March 9th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

Explain it to me: What's Lent? And what are you giving up?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season when many Christians give something up in the weeks before Easter. It's a nod to Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert before beginning his ministry. 

Some folks are giving up Facebook. Others are cutting down on their carbon emissions.

Are you giving something up? If so, let us know - and explain your choice.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Easter • Holidays • Lent

soundoff (1,213 Responses)
  1. A disciple

    To all those that are lost on this list, I will pray for you. Jesus said to the disciples, ‘If a shepherd finds his stray sheep, amen, I say to you, he will rejoice over it more than the ninety-nine that did not stray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Heavenly Father that any be lost.’ –Matthew 18:13-14

    March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Cain

      "Not all those who wander are lost" – J.R.R Tolkien

      March 9, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • BakingPan

      I turned my back on religion when it turned its back on me. I chose to be baptized as an adult, I gave my all to the church, and then when I was to have my biggest day – our wedding, I was told that I had to have it a certain way according to the church, this best man not baptized, indoors, etc! Just to attend one officiated by the same priest 2 years later outside in a beautiful serene area like I had requested. My $$ didn't buy it though. Bye Bye hypocrisy.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Reality

      Matt 18: 13-14,

      One of the few passages judged by most contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan and Ludemann and the Jesus Seminarians) to be authentic. Crossan from his thorough analyses (attestations and stratums) of all the NT passages has concluded that only about 30% of the NT is authentic Jesus. Ludemann from his analyses using grammar and content, has concluded that less than 10% of the NT is authentic. In his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, he lists the authentic passages on pp. 694 and 695. None of the passages in John's gospel, according to Ludemann's analyses, were authentic.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Dana

      LOL CCain! Pretty funny to quote Tolkein, since he was a devout Catholic! Me thinks he'd agree with A disciple!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Reality: How can a modern person, who did not know Christ judge whether or not Jesus spoke those words. Amazing. You believe, I trust, without question that Hannibal crossed the Alps, in spite of the fact that no one recorded it until three hundred years afterward, but will not accept the testimony of eyewitnesses.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Chris

    I'm giving up sobriety.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • neniatak

      Unlike Chris, I am taking up sobriety – giving up alcohol and cigarettes, with God's help. I began praying for God to take away my uncontrollable urge to drink beer (lots and lots of beer) twenty years ago. Beginning five weeks ago this Thursday, He did what I asked. I hadn't missed a day of drinking a twelve pack and smoking a pack of cigarettes for YEARS! Now, I may think about it once in a while, but He's taken away the urge and I pray it's forever.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  3. Gladly

    Increasing prayer time and beginning a fast similar to the Daniel's Fast. Believing God to save souls, set free those that are bound, and bless those in need.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Dana

      I need to try harder to do more spiritual things like that. I'm intellectual, into theology, history, etc. But the mystical is hard for me.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Dana, when you start reading the Bible, know one thing. Life is our second chance from God after He destroyed the first age due to Lucifer and the sin of Pride blinding him of wanting to be bigger and better than God. Lucifer took 1/3 of God's angel to rebel against God. God was angry (as we all would be for creating angels to find out they didn't appreciate him and rebelled to overthrow Him) and destroyed the 1st earth age. The 2nd earth age (that we all live in now) is written from Genesis to Revelation. Pay close attention to Revelation, for that is the generation we are in to the end of the world, when Jesus comes back to earth to destroy all evil ... which begins the 3rd and final earth age.


      March 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Luis Wu

    I'm giving up hope that Christian mythology and ignorant ritiuals like this will ever be a thing of the past.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Dana

      I'm really impressed that you know everything there is to know about the universe. Or maybe, you just think you know.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Luis Wu, before you do, read Ezekiel 18:4.


      March 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  5. Katie

    The stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me. You don't want to believe? Fine, just don't insult me. What I believe is my business. I am giving up my favorite coffee at Starbucks. Small sacrifice indeed when comopared to the life Jesus gave up for me.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • BakingPan

      Try the Orthodox fasting – No animal products – like the priests do. You will feel very spiritual after wards!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Beth

      I'm giving up Starbucks as well!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  6. AlexandriaGirl

    I find it more spiritually fulfilling to add something instead of giving up something material. I will be adding a dedicated time to daily prayer such as saying the rosary. I feel this enhances my relationship with God more than saying "I'm going to give up chocolate (or insert any food grouping you wish) for Lent."

    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  7. Carla

    Since pretty much everything has been taken away from me, I don't think I'll give up anything without a fight.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • JAB

      And here you are on the computer. Hmm...

      March 9, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  8. Nancy

    I don't give up anything for Lent; I do something more than I would have for someone or something.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Catholic 14 yr. old

      thats good, but Lent is for prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving, so helping someone more than usual is just part, praying and giving up things is the other part.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Dana

      According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, almsgiving is "Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity." So good for you!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  9. Dajokn19

    I'm giving up video games and adding saying the rosary to my daily routine.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • purple80

      See Dajokn19 thats what I'm talking about. Replacing your idle vido game time with something that God really cares about...you spending timie with Him. Good on you.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • jg

      see my response to the "hooshier catholic". so i don't have to repeat myself

      March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Dana

      Good job!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  10. William Demuth

    I am giving up any pretense that Christianity is anything more than a cult.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Catholic 14 yr. old

      do you really think a cult would last 2000 years and make the first colleges, orphanages, etc?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Gene

      Every religion is a cult. Every. Single. One. Adherents just refuse to admit it, sticking fingers in their ears going "lalala, I can't hear you". The cognitive dissonance displayed thusly is truly amazing. Thinking that your cult is better than the other cults and killing to prove it is even better!

      By the way, it was the ancient greeks that had places of higher learning and orphanages, way before Christianity appeared.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Jesus Believer

      Aren't you the big fella picking on a 14r yr old? Amazing that these highly educated Greeks converted to Christianity in droves, of course second only to the Romans....another highly educated and motivated bunch. Likely their taste for blood and conflict fueled the killings you talk about.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Dana

      I'm sure you'd feel better about yourself if that were the case.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Gene

      Har! Ad hominem attacks! How cute. This is the internet. If a person is here to argue, they better come prepared for anything and everything, and age is never a consideration. I've seen teenagers that are far more rational and smart than most codgers.

      Converted in droves? Oh yes, definitely, because they would be /KILLED/ otherwise. Look up what Theodosian did, amongst other persecutions against paganism at the time and since then. Paganism, from which christianity readily derives oh so many of its traditions.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Well, I suggest reading Ezekiel 18:4 before you get carried away that you don't need to believe. By the way, churches or any house of worship is for like minded folks to learn about Jesus Christ who died for all of us to defeat sin (death).


      March 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Gene

      Sorry, if you intend to prove something to me, you must do so without resorting to falling back on contradiction filled ancient collection of texts that were written by numerous authors over several centuries, describing events that have little to no historical or archeological basis.

      Regardless, the quote you presented was very apt as far as cults (religions) go: believe, or die/be sent to hell/etc. Certainly, if anything is going to convince me of an all loving god, it's the fact that he (or particularly his followers) would kill me if I do not believe. Yep.

      Look, I can quote the bible too! Allow me to present Matthew 6:1-6, 2 Kings 2:23-25, and 1 Corinthians 13:11.

      March 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  11. Bill

    I'm giving up my New Year's Resolution.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • skk


      March 9, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  12. Cain


    March 9, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  13. Thought police

    I'm giving up the belief in unicorns, the easter bunny, and a dude with sandals and a beard concocted by people who couldn't face reality, and those who still can't

    March 9, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • BakingPan

      Oh I believe he was a real person but like Van Gogh, he'd be surprised to hear what a business his intellectual property had become after his death. He'd say "Why couldn't I get a little piece of this action"

      March 9, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Dana

      Due to the interest in this particular dude, there's been an amazing amount of scholarship done on him. And yes, he was real, and was crucified. I guess for me, the fact that a dozen or so men changed from being sniveling cowards into future martyrs literally overnight meant they saw something profound. What could have made them do that? That's where my journey started. I hope some day, you'll take that journey, too.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  14. Phil


    March 9, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  15. Abe

    Let us hope a few priests decide to give up diddling altar boys.

    21 priests in Philly suspended for covering up and participating in abuse.......suspended??? How about sent to jail!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Dana

      There is separation of churhc and state, you know. Suspension is what the church does first. Sending people to jail is what the state does last. Give them time. Let the state do it's thing and let God do his.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  16. purple80

    I hate all those people giving up facebook or chocolate and stupid stuff like that. Those people aren't taking Lent seriously which I already think is a ridiculous Catholic tradition which is mostly based on rituals than faith itself. First of all if you are going to do this 'ritual' not religious thing God expects...take it seriously. Do something God would care about. Maybe giving up your Sat drinking nites to volunteer somewhere. Perhaps to stop watching your daily dose of television and replacing it with reading the BIble and studying it. And true sacrifice is not for 40 days it's for life.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • hidizzy

      And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? (Matthew 7:3) How very 'Christ-like' to 'hate' others who choose to worship differently than you.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • pillar

      You say that giving up Facebook (which is proven to be addicting) is ridiculous, but giving up TV is ok? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I'm pretty sure giving up anything that may be taking the place of God in your life and replacing it with thoughts or study of Him is the key.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • BakingPan

      Well replied! None of you are Christian enough!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Catholic 14 yr. old

      you're right, some people don't take Lent seriously. But the ones who care enough to give up chocolate or Facebook are not them. even Jesus gave up food for 40 days in the desert. by our sacrifices, no matter how small, we will grow closer to God in His suffering, and God CAN use them and our prayers to save a soul. that could be yours. God cares about every sacrifice, even if it's just skipping the morning coffee or that extra chocolate bar. Lent is for prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving. God can always use our prayers and sacrifices for good, He has proved that with the Saints, He asks them to suffer for Him to save souls. These souls are the people who have never heard about God, etc. by our prayers and sacrifices, the "merits of the Church", we can save those souls. and yes, we should always be sacrificing, but Lent is a special time to go the extra mile. i hope this helps you understand.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • purple80

      HEy Catholic 14 yrs old. I like the way you wrote it. A lot more maturely and clearly than I did.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Dana

      I think a lot of people do spend too much time on Facebook or texting or whatever- to the point that their face-to-face relationships suffer. Maybe the candy thing is more for little kids, but cutting back on the electronics could be a good thing for quite a few people.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  17. Becca

    all salty snacks. I need to cut them out anyway so it's a great opportunity and it will be very difficulty for me.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  18. Hooshier catholic

    It is not always giving something up. For me I am going to say the rosary daily. So many of us waist time in our cars listening to pointless radio. That can now be my time for meditation

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • purple80

      That's exactly what I'm talking about. Wow what a sacrifice. Meditating while you having nothing better to do other than listening to the radio. That's stupid. God will love that. Oh thank you for thinking of me while you have nothing better to do. God rather you not participate in lent at all. How about meditating during a time when you will actually feel the sacrifice you are making.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Cain

      Great, just don't "meditate" too hard to forget to pay attention to the road. But hey, least if you rear end someone you can blame it on god.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Jenn

      And you know what God wants?

      March 9, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Michelle

      I think what you're doing is worthwhile. And this whole time I'm wondering what to do for Lent myself. I think I'll increase my prayers as well.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • jg

      all of you rosary repeaters need to read the bible, like Matt:6:7 and maybe listen to Jesus and HIS father instead of calling some man on earth father see Matt.23:9 and then meditate on Matt.7:21-23 you can then really see the need to worship the father and listen to and follow the son.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Dana

      That's a good idea. I'm going to do that instead of wasting time on CNN message boards!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  19. Ben

    I will be giving up Fast Food, We define fast food has anything with a drive through, so we can still go to Subway. We give it up every year. It helps with the budget and the health has well.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • BakingPan

      why not just give it up completely – 40/365 is not a healthy life

      March 9, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Dana

      Baby steps, BakingPan, baby steps... lots of people find the positive changes they make during Lent lasts well afterwards.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  20. SLC

    I'm giving up Christianity...for good! And I've felt better than ever.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • hahahaha

      anybody that follows any "religous" book is a crazy person and is not living their life for themselves but rather for somebody that they have never and will never meet bc said person never existed, You people just have an imaginary friend that is all, you crazy weirdos

      March 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Not according to Ezekiel 18:1-5. You can read why we fast by reading the Books of Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13 when Jesus was tempted by the devil as he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.

      What happened to Jesus being tempted by the devil, happens to all of us at any time in our lives. Earth is the devil's playground trying to get as many of God's children to go with him to the eternal flames, blotted out for ever more. Lucifer doesn't want to go alone, he wants as many souls to accompany him.


      March 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Stunned


      Why, why, why do you want to live your life believing in these old stories, composed by naive Middle Eastern desert people?

      March 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.