Hundreds of students give up their favorite habits and vices during the 40-day period of Catholic observance known as Lent. Some vowed to stop listening to music in the car. Others gave up using social media and snacking between meals.
The Lenten season began on March 1, Ash Wednesday. The purpose of the tradition is to let go of attachments and focus on God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Lent is representative of a story in the Bible’s New Testament about Jesus’ 40-day journey in the desert, where he had to fast and pray to repress Satan’s lure. Catholics today practice Lent to try to stay away from their own temptations.
“For fasting I’m sticking to a very minimalist diet, so like offering all that I eat to those without food, because we usually eat more than we need,” said senior Nathalie Chang, majoring in biology and chemistry. “My prayer is that I’m going to be praying in between classes as I walk throughout my day. And then my almsgiving is going to be to entrust and not stress out about school.”
Gabe McHaffie, the campus missionary at the St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center, said he’s giving up snacking between meals. McHaffie said though his Lenten promises have not always been successful, this year he will try to keep his promise: eating proper meals and refraining from drinking alcohol.
“The whole idea of giving something up is to teach ourselves self-control,” he said.
Fasting isn’t the only form of self-restraint. Many partaking in Lent abstain from recreational activities, such as listening to music, using social media and watching television. Regardless of the form of sacrifice, the point is to feel closer to God.
“Something that I’m doing for Lent this year is not listening to music in the car or in the house, so having more silence every day because that’s a way to be aware of who I am,” said senior Jeronimo Ferriol, an exercise physiology major. “As for almsgiving, I’m trying to be more generous with my time, so giving my time for others.”
Ferriol said he acknowledged that sometimes he can be selfish but hopes Lent will provide him an opportunity to devote more time to others, especially the homeless.
James Dugard, a sophomore at FIU, often joins UM students at St. Augustine Church for masses and college nights with Thrive, a ministry geared toward younger people.
“For Lent I’ll try to be more positive,” Dugard said. “I’ve been complaining a lot and being very negative, so I try to be more positive in my thoughts and in my actions.”
While Lent is a Catholic practice, some non-Catholics have also found value in the period of self-restraint.
Irina Navarro, a UM freshman from Italy majoring in psychology, isn’t religious. But two years ago she joined her friends in giving up meat products for Lent.
“The first week I went pescetarian, but by the second week I went vegetarian,” she said. “I realized that I was happy without it.”
Navarro said that initially she believed giving up meat was not a sacrifice, but during the 40-day period she learned about the meaning behind giving up meat for Catholics.
“It is a sacrifice after all,” Navarro said. “A lot of people in Italy make fun of you for it because meat is such an important part of family and tradition. But my family was pretty supportive.”
After giving up meat for Lent, Navarro decided to become a vegetarian permanently. She is one of many who make this permanent change. Members of the Catholic church often follow the same path because it is a popular practice to offer the food to “those in need,” Ferriol said.
“It’s definitely a constant working,” Chang said. “It’s a path, it’s a journey that you grow on and you fall, and you get up, and you keep going.”
McHaffie encouraged any students who want to share their Lenten experiences or discuss anything connected to the season to come to St. Augustine Church. He said that, during Lent, it is especially important for both Catholics and non-Catholics to get together and try to grow as a community and as people.
Weekly college events are held 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 8 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays at St. Augustine Church, located at 1400 Miller Road.