Thoughts on Giving Up Chocolate and Other Spiritual Lenten Practices

A personal reflection
by MariAnn Paladino

So, for me it all started with me giving up chocolate for Lent as a kid. It made me appreciate that Easter basket filled with chocolate, new dress, coat, and pocketbook on Easter morning even more! Thankfully, I have grown since that time and have developed better Lenten practices that friends and family have shared with me. I hope to put down a few thoughts and ideas to make this your best Lent ever!

We observe Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a CCD teacher at my local parish, we talk about Lent to students every year and have planned retreats during Lent. Lent is about so much more than giving up chocolate. It’s about doing something positive and life-changing. I have asked my students to think about doing something more meaningful than giving up chocolate. Many decided to fast from social media. I have done the same myself . . . not easy I must say, especially during this crazy pandemic. Giving up chocolate, much easier! My students had some wonderful ideas including sitting to have lunch in the cafeteria with someone who usually eats alone; fasting for 24 hours; and making a special dinner and serving it to the poor. It has been extremely rewarding spiritually and now I think about how my students have helped me think about the life, passion, and resurrection of Jesus in a more personal way.

As a teenager I began to attend the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier at St. John’s Church on 19 Temple Street in Worcester. This Novena is in its 99th year and will begin on March 4th. I would highly recommend it to everyone! I hope to attend all 9 days in person, but it will also be live-streamed on the parish Facebook page.

I have also decided to download “Welcome to the Best Lent Ever 2.0” from Dynamic Catholic. You will get an email from Dynamic Catholic with your daily reflection. It is great and you can interact with other people and share your Lenten experience.

Next is spiritual reading! Do yourself a favor and take a ride out to St. Joseph’s Abbey Bookstore in Spencer. Some suggestions are anything written by Thomas Merton or Father James Martin; and “The Story of a Soul” by St Therese of Lisieux. Enjoy browsing the shop where you can buy fudge if you haven’t given up sweets. Also, you should take a moment and drive to the top of the hill to see the Chapel, say a prayer for our environment, and enjoy the view and fresh air!

On to almsgiving! Pick a local charity like Notre Dame Health Care or another organization that is meaningful to you and make a gift of your time or treasure. I have been thinking about making a phone call or baking for people who are isolated, elderly or lonely. Lastly, pray the Rosary and Stations of the Cross. You can download some beautiful Rosaries and Stations on YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed some of my thoughts about Lenten practices. I hope this Lent is the best Lent of your life! Happy Easter and enjoy a little chocolate!

MariAnn Paladino is Director of Admissions and Marketing for Notre Dame Health Care’s Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center