Friday, February 8, 2013

Lenten Planning

Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent next week, so I'm working out a plan for observing the season and whipping myself into better spiritual shape.

For a month now, I've been slowly working through Maria Von Trapp's (yes, that Maria Von Trapp.  The real-life would-be-nun who was portrayed in The Sound of Music) book, Around the Year With the Trapp Family.  The book discusses how their family lives out the seasons of the Church - the Liturgical year - so fully and beautifully.  It is absolutely the BEST book I've ever come across on the subject, very much based on tradition, and I highly recommend it to any Catholic.

Anyways, in her section on Lent, she has a suggestion that I thought was worthwhile:
It is important that Lenten resolutions do not use the negative approach only, such as, "I won't do this" and "I won't do that."  They should start positively, with "I will use these three books" (this as soon as the child can read); "I will use the time I save by abstaining from television for this and this...."  "I will use the money I save by not going to the movies for alms given to...." (pg. 102)

So here's what I'm thinking:

1. Food
One year, while we were still dating, Tom and I both followed the Lenten fast  used by Byzantine Catholics (they call it the "Great Fast") .  It's much more hardcore than we modern Roman Catholics are used to.  You have to abstain from all meat, dairy, and eggs.  Basically, you're vegan for all of Lent, plus they give up wine and olive oil on most days as well.  It was rewarding, but definitely difficult.  I got really sick of potatoes and rice.  And I have to say that I've been happy to have the "pregnant" or "breast feeding" excuse these past few years to convince Tom that it's a bad year to attempt it again.  I do want to make some food-related sacrifice this year, though.

So I am going to give up "junk food".  This probably sounds like "Lent 101", but...I have a major sweet-tooth, and have let myself fall into many bad dietary habits of late.  Not a day passes that I don't have a dessert.  This is going to be grueling.  Also, I don't plan to give up eating between meals entirely.  If I'm really hungry (hey, I'm still breastfeeding - cut me some slack!) I can have something healthy like fruit or yogurt.

I'd like to also add some additional "meatless" days to our weekly meal plans, since we already abstain from meat every Friday of the year.

Following Maria Von Trapp's advice, let me turn this positive:  "With the empty space in my hungry tummy where junk food would have gone, I will instead make sure to eat "at least one fruit and one vegetable a day."  Yes, I know.  How completely pathetic is this?  I have totally different standards for what I let Sly eat and what I let myself eat.  It's not that I hate healthy food, but...I am a raging carb-oholic...what can I say?? 

2.  Internet
I haven't fully worked this one out yet, but I know I need to seriously limit my internet usage.  Throughout the day, anytime I pass the computer [we still have an old-fashioned desktop, partially for the reason that I know a laptop/tablet/smart phone, etc. equipped with the internet would be the hugest temptation to idleness imaginable for me], I have to stop by to "check my e-mail".  This often translates to spending twenty minutes browsing Facebook, linking through internet articles, blogs, etc. and only being torn away because one of my children makes it clear that they need me now.

It's a really bad habit, and I know I need to nip it in the bud.  My problem is trying to figure out the best method for "fasting" from internet use.  I might keep the possibility of "limited access" Facebook open to me, since there are certain people I can only contact through there, etc.  It's my mindless scrolling through the newsfeed that's the main problem.   As for blogs, I don't see any problems with the amount of time I spend writing entries for my own, especially since they're mostly written while the kids are asleep and thus not taking me away from my mothering responsibilities.  What can become a problem is all the time devoted to reading the many other blogs which I so love.

Should I limit certain things entirely (e.g. no blog-reading at ALL during Lent) or just limit myself time-wise (e.g. only half an hour a day reading blogs, and only after the kids are in bed)?  My husband fears - and he might be right - that if I don't let myself read any during Lent, I'll feel the need to "catch up" after Easter.  And that would be bad.  I still need to work this one out.  I'm open to suggestions!

I know that the positive practice I want to replace my excessive internet-browsing with is prayer, for sure.  I'm going to nudge Tom to finally resume a daily family Rosary.  I'd like to add something else as well.  Perhaps I can carve out an hour a week to leave the kids with Daddy and go to Adoration for the first time in...three years?

As I finished writing all this, I began to wonder whether it was appropriate to share all of this.  Our Lenten sacrifices are very personal and specific to us, after all.  But it will help to hold me accountable, having put it in writing and informed people of my intentions.  So I feel comfortable with this.


  1. That book sounds interesting-- I just requested it from the library.

    When my laptop broke, I requested a desktop for that very reason (the laptop was too accessible- too much of a temptation).

  2. I really liked Karla's idea about fasting from the internet on given days. I think I'm going to give it up entirely on Fridays, maybe Wednesdays (???). But I still need to limit it in some way on other days ... specifically Pinterest and Ravelry. (Maybe I just need to give up those websites entirely ...?)

    I don't feel the need to limit blog reading, personally, because while I can imagine checking for new blog posts too obsessively, right now the things that lend themselves to obsessive surfing for me are Pinterest, Facebook, and Ravelry. Once you read what's on your subscription list, you've reached the end for the time being. It doesn't lead to as many rabbit trails all over the internet. :)

  3. Have you checked out Mary Reed Newland's The Year and Our Children? That's a pretty good book that you might like, too. It has a lot of great suggestions for living the liturgical year with children.

    1. Karen - thanks for the suggestion. That book is already on my "must read" list, but I was tipped off that the newer re-print is also edited to take out a lot of really good stuff related to the Traditional Mass. So I hope to buy an older version. They are available, but a little too expensive for me to justify getting myself "just because"....waiting for my birthday :-)

    2. I'm pretty sure the Sophia Press version is an exact reprint of the original. There is a lot in that book relating to the Latin Mass, including lots of feast days and practices that aren't part of the Ordinary Form calendar. I'll pull out the book and double check that it is the original. For We and Our Children you'd want to read the book put out by Angelico Press and not Sophia Press.

    3. Ok, I just pulled out the book. It is edited to "update" it. Not sure how much was taken from it, but I can say that there was a lot in that book that was repeated in We and Our Children which is an exact reprint of the original. Even if our family doesn't attend the Latin Mass, I still prefer to read what the author originally wrote and not an edited version. It might be worth emailing Angelico Press to see if they have any intentions of doing a reprint of The Year and Our Children anytime in in the near future.

    4. Ok, thanks - that's good to know. I've also been wanting to get We and Our Children.

  4. I'm planning to avoid the internet (except for a couple of email checks) entirely on Wednesdays and Fridays. The problem I foresee is Thursdays and Saturdays (catching up?) but we'll see how it goes! I'm hoping that within a few weeks I'll see which blogs I'll want to cut off my list (ie, the ones I don't click when I have ALL the Friday Quick Takes to catch up on!) One of the things I want to replace it with is writing one letter every week--a goal I've set twice in the past year but haven't made it past week 2!

    1. I love the idea of writing a letter once a week. I really need to catch up on my letter-writing!

  5. I think it's fair game to blog your Lenten plans in the name of accountability.

    priest's wife at Fear Not Little Flock actually blogs about the Byzantine Catholic fasting rules and the mandatory Ruthenian ones a bit easier than going vegan for all of Lent. (The ancient rules are the ones requiring veganism.) The post is at:

  6. Personally, I know that I would want to catch up on blog reading if I gave it up completely for lent. Since the blogging world is such a large part of my day-to-day social interaction, I would definitely want to see what my friends (even if I don't know them in real-life exactly) have been up to! It would be a good way to see if there are any blogs you might want to consider not reading anymore - those you don't feel the need to catch up on.