Thinking about Lent, Part 2: Penance

“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.

5 thoughts on “Thinking about Lent, Part 2: Penance

  1. Ah yes, I remember that conversation now! That quote just hits me between the eyes. Great post, Michelle.

  2. It is hard indeed.
    A blessed and fruitful Lent.

  3. I love Lent. 🙂

  4. I am a somewhat overweight Benedictine monk and priest (FrAugustine Measures OSB) at Preston NW ENgland. You can have my daily AUDIO homilies as preached at Mass if you email me from your home email. The list is about 120 members, all bcc. Ask Michelle as she gets them. My email is Please let me know. Love and prayers to all from A.

  5. Yes! I get so frustrated when people try to belittle small sacrifices, almost making it sound juvenile to 'give something up'. Practice, practice, practice! A blessed and fruitful Lent to you and yours.

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