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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. Rosa

    I am actually going to start going to church on a more regular basis. I have always found it a peaceful place and going to mass, gives me more time to reflect and be more thankful for all my blessings, AMEN

    March 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Phil E. Drifter

      You people who believe in that garbage are a bunch of morons. (I was sent to 12 years of catholic school, too. It's enough to make anyone an atheist.) Now i'm off to get some pics of stupid people with DIRT smeared on their FOREHEADS because they're CULT FOLLOWERS of the biggest scam of all time.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  2. billjk

    After careful consideration and an unobstructed view of my vices, I have decided to disconnect my power steering.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Chrissy

    I'm a little disappointed that this "article" or blogging opportunity makes mention of people giving things up for Lent as if that's the only way a person is called to make a sacrifice during this period of the Catholic/Christian calendar. Even as a young Catholic student I was always taught that, while giving up something for Lent is a way to mimic Jesus' 40 days of fasting before his death, a more modern–and more true to the spirit of Jesus–approach is to find a way to DO something that has a positive impact on someone else and yourself. I think too many people focus on giving up some trivial thing that has little meaning and requires no real sacrifice. The point of Lent is to take the focus away from yourself and find ways to give your life more meaning by, ideally in a way that helps others, i.e. helping feed the poor, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, finding ways to be more "green", etc. The point of Lent is also to help one segue into a more long-term committment to sacrifice and personal growth, and is not just meant to be a tough 40 days of no cookies. The case of the Lenten fast–as is the case with most faith-based fasts–is to provide an opportunity for personal growth. So for those of you giving up sweets because you have a sweet tooth and it will be "tough" to put the cookie down, think instead about making a dessert for your local homeless shelter and sharing in that dessert with those who aren't as fortunate as you. That seems a lot tougher.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • adonna

      Wonderful. Well written and so true.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  4. Dana

    I'm doing something positive instead of giving something up, which is a little "old school"...
    It's my parish's turn to house a group of homeless families for a week through the Interfaith Hospitality Network so my family will cook the evening meal next Tuesday. Going to confession for the first time in a long while and trying to bring more joy into the house instead of worrying so much. That's my plan!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  5. Regardson

    What is Lent? What is Giving Up?
    Lent is a period in our life to remember the suffering of Jesus who never sinned, he came to this world to free us from sin and to be the children of god not only by law but also by grace. Lent is a time for us to renew ourselves. And to do this you should be very close to Lord. To be close to Lord, is to sacrifice everything that of this world that makes you slave to it. How do you get freedom from these kind of slavery?
    By Prayer , Fasting & Givings – and this is Lent.
    Prayer – By attending Mass daily and receiving chirist's body & blood, which renews you for your day . Always thinking and praying about Lord. Rosary with Mothermary daily with your family. Praying to lord not for your wordly needs but for Holyspirit and God's Wisdom & Understanding to know good and bad and to reject bad things always. Reading Bible daily, making a habit to read in the morning and evening( does not matter if you do not understand, when its time god will make you understand everything)
    Fasting – Fasting helps you to increase patience in you, to be calm. Never do fasting for the sake of showing people that you are fasting. Never try to prove anything to this world but to prove God by keeping your Heart Clean.
    Fasting should be always done to remove any kind to slavery that you are in. suppose you sin by judging other. Fasting should done with prayer to free you from this. When you fast, you find with your body , which require fuel to move and your mind which require power to overcome your body. Your body will always ask for food, but your mind is set towards God, as Jesus said when he was tempted “ man does not live by bread itself but by the words from god” You could fast the whole day just by drinking water. This should be done on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays until Easter.
    Givings – Givings is not only done on the money part but moreover spiritually, (money does not have any value). Giving mean not being selfish. You should be able to spend time with your children, parents, spouse. Doing good deeds for other, etc.

    Remember, the above things should done only by purifying yourself. How do I purify yourself.
    By learning about yourself, your ups and downs, praying to god and rejecting and hating wickedness.
    Invisible God need Visible Human to fulfill Lords will in this world. To do this we have to purify ourselves and leave everything to god to guide us. Try to find God and you will but you should be pure in heart.
    Once you decide to change yourself, Think from your birth till now all the wrong deed you did , write it down and go and confess. Make sure before you confess you plan not to sin again.
    Confession not a permit to sin again. If you do so, consequences are really bad which is not noticeable to normal people’s eye.Once to come close to god, you will feel how he protects you every moment of your life and how your heart rejoices and thanks god!
    May God Bless You! There is no Life without Catholic Church.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Chrissy

      If you're Catholic, you should know to capitalize God. I'm just saying....

      March 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  6. cpg35223

    Well, everybody talks about giving things up for Lent, but don't realize that there's another side to Lenten devotion Taking on a Lenten discipline such as daily offices or study is also a constructive activity during this period.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Dana

      Yes, my parish is much more into doing something positive. I do fast on Wednesdays- but even that ends up being positive because I ALWAYS lose weight during Lent!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  7. Arias

    This is going on artoftrolling.com, this is hilarious. Nice job cnn.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  8. Diane Smith

    Heck, I gave up LENT. I've been an atheist for nearly 2 years now.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  9. holly

    Why are so many non believers here posting negative comments about the Catholic and other Christian beliefs? The question was asked, " What are you (if you are practicing) giving up for lent?" If you non believers are so "superior" , why do you care what us believers do? Why do you have to come here and just throw insults?
    There is no conclusive evidence either way that their is a God or not. Those who have faith believe. Those who do not have faith do not believe. When it comes right down to it... no one knows for sure. SO... just let people do their thing. Grow up.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • juliemac

      Because you and your church want to have a say in my life, in the lives of gays and lesbians, of those that want to have an abortion.
      And. Although I am not of your religion, you want to force this carp down my throat.

      Nothing personal, just the way I feel.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Catholic girl

      Holly – great comment! and so true, I could not agree more. Too bad there are not more people in the world with you thoughts.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  10. Red

    Too many people are giving up something that they shouldn't be doing in the first place...that's not the idea behind the Lenten fast, but it has thrown the entire idea of fasting way off the cliff.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  11. Tom

    Lent is about giving up yourself and your idols in this world and replacing them with Christ. For those that haven't yet experienced the joy and love of Christ, it could be a time of deep inward reflection to see if there are places in your heart that need changing. A period of self examination. If you seek with an open heart and an open mind, God will find you.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  12. Paul

    As in many of the years since finishing 12 years of parochial Catholic grammar and high school, I'm giving up Lent for Lent. And yes, my Mom had the nerve to name me after that misogynistic saint.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  13. josie rebol

    I will spend Lent praying for those in our hierarchy who have wronged every one of us Catholics by their actions and deeds. I love my religion, but I no longer have faith in, or trust, those holier-than-thous who reside in the Vatican. Sacrificing during Lent is no shame when done because you love and believe in Jesus. I want to sacrifice more to become a better person.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  14. Sauron

    I am giving up lent for lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  15. Mele

    Rather than giving something up, I'm doing something extra. I'm going to attend mass one extra morning or evening, or attend weekly Stations of the Cross, one of those each week. Lent is a journey meant to bring you closer to the Lord, and however you spend more time with Him is going to lead to good stuff for you!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  16. Lizard

    Giving up alchol, and any money I would usually spend on it I will doante to our parish.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Tommas

      So they can go spend money on wine

      March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  17. Chris

    I am a college student and absolutely am a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but this lent I will be giving up one of the most difficult things for me to purge and that is eating meat... Though I am giving meat up for 40 days as a personal sacrifice, I hope to have a more intimate understanding of the ultimate sacrifice made by Christ that, through his death, there may be everlasting life. Though my purge of meat doesn't even compare, it is a personal challenge and way for me to feel more in tune with my spiritual life.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Lizard

      Go Chris...very well said and Good Luck to you!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  18. ex-catholic

    the idea is not necessarily to give up something that has a community-wide impact, although that is wonderful. the idea of lent is to make a personal sacrifice in the spirit of jesus' 40 day fast. it is not something to be broadcast to everyone and can be anything that is truly a sacrifice for that individual. so, although giving up facebook does seem ridiculous, if it is truly a sacrifice, then it is done with the right intention.

    personally, the catholic church ruined me and contributed to my reformation to agnosticism so i no longer participate in any sort of lenten fasting/sacrifice. but for those who do believe and participate, this is the idea behind it.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  19. Ralph

    I'm giving up going to church and giving donations to support child molesters.

    PS- I am a Catholic and religious person... and as a family member of two abuse victims I will no longer go to church.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jesus Believer

      That's because your suppose to place your faith in the Lord and not fallable men. You say you are religious, I hope this means you are still in an active relationship with the Lord, just not in church.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Ralph

      Yes, I will always have an active relationship with the Lord. I even named my son Christian. I just refuse to be a regular church-goer anymore and you can thank Father Louis Toma who molested the brothers of my father who were alter boys and also the Catholic church for protecting them. I refuse to support their organized crime.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Jen

    I prefer to use the term "sacrifice" instead of "giving up". It's also a good time to look at doing something positive or extra. Why not sacrifice an hour of sleep for more prayer or meditation in the morning? Or sacrifice an evening or two of TV to volunteer or help out in the community? Might turn in to something that lasts beyond Lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • PullenSeeker

      I think you make an excellent point. Lent is as much about accepting a form of discipline rather than simple renunciation. That can be fruitless exercise, more like a new year's resolution than a spiritual exercise. Becoming open to transformative encounters in the world we remember during this time that God loves, that's important.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:27 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.