It's almost upon us! That most magical and fruitful of times in the liturgical year. That Disney World of spiritual practice. That season of warm fuzzies. Lent! ...Lent? Really? For most people, Lent means giving up Facebook or chocolate, and "warm fuzzies" aren't really on the menu (along with bacon on Fridays). It's true, Lent is a time of penance, of giving things up or taking them on to encourage spiritual discipline and growth. And sometimes (many times) that can be difficult...but it can also be awesome. In true BuzzFeed style, we've compiled a list of prompts to get your gears turning about what to do for Lent. Here are 18 ways to make this Lent awesome:
1. Get in on Synergos
The Greek word "Syngergos" is translated as "co-worker", "co-laborer" or "fellow helper" and Paul uses it when he's sending his greetings to his partners in ministry--people like Priscilla, Aquilla and Timothy. Many times, we chose our Lenten disciplines to be difficult, but not as difficult as perhaps they should be. We cop out. But our friends usually know what we really need and know how to hold us accountable. This Lent at the Newman Center, we're doing a program called "Synergos" where the Campus Minister partners students with each other to be fellow helpers, co-workers during Lent. Your Synergos chooses your Lenten discipline and you choose theirs, and then you support each other through it all.
Pick a part of your name and find a saint who shares it, then read some of their writings this Lent.
3. Give Him your First 5
First 5 is a phone app for women by non-denominational Christian ministry Proverbs 31. The idea: give God your first five minutes every day, and watch your faith life flourish. The app (which includes gorgeous graphics and inspirational quotes that you can save to your phone and set as wallpaper) has an alarm option where it can wake you up each morning for your First 5 (bonus point: the "Happy" alarm tone option is literally the happiest sound we've ever heard) as well as a "More Moments" alert at 3 pm so you can dig deeper into the day's Scripture reading. Find it here.
4. Explore Solidarity
There are a lot of problems in the world today, and we as Christians are called to stand beside the oppressed, the poor, and the voiceless. Your Lenten sacrifice can be an opportunity to explore solidarity--that is, willfully losing something in order to better understand the lives of those for whom that loss is not a choice. Lucky for you, that experience can be over when you say it is, and hopefully you will use it to speak out for those who can't, and to help change that circumstance. Examples: give up second helpings to start to understand what it must be like to be hungry, or give up spending money on anything but the absolute necessities to start to empathize with the poor.
5. Give up Meat
A traditional part of the Great Fast (as the Orthodox call it) is giving up meat for the entirety of Lent. Roman Catholics echo this by giving up meat (also called "abstaining") on Fridays during Lent, but why not do it for the whole season? The Dining Commons always has meat-free and vegan options available at Valley Vegan, and the rest of the areas at the DC, Lloyds, Hoot n Scoot, and Bean n Bagel are clearly marked with symbols denoting the vegetarian status of a meal. Here are some great meat-free meals to try, and don't forget to make sure you're getting enough plant-based protein to keep you running!
6. Ditch the Technology
Tech can be a great way to stay connected--and also a great way to keep yourself isolated. Here are some tech-based ideas on ways to lessen your dependence on a screen and strengthen your dependence on God and your Christian community:
Give up checking your phone during mealtimes
Do some serious contemplating on whether you run to Netflix or Facebook for escape when you should be praying for relief. Give either or both up if this is the case.
Look seriously into the original (extremely mysoginistic) business plan behind Snapchat (if you're not aware, read this illuminating article) and consider whether giving it up for Lent (or entirely) wouldn't show that when it comes to respecting women, you walk the walk and talk the talk (or snap the snap, as it might be)
Go through your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds and unfollow anyone who regularly tempts you to jealousy (I'm looking at you, friend on a year-long Fulbright in India who keeps posting gorgeous photos of food and selfies galore...)
Set a time each night when you turn off your phone. Like, all the way off. For as long as you can stand it. Once you get over the shakes, you'll find it's quite healthy to be disconnected.
7. Start a New Spiritual Practice
Chances are, there's a Catholic spiritual practice that you've heard of and are curious about. Now's the time to check it out! Explore! Be creative! Do that novena you've always wondered about. Start praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy! See what a Holy Hour is all about. If you're a woman, consider veiling your head during Mass or in the Adoration Chapel like in the old days. Ask the Campus Minister if you need more suggestions!
8. ...Or Resurrect an Old One
Do you keep saying that *this time* you really are going to pray every day? Give it another shot this Lent! Or, say a rosary every day. Commit to a weekly hour in the Adoration chapel. Pick up your Bible and, I don't know, read it. Do that thing you've been meaning to do!
9. Make it your "Best Lent Ever" with Matthew Kelly
Brought to you by the guy who wrote the popular books "Rediscovering Jesus" and "Rediscover Catholicism", Matthew Kelly, Best Lent Ever sends you daily videos and readings to get you through Lent in a meaningful way. Sign up for Best Lent Ever here
10. Say No to Plastic
Plastic has brought us many good things--IV lines, safer cars--but it's also brought a lot of waste, and all the climate changing, poor country polluting side effects of that. Give up using disposable plastic goods--bottles, utensils, bags, etc.--to be a better steward of Creation.
11. Say Yes to New Ideas
Find a quote or thought from a saint or Pope and commit to contemplating it during Lent. For example, a few years ago I chose to contemple Pope Francis' condemnation that "throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry" and it completely changed the way I eat and cook.
12. Get FORMED
Our host parish, the Parish of the Holy Spirit, has a membership to the online resource library FORMED and they're giving it to Keene State students for free! Contact the Campus Minister for the access code, and before you know it you'll have a huge library of videos, online Bible studies, streaming talks and more at your fingertips. Check out their website here.
13. Pick Your Favorite Point of Catholic Social Teaching
There are ten of them! They're all pretty great (and many of them are shocking)! Pick your favorite, contemplate it, and allow it to form your behavior over Lent. Our page of Social Justice Resources is a great place to start!
14. 40 Days, 40 Giveaways
Chances are you have too much crap while so many people in the world don't have enough. Give something away every day during Lent. You'll find your life simplified by less clutter.
15. Give Up Makeup
That's right, I said it. If the thought of walking out in the morning without your mascara creates a pit in your stomach, perhaps it's time to give it up for Lent and contemplate on the nature of true beauty.
16. Go Green
An important, and often overlooked, aspect of spiritual discipline is our call to be good stewards of Creation. Give up plastic, only eat organic (which is better for your health, the Earth, and your local economy if you're staying local, which we suggest), switch out some of your household and hygeine items for greener versions, walk instead of drive, turn off more lights, the possibilities are endless! There are a ton of really afforadable options for all of the above at the Monadnock Co-Op, which is a very short walk from campus.
17. Buy Fair Trade Chocolate, Coffee, Sugar, Cotton, and More...
Did you know that the chocolate and coffee industries make up a huge chunk of today's slavery market? That's right: the chocolate in your Hershey's was most likely harvested by a slave. Be a modern day abolitionist by refusing to spend your money in industries that use slave labor; buy Fair Trade!
Any of these logos mean that the supply and labor chain used for your cup of coffee or favorite t-shirt is certified to treat their workers ethically and give them a livable wage. Local Fair Trade resources:
Aldi's (no really, they sell Fair Trade sugar!)
The Dining Commons (their coffee, tea and sugar are all Fair Trade!)
18. Give up Porn
Yeah, I said it. And I don't need to argue it, because I've never talked to a guy who hasn't admitted "Yeah, deep down I know it's wrong." If you need motivation, swing by the Common Room and pickup a free copy of Matt Fradd's "Delivered" from the Library (it's full of stories of men and women who turned from porn to purity). If you need accountability, check out Covenant Eyes, an online accountability site. If you're addicted and can't see stopping as a reality (which about half of porn users do), check out Reclaim, an incredible online community and resource site with videos on the science of addiction, why Theology of the Body says porn and masturbation are harmful to you, and how to break the cycle. There are scholarships for students on Reclaim, so cost won't be an issue.