Every year, those who are part of the Catholic faith choose something to sacrifice throughout the period of Lent. However, for those people, Lent is about much more than just making a 40-day sacrifice.
Lent is a Catholic tradition that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends almost six weeks later, just before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is to focus on faith and recognize the sacrifice Christ made when he died on the cross to pay for sins, and to give something up during the 40 days as one’s own personal sacrifice.
Becky Harhai, a freshman studying strategic communication, believes Lent is the perfect time to work on strengthening faith and remembering what is truly important.
“Jesus gave his life for humanity, and it’s important to take time to make a sacrifice in exchange for the biggest sacrifice someone else could make,” Harhai said. “It’s a period of focusing on that and strengthening your own personal faith.”
Harhai began getting serious about Lent when she was in high school. She started giving up something, reading deeper into the Bible and praying more to show her faith. Harhai and her mother choose to give up meat for Lent every year in hopes of creating a deeper relationship with God.
“I’ve always participated in Lent,” Harhai said. “Ever since I was little, my parents inspired me to give something up. In high school, I started giving up meat because I wanted to further my relationship with God in a more sacrificial way.”
Molly Powers, a freshman studying journalism, feels happy to participate in Lent every year and strengthen her personal faith, and her relationship with her family.
“It shows my dedication to my faith,” Powers said. “It shows how strong I can be; how much I can push myself outside of school or doing good works for others.”
Powers always celebrates Lent with her family and loves that it brings them closer together. Though she routinely gives sweets and candy up for Lent every year, she recognizes the item she gives up means more than just something randomly chosen to sacrifice.
“It’s so much more than giving up something just to give up something,” Powers said. “It’s definitely a way I can test myself, and it reminds me not only to be thankful for what I have, that I’m able to give something up like that, but it also reminds me of my faith and to pray.”
Rather than restricting oneself during Lent, some practitioners choose to practice something new or give more of themselves in some way. Sister Rachel Nijakowski, a leadership team member for Lourdes University, a Catholic university in Sylvania, Ohio, believes it’s unnecessary to be required to give something up to properly participate in Lent.
“Instead of giving something up, I choose to do more outreach,” Nijakowski said. “I choose to spend more time in prayer and contemplation, while doing outreach work with victims of domestic violence, people at the soup kitchens, and other groups.”
In addition to being a cabinet member for Lourdes University, Nijakowski is also the director of the Sophia Center, a counseling center in Toledo that focuses on assisting women and children in their health and well-being. Nijakowski has always participated in Lent, but as time has gone on, she has focused on doing more work in the region rather than giving something up.
“It’s important to have this time of reflection,” Nijakowski said. “But I’m more compelled to try to connect and be with the poor and the marginalized. It’s just another mindful way to take a look and think about why this time is different from any other time in the church year.”
Though Harhai, Powers and Nijakowski all have different reasons behind their participation in Lent, all agree Lent is an especially important time for people to focus on their faith and to reflect.
“Your happiness isn’t dependent on worldly possessions like food or technology,” Harhai said. “It’s so much more than that. It revolves around your spiritual journey.”
Powers agrees Lent is a time to reflect on oneself and to stop focusing on worldly possessions.
“It’s an important time to take a step back and remind yourself of what you’re thankful for,” Powers said. “It’s also important to think about how impactful it is that Jesus gave up his life for you so that you could be here and lead a better life. It’s a great time for self reflection.”
Nijakowski thinks Lent is the best time of the church year, when everyone can really stop and think about what they are doing to further God’s work. She believes making connections is the most important part.
“Christ at the last supper said, ‘Take and eat, this is my body. Take and eat, this is my blood.’ And ‘take and eat’ is a pretty direct statement of ‘go and do,’” Nijakowski said. “Lent especially is a time for me to go and do Christ’s work from when he was here on Earth, which requires a lot of outreach. It’s all about relationships, and making connections in this world.”