Common things given up for Lent

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Besides giving up sunshine by way of living in Rochester, hundreds of UR students have given up something they cherish in observance of Lent.
A pious tradition with roots stretching back to the earliest days of Christianity, Lent is the period of time during the liturgical year in which Christians worldwide customarily engage in prayer and penance in preparation for Easter. Lasting around 40 days, the length of Lent is often linked to be representative of the Biblical story of the 40 days and 40 nights during which Jesus fasted and prayed for in the desert before beginning his public ministry.

Depending on the denomination, Lent this year stretches from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13 to Holy Thursday on March 28, or Holy Saturday on March 30. Lent, along with its various customs, is observed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, as well as other Christian denominations.

The most popular tradition of the Lenten season is the choice many make to give up something of value to them. UR students most commonly give up a certain type of food or abstain from sex for its duration. From giving up Facebook, to cutting back on chocolate or soft drinks, the range of things given up for Lent is vast.

For sophomore Sarah Kitts, the target for her observation was obvious.

“I’m giving up bagels,” she smiled. She has removed the tasty and addicting Bruegger’s option from her diet.

However, giving up something for Lent isn’t the only thing UR students are doing. Many undergraduates are also looking for ways to enhance their spiritual lives in a positive way. Senior Thanh Hoang is giving up sweets and desserts, but she has also resolved to read a Daily Scriptural Reflections booklet throughout Lent.

While Twitter, Starbucks, and other material sacrifices seem to be making the most buzz among the Lenten faithful, Newman Catholic Community Father Brian Cool explains that not all Lenten sacrifices are so trivial.

“I really suspect most people give up something they keep… personal,” he said. “They look at their character and their decisions and seek a deeper change. But it is more private… so we hear little about these.”

With the diverse and thriving student body at UR, it isn’t too much of a surprise to learn that Lent has transcended religious boundaries. Many students that don’t identify with Christianity, and even those who don’t identify with any religion at all, are aware of the promises many of their classmates are trying to fulfill during Lent and encourage their behavior.

“I think it’s a really honorable tradition,” Hillel member and sophomore Jamie Tartell said. “It’s similar to how Jews fast on Yom Kippur. That reminds us that our ancestors had to make sacrifices.”

Religiously motivated or not, giving up something you really like for Lent is no easy feat. Consequently, with the many Lenten promises that were made around campus during this year, it is understandable that not everyone would be able to make it through the 40-plus days.

One freshman began to recount how he intended to forgo the soft -serve at Danforth Dining Center, when with a sheepish smile, admitted “I actually only made it a week.” However, failing your Lenten promise is not the end of the world nor even necessarily bad,  according to Cool.

“Failure tells us what Lent is all about: we need God in big and small ways,” he said.

So the next time that guy behind you in Connections looks forlornly at the brownie in your hand, or your friend’s eye twitches when you open up Facebook, or you witness a student saunter toward the library on a Friday night, do not be so quick to judge, for perhaps they are just beleaguered runners in the marathon of Lent.

Shinseki is a member of

the class of 2015.

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