Agnostic Humanist In The South

Lent for the Non-Christian

Just for the record – I woke up at 4am to a tornado siren. There are not many ways to start a day that could raise an anxiety level higher than that. The threats have long passed, but my nerves are still fried. Now – onto the real blog topic.

Today is Ash Wednesday. This is definitely the Catholic event I miss the most from my practicing days. There is just something I always found renewing about the Ash Wednesday mass. I also enjoyed walking around the rest of the day and seeing who else was Catholic as we all spent the day dealing with remarks like, “You have something on your head.” At least that was the case for those of use who attended non-Catholic after-school care programs. Like coming in uniform didn’t make us weird enough – one day a year we had black crosses smeared below our hairlines. Those kids at that daycare were very suspicious of us.

I also miss the idea of Lent and trying to make a change in your life for the better, or make a sacrifice to prepare for a religious event. I like the concept of 40 days of sacrifice or betterment. Every year I wonder if the fact that I no longer fully believe in the religious aspect of Lent, should keep me from the spiritual side of it. I’ve decided this year – I’m not going to let it stop me. Why should I turn my back on a day that inspires change in my heart? So — I don’t follow the Jesus Rises From The Dead rhythm of the Easter season, I can still say, “Hey. I want to be a better person.” There just seems like there’s a positive energy of change in the air during Lent as people are trying to give up their favorite vices to prepare for a spiritual renewal. I might as well join the energy, even if I’m not part of the religion.

So – I guess I want to observe Lent this year. Not necessarily with Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and preparation in mind. Or with any Christian concepts in mind at all. (Which means I obviously won’t be referring to it as “Lent” in my case.) But just simply for the sake of improvement and preparation. I may not be celebrating the rising of my religious savior from death, but I am adding a baby to my family in three months, and that takes spiritual preparation as well. I’ve been really depressed and anxious since my layoff – I think I need some sort of renewal and a way to get myself in the right mindset to welcome a new child into our family.

Are you observing Lent? Do you make sacrifices or fast in anyway? If you do – are you religious? Do you find someone like me – who observes it without the church in mind – offensive? Or are you like me and using the excuse to join the spirit of renewal your friends and family may be partaking in. I’d love to hear your views and what changes you’re making in the next 40 days.

36 thoughts on “Lent for the Non-Christian”

  1. yes… so in three mths we see baby but up until then are you hiding your glorous baby bump??? Come on now lets all share in the glory of some baby belly!

  2. I’m in kind of a religious limbo at the moment (Luke and I baptized our baby in an Episcopal church last month but haven’t officially joined ourselves), but I’m still drawn to Lent. I think Episcopalians actually observe it, though, so hooray for that.

    I’m trying to think of something “extra” to do and something to give up. If I were brave, I’d give up ice cream.

  3. I am religious (Protestant), and I do observe lent with a discipline, which for me is typically not giving something up. It’s actually harder and more important for me to set aside a time for devotion every day than to give up chocolate or something. (My vices tend to be less consumption than action or failure to act.) I do not find it insulting for you to choose lent as a time of renewal. That doesn’t impact me or my relationship with God. And if it helps you to focus on addressing your needs, by all means join us.

  4. I observe Lent, however, I am what I like to call myself a pick and choose Catholic. Or CEO Catholic – Christmas and Easter Only. I fast today, I obstain from meat on Friday’s even though that is a Church rule not God’s rule, and for 40 days I go after the betterment of life. It’s really the only part of Catholism that I practice. I feel drawn to it, but don’t get me going on the rest of jazz. I believe spritualy, but I don’t agree logically with the rest of the hype.

    So join the rest of us “Pick and Choosers” and do what makes your heart feel good.

  5. Your post really has me thinking this morning…I miss lent too – I didn’t even realize today was Ash Wednesday and although I haven’t been to mass in years I am so thrown by the fact that I didn’t even recognize that it was today. Over the past 16 weeks of pregnancy I’ve let myself really get overwhelmed…I haven’t been living in the moment and I haven’t really been “happy” and I clearly need to spend some time contemplating and getting over myself here because a baby is coming into our house and at the very least it should be a peaceful place for her to be. I’ll be mulling over this all day and probably posting later today about what to give up or to embrace during Lent.
    Thanks for giving me something to really think about today!

  6. I’m observing Lent with a spiritual and physical renewal in mind. I am going to eat better, excercise and just generally try and do better. When I get a chance (away from the feverish toddler and the other two kids I’m babysitting today) I plan to put some ideas on paper about exactly what I will try to accomplish. I know what you mean about getting ready for the baby. Your mind and spirit has to do some developing and growing just like your belly. (btw, I’m Lutheran, and while we observe Lent and Ash Wednesday, but we don’t do the “giving up” Catholic thing. I guess it’s more quiet and personal)

  7. I am Catholic but I quit “practicing” several years ago. However, I have never quit practicing Lent. I give up something every year – something meaningful, something that hurts – like chocolate! :>)

  8. I am a Lutheran. We are pretty close to the Catholics.

    I have never been good at giving up things for Lent so I try to add good things like reading a Bible passage everyday for 40 days or something positive like that.

  9. I give up something every year for Lent, but this year, it snuck up on me. And for whatever reason, I like to give up something that starts with the letter “c”. This makes no sense at all, but it was a theme for about five years running (carbs, caffeine, and chocolate were the hardest). My friend does the opposite and TAKES ON something for Lent.. volunteer work, donating to causes, etc.

  10. I have not been the best Catholic when it come to attending Church, but I also have never stopped observing lent. I like the idea of doing something to better myself or helping others in addition to giving up something. I think this year I will try to set time to pray everyday… in addition to biting my nails.

  11. Oh, Zoot! Lent and renewal don’t belong to christians. The concepts have been around forever.

    I am giving up hanging on to anger and resentment. When I get all snarked out over something minor I’m just going to let it go and move on…

  12. I was raised Catholic and I still try to hang on to what little I can though I’m surrounded by a ton of non-religious people; including the parents that forced me through CCD and Catholic School.

    I’ll be giving something up, though I don’t know what just yet and I won’t be eating meat on Friday, but that will most likely be the extent of it. First trimester pregnancy has the thought of getting up for mass on Sunday completely out.

  13. I was baptized as Catholic but have been non-practicing for years. I am in a way giving things up for Lent. Not in a full traditional sense because one of the things I am giving up is hard….real hard. So I am allowing myself to only smoke on Fridays and Saturdays and if I want to smoke? I must go for a walk…even if it is just around the block. I am also giving up soda except for Fridays. In this way I am hoping to improve my health during this time.

    But I really want to smoke right now…….

  14. i think it’s awesome that you decided to do lent this year. are you giving up meat too? 🙂

    i haven’t really decided what to sacrifice or do extra this year. i’ve already sacrificed so much in the past few months just because i’m a poor college student that it’s starting to feel like there’s not much left!

    i still consider myself catholic, but i don’t really go to church very often (and that doesn’t bother me) so i think there are some “real catholics” who would probably challenge the authenticity of this statement, but as a catholic, i think it is a great idea for you to celebrate lent in your own way. not offensive at all. and ANYBODY who finds your personal quest for betterment and spirituality offensive needs to be knocked of his/her high horse.

    good luck!

  15. I didn’t grow up in any church but have always liked the idea of Lent. Last year I made a charitible contribution each week of Lent. This year I am pregnant for the first time so I have given up booze, smokes, and {apparently} my sense of humor since the first of the year so I’m feeling pretty clingy to the rest of my vices.

  16. I am a practicing Catholic, and I give up things for Lent. I think it is great if anyone gives up something or tries to make a positive change for the lenten period! I can’t imagine anyone being offended because a non-Christian tried to do something good.

  17. Kym, I love that phrase CEO Catholic as it describes me too. Like you though I still like doing Lent.

    This year for Lent I am trying to be more positive with less whining especially complaing about other people’s “faults”. It’s time for me to concern myself with my own instead 😉

  18. hey there.
    From KCHS, I always remembered thinking that you were a “real” Catholic person. Whatever that means. Anyway, I have always struggled with all of it- then and now. Still do. I still think back to all those arguments with Mr. Souder and realize that not much has changed for me. I think that Catholicism is one of those things that is impossible to completely exorcise from one’s life. Kurt & I have chosen to send Caroline to Catholic school, but we live in Utah and it scares me to think of her being teased for something as silly as religion. Also, we are so comfortable with Catholic school- old habits die hard. Don’t know if you have addressed this in an old blog post, but what changed for you religiously?
    Also- totally normal to feel depressed on being a SAHM. Its hard to go from a highly functioning adult in the workplace to a stay at home mom wearing maternity clothes. It happened to me in the fall of 2004/winter2005 and I was unbearable for a long while.

  19. I was raised Catholic, but I tell people my policy is half-lapsed. I still do occasionally go to church, and I do try to make changes during Lent. Last year a priest gave the most marvelous homily (sp?) about how the Lenten season shouldn’t be just about sacrifice and giving something up, but about renewal. Renewing your connection with God, with your religion, with your values, with your neighbors. He also suggested, as some of your readers are also doing, instead of giving up something (or only giving up something) to also try to do something related to community service, reflection, or adding something joyful to your life to better your relationship with God. I really took that message to heart. But to be “traditional” I also gave up chocolate. 🙂 One of the hardest things I’ve ever heard of anyone doing is giving up radio in the car, and using that time to pray and reflect and be alone with your thoughts. And, as someone else pointed out, other religions have traditions too. On Monday night two of my newish neighbors knocked on my door (I live in an apartment complex) and introduced themselves. They also handed me a bowl of “ashure” and a little flyer about it. I guess it is a tradition that Muslims practice, making it at home and sharing it with the neighbors. It’s sort of a porridge-type dessert, but also with garbanzo beans and nuts. So that is sort of in keeping with the idea of reaching out and building community. It was so nice to meet them other than the awkward smiles in the hallway (I think the wife is afraid of my dog), and really neat to be exposed to and share one of their traditions. Although I thought it tasted awful, I still appreciated the gesture. 🙂 Anyway, enough rambling from me today!

  20. Gah. I’m too pregnant to give anything up right now. LOL! Seriously though, Lent is actually one thing I wasn’t too sad to give up when I left my Catholic roots behind. IT was always so darned hard to remember not to eat meat on Fridays. A lot of times I would get halfway through the day, remember and realize I had a hamburger for lunch. Argh! So at least I don’t have that pressure anymore. 😉

  21. I like the idea of giving up something. I like sacrifice with my religion. I haven’t come up with anything yet..I have all day right?

  22. I was going to go to Mass today for the first in over a year, but Arun’s school got canceled due to snow. There is no way I am dragging a 2 year old and 6 month old to church on a day like this. I hope Jesus understands.

    I am not overly religious by any means, but I did decide to give up Coca-Cola for Lent.

  23. I am a Christian, albeit not Catholic (presbyterian) and no, I’m not in the least offended that you would choose to use lent as a form of renewal and self betterment. Those are worthy goals for us all. I have always given up something for lent…last year, it was potatoes. (I’m a diabetic and having long ago given up sweets on a regular basis, was still struggling with carbs in general and giving up potatoes except for Sundays helped.) But, this year, I too decided that instead of giving up something, I would actively DO something, and came up with the trying to do a special act of kindness for someone else each day. My first opportunity was presented this morning, when I got a phone call from a college student that I mentor asking if she could do some laundry here (if she has to leave it and go to class, she is less likely to lose a pair of 150 buck jeans to theft than at the laundry mat!) and rather than just saying “sure, you can do laundry here, I offered to let her drop it off and I’m going to do it for her”. It made me feel REALLY great to know that I could help this really busy kid who is going to class, working and raising a child as a single mom to do a couple of loads of laundry for her!

  24. I’ve been debating whether or not to “do” Lent this year or not. I was raised in a Very Christian Household, and am not so Very Christian, but I still like some of the traditions. Of course, I also like not giving up stuff that I like. So there’s that.

  25. so this is my 5th (or 6th, can’t remember) year of observing lent and sacrificing for 40 days. and i was never raised to do anything like that…….never even heard the word growing up.

    but anyway, this year it’s dairy and liquor.

    shoot me now.

  26. What a great post. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thought.

    I remember, in college, seeing my first catholic with ashes on their head. I was so confused. Not I love seeing it on Ash Wednesday.

    I was just talking to a coworker about doing good for lent instead of giving up something.

    While I am not Catholic, I am a very religious person. I fast one Sunday every month (and any other time I find I need it). It is hard to do, but I think it is also something that I need to do. I fast with a purpose in mind…a blessing I (or someone I know) might be in need of. I then donate the money I would have spent on food that to offerings at church.

    I would never be offended by someone who was doing something positive for themselves or others. We should all try to be better people. It would make life, and the world, better.

    Good luck with your 40 days!

  27. This (again) is why I love you. I am a devout Catholic, but find your religion posts so refreshingly honest and respectful. I’m giving up all unnecessary shopping for the next 40 days. No books, no yarn, no clothes, nothing for the house.

  28. I am devout Catholic and I don’t find your observance of Lent the least bit offensive. I find your comments refreshingly honest and a sign that your heart is open to the Lenten renewal. Wishing you peace.

  29. I am Christian, was raised a Catholic, and yep, I do keep Lent even though it is not really a part of my new denomination’s practice, because, like you, I like the thought of trying to become a better person. Here is something you might like…a spiritual but not Catholic friend told me she used Lent to be an acronym for Lets Eliminate Negative Thinking. ((hugs for you and your sweet family))

  30. I think it is a wonderful idea. I liken it to a new years resolution. There are so many things that one could work on and feel a whole better as a result. I think religion is about being good to others and taking of yourself and the earth, so I think you are on the right track.

    Congrats on the baby… and 24 weeks is definitly pregnant enough to buy cute baby stuff. You should celebrate it But I also appreciate that you are scared, hang in there.. 16 weeks to go!

  31. Catholic to the heart! Every year I look forward to this 40 day journey which brings me closer to God. My prayer life grows deeper and I become a more disciplined human.
    I don’t understand why this is just a Catholic thing as I think it’s a great formula for all Christians to follow in preparation for the resurrection of Christ. I think it is awesome when non-Christians and Christians of other denominations celebrate Lent in some form or fashion. More power to you. May your 40 day journey bring you more peace and tranquility.

  32. I’ve been reading here for awhile (although obviously I’m very behind in my blog reading since you posted this almost two weeks ago), and I just wanted to say that I really loved this post. Religion/spirituality is such a sticky topic as no two people ever agree completely and this was written with such an open mind. If only everyone could be this accepting of other’s views….

    I’m a practicing Catholic and we are celebrating Lent this year by doing a daily reading and reflection. I’ve also given up eating soup from our cafeteria at work. That sounds so dumb, but it had become an addiction for me. I’m putting the money I save from not buying it in a bowl and at the end of the season will give it to charity.

    I love that you are celebrating the season and don’t find that offensive at all. Whatever the reasons for it, anytime we make a conscious effort towards self improvement has to be a good thing right?

  33. Hi there…in reading your blog I wonder why you are “hangin on to what little you have of the Catholic faith?”
    There must have been something throughout all the years that has stuck with you about our religion.
    I’m glad to know that you haven’t totally gone away from the church but sadden that you aren’t on fire for the Lord and wished that I could be of some help.
    Instead of giving something up, why don’t you do something extra? Seeing that you have cut out Sunday mass completely, why don’t you make going back to mass your Lenten sacrifice?
    Dying to ourself we become one with Christ.

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