimately before we were knitted in the womb, but also sent his son to die for us to open the gates of heaven so that we could have eternity without ever having to wait on hold again. (You get a penance bonus if you call a government agency).
- Read Flannery O’Connor’s novels or short stories without any preparation, background information or study guides. Just sit down, open the book and go. Have some Pepto nearby.
And there you have it: the perfect list of Lenten sacrifices for those looking for a little extra challenge.
May you have a blessed and spiritually fruitful Lent!