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Lenten obligations affect student habits, dining hall menus

Ryan Sydlik | Wednesday, March 1, 2006

While some Notre Dame students are complaining about their lack of phone and Internet usage due to ongoing dorm upgrades, others are voluntarily denying themselves those privileges today.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent – and with it come individual sacrifices by Catholics everywhere.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart rector Father Peter Rocca said the purpose of Lent is to prepare Catholics for the coming Easter and renew their baptismal promises through prayer, fast and almsgiving.

Notre Dame students will be expressing this renewal in many ways.

While freshman Natali Chavez is giving up soda for Lent, she said many of her friends’ Lenten resolutions deal specifically with computers and the common snares they hold for students – including the game spider solitaire and Internet usage.

“[I] know one girl giving up Facebook,” Chavez said.

Some students are still sorting out what their resolutions should be. Junior Eric Mail said Tuesday he “has no plans as of yet.”

Sophomore Clare Lawless is Episcopalian, but she said she will get ashes and abstain from meat on Fridays and that she participated in Fat Tuesday. However, she said she was not quite sure about making a Lenten sacrifice.

“Rather than give up something, I will instead do something extra that is positive,” she said.

Sophomore Andy Matthews also said he is doing something positive rather than giving something up.

“I will go to the Grotto every day,” he said – something he has already been doing for two weeks.

While many students are focusing on the individual aspects of the season, there is also a dorm-wide aspect of Lent at Notre Dame.

Keough Hall rector Father Peter Jarret said students in his hall are sponsoring a Grab-and-Go program. Instead of getting the meals for themselves, they will collect non-perishable items for donations to charity.

Food plays a major role in sacrifice during the Lenten season. Rocca said Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence on which meat is not eaten, and only one full large meal and two small meals are permitted. And while not all Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence, they are days of fasting from meat.

The University’s dining halls have devised ways to help students fulfill this Lenten obligation.

Dan Patterson, the Operations Manager of South Dining Hall, said the dining halls will modify the menu so there is no meat on Fridays. In order to compensate for this, he said, new items have been added that were not available last year.

Marc Poklinkowski, the General Manager of South Dining Hall, said the dining hall menus will have more variety. Substitute items will include grilled pizza, grilled vegetables, cinnamon sticks, garlic cheese pizza, unfried fish, quesadillas and bosco sticks – “lots of grilled items which are fairly popular and lots of cheese.”

Patterson said the dining halls will end the season with a Lenten buffet on April 7, one week before Good Friday.

Since Lent is a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, Rocca said the Basilica has made additional plans for Lent to prepare Catholics for Easter.

Ashes will be distributed at both the 11:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. Masses today, with the Eshola Cantorum providing music for the 11:30 Mass and the Notre Dame Liturgical choir singing at the 5:15 Mass.

On all Fridays of Lent, the Basilica will host the Stations of the Cross, with various choirs providing music throughout the season.

Rocca said Lent is also the time when catechumens – people wishing to become Catholic – prepare to enter into the Church before receiving the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Reconciliation) during the Easter Vigil Mass. In addition, candidates for full communion – Protestants who wish to become Catholic – will be received into full communion on April 2.