What I’m giving up for Lent
Gabriel Niforatos | Friday, February 19, 2021
This Lent, I’ve decided to give up meat. I could tell you that my body is a temple and that I want to be a healthy, disciplined person or that I oppose inhumane violence against God’s creation. For 40 days, I’m going to sacrifice and eat fish and broccoli from the dining hall, and maybe I’ll inch closer to a more meaningful sacrifice through the process. Please understand that I am giving up chargrilled dining hall chicken tenders on my path to deepened spirituality.
This Lent, I’ve committed myself to caring more about the environment because the pope told me to do so in “Laudato Si” and other supporting encyclicals and revelations. I am going to start by changing the little habits and behaviors that we might take for granted, like turning off the light when I leave my room for the day and using my recycling bin, despite the fact that a single item of trash in the recycling bin means that it will be placed in the same spot where the garbage is on campus. I see you looking over, so please excuse the three-quarters of my meal left of my plate that I didn’t finish. Don’t be worried, though — there aren’t any dumpster divers on campus, I am told.
This Lent, I’ll use the internet less, spend more time with friends in religious fellowship and read more poetry because flowery words make me feel alive. I am going to be a better, more godly person, and sacrifice something as a small reminder of a bigger, more ultimate sacrifice that the son of God made for us an eternity ago. How insignificant my task seems when contrasted with the eternal.
This Lent, I’m not just going to forego shiny, tasty, pleasurable things. I will be a more godly person who is compassionate to the sojourner perspective. There are exceptions, of course. I’m not going to give up being a single issue voter on abortion because the Church tells us that the unborn must be protected from the point of conception to natural death. I’m going to forget the way I voted this past election, or maybe I’ll wave my ballot in front of you. I wonder what President Biden is giving up for Lent this year. He is Catholic, after all, and I fervently pray that he reverses his stance on abortion because this is the most fundamental issue after all.
Never mind that minorities are more likely to be convicted of crime than the majority in the U.S., that there is a double standard in the length of sentencing for these people or that our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Never mind the homeless tent encampment in South Bend. Never mind the crisis of conscience occurring in the highest political offices, the Capitol riot that put democracy on the back burner a few short weeks ago. Lady Macbeth was haunted by the ghostly sensation of blood on her hands, scrubbing her fingertips until you could see bone. I dip my hands into the bowl and look away before I can see if the water became cloudy.
Don’t be quick to judge me and my Lenten sacrifice. This Lent, I have committed myself to loftier things than cheese and wine. You tempt me with stones in the desert that smell of freshly baked bread, but equality and justice in the world are greater temptresses. I will pray to a whole host of saints that a group of men has told me are holy. There was a time, long ago, when we told women to be silent in church and keep their heads covered. But we have become enlightened to deeper and richer truths with the passage of time. I know this because the pope and the fathers of the Church tell me we have become so.
Just remember that there are levels to this entire process. I have whetted the tip of my sword with poison just as Laertes once did in his quest to kill Hamlet, but I refuse to be pricked back. I’ll entertain you in the hallway, but if you can’t or won’t at least entertain my agenda back to me, then I am sorry, but our office just doesn’t have time to help you. There are levels to sacrifice, you understand. Jesus made a point of breaking bread with thieves and scoundrels, and I spent my entire print quota on a photograph of Father Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, Jr., standing side by side to show everyone that I am committed to the highest of goals in this world.
This Lent, I’m committed to being a better person. And after 40 days when I am a bit hungrier and the ash on my forehead is a distant stain on my memory, I’ll move on to something else.
But perhaps the seeds of my sacrifice will remain and grow long after my superficial penance has concluded. Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, and I want to feel that kind of righteous wrath to make and care and turn all of this into something meaningful. An outsider may see my Lenten sacrifice as a New Year’s resolution to exercise more and eat healthier, and perhaps it is and will fade away as one for some people. But it undoubtedly means far more to others. The only issue is when faith blinds us to the things that we fundamentally care about in the first place.
Gabriel Niforatos is a senior majoring in political science with minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and theology. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at [email protected] or @g_niforatos on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.