As everyone knows, this past Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, a day where love is celebrated in emotional and material ways. However, unless you are a practicing Catholic, you may have not known that Ash Wednesday occurred on the same day. Ash Wednesday is a Catholic holiday that marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period before Easter Sunday.
You might have seen individuals with ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead. Maybe you didn’t know that they were ashes, that it’s a practice that Catholics participate in, or that it represents our mortality. Perhaps you didn’t think anything of it, or just thought it was stuff on their face. I know yesterday, when I attended classes with ashes on my forehead at Yeshiva University (a Jewish institution), I received some stares and was asked by students not of the Catholic faith what was on my head and “if I was okay.” Luckily, I enjoy sharing about my faith and explained the ashes and their significance.
It’s fitting that the two holidays coincided. Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating love, and in a sense, so is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent, is a celebration of our faith and mortality, but also of love. Love for our faith, love for the life that we have, and the love we have for others and ourselves. All of this love is represented by this Lenten season, and also by the practice of “giving up” certain things in our lives over the course of the next 40 days.
I put “giving up” in quotations because many Catholics remove something from their lives during this time. Many avoid eating certain foods, like chocolate or sweets. Many abstain from alcohol, coffee, or meat. Some don’t use Facebook or other social media platforms so they can make time for other, more wholesome activities; like eating dinner with friends or reading leisure novels. While most people give up certain habits during Lent (including myself in the past), I’ve decided to add certain practices to my routine to fulfill my Lenten practices of loving myself and others, celebrating my faith, and appreciating the life I have.
You may have read that last sentence and thought, “Okay…what do you mean?” That’s fair. Here’s my list of what I’m adding (or reducing, but not eliminating entirely) this Lenten season:
- Pray the rosary daily.
- Journal daily (about anything!).
- Read daily (textbooks, leisure books, anything).
- Only buy coffee 2 times per week.
- Live a healthier lifestyle (30 minutes of exercise per day, one healthy meal per day).
- Try my best at whatever it is I’m pursuing.
- Be kinder to myself.
- Keep a tracker of these habits (prayer, journaling, reading, budgeting, exercise, meals, daily activities).
You’ll notice I didn’t include any Lenten promises or goals that involve elimination. I have in the past (like no coffee–I know, gasp!) and removal is valid. However, it doesn’t necessarily add any value to my life. These goals do, and they are healthy in so many senses. I know that these actions will help me to live the best happy and healthy adventure that I possibly can. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and live your own great adventure this Lenten season (and year!) too. 🙂 ❤