“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted, in order to avoid more easily that which is not.” — St. Benedict
That quote, sent to me from Jenn Miller, has been in my inbox since September of 2009. It’s the oldest email there, and now I can delete it, since I’ve been waiting to do a post on it for that long. Thank you, Jenn.
St. Benedict sums up one purpose for “giving up” something for Lent (or any other day of the year). It would be difficult not to accuse most Americans of being overindulged. Not when 1 in 4 Americans is obese.
Several years ago, our pastor gave a pre-Lenten homily suggesting a mortification of the senses. Pick something to give up that targets each of the 5 senses. For example, sight: to give up a favorite TV show; hearing: to give up the radio in the car; taste: to give up a favorite food; smell: to give up scented candles; touch: to set the house temperature a few degrees off from where we normally would.
I’ve been discussing penances with my older children, asking what they plan to “give up.” I have one kid who has a long list of things he plans to do. The others are very reluctant to sacrifice things they enjoy. It’s too hard to give up chocolate in their milk; they don’t like it plain. It’s too hard to give up time on the computer. It’s too hard to give up treats and snacks.
As adults, we say, It’s too hard to give up smoking. It’s too hard to lose ten pounds. It’s too hard to get up on time. Or stay married. Or live within our means.
It is hard. But not too hard. We must practice. Now. When it is easier.