"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Conundrum of Post-Vatican II Lenten Sacrifices

Prior to 1966, when the United States bishops released their pastoral letter modifying the practice of Lenten fasting, every Catholic shared a common Lenten sacrifice. That fasting - now restricted to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday - was something done every day, by everyone (aside from those who were dispensed for various reasons and substituted other sacrifices).

Now that we all have the "freedom" to choose our own Lenten sacrifices, we often end up in a conundrum. Do we tell people or not tell people about our chosen sacrifice?

If we tell them, will it lead to spiritual pride on our part? Will we seem to be bragging? Will it make them feel jealous or competitive? If we hear about others' sacrifices, will it make our own seem insufficient? Will it make us feel that we should be trying to do something more difficult? Or can it challenge us and help us to support others?

If we don't tell people, how do we hide our sacrifices from people in a way that's not obnoxious and doesn't make us seem unusual (especially if we're hosting guests or visiting others)? How do we avoid getting spiritually prideful about our little "hidden" sacrifices?

It would seem best just not to tell people about our Lenten sacrifice, except that it can really help to feel like we're being supported. When everyone had the same sacrifice, it was something that everyone did together. It was a communal activity that did not require explanation and did not have to be hidden (from other Catholics, that is). It was not about individual willpower, as our Lenten sacrifices now tend to be.

In a family context, a spouse (and even children) can be a good support for Lenten sacrifices.

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