Practicing Lent for Catholics has a bigger purpose


Sophomores Jenni Tong and Uyen Vu listen to “From the Inside Out” by Christian band Hillsong as a part of their Lenten promise.

Sophomores Jenni Tong and Uyen Vu listen to "From the Inside Out" by Christian band Hillsong as a part of their Lenten promise.
Sophomores Jenni Tong and Uyen Vu listen to “From the Inside Out” by Christian band Hillsong as a part of their Lenten promise.

Cruising in the car with her sister, sophomore Uyen Vu surfs radio channels until she comes across secular radio station Hot 95.7. Tempted to listen to the song that’s playing, Vu remembers her promise that she has made to God for the Lenten season and changes it instead to Christian radio station KSBJ.

Throughout the months of February, March, and April, calendar events such as Black History Month, Spring break, Easter and Mardi Gras are well-known. But many people do not realize Mardi Gras is a last wild celebration before the Lenten season, a distinct tradition observed by Catholics. During Lent, many Catholics give up a habit for 40 days, symbolizing the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus was stranded in the desert without food or water. The season ends on Easter Sunday, which celebrates when Jesus Christ resurrected after three days after being crucified on the cross.

Vu took the challenge of avoiding secular music.

“This year my sister and I are going to do a 30-day challenge… Basically, every time and everywhere, we’re going to listen to just Christian music,” she said.  “Sometimes you don’t have the words to describe your feelings for God and when you listen to a song, it’s a message and you borrow the song to pray to God. Every time I listen to Christian music, it’s really peaceful. It’s like praying.”

Senior Travis Dinh practices self-growth during Lent, although it is a big challenge.

“Usually we give up a certain thing or you do something to better yourself during Lent just as Jesus had when He was in the desert fasting. That’s basically where we get the tradition from,” he said. “We know that there were a lot of temptations during those 40 days and that’s what we try to fight through.”

Dinh believes Lent helps break the bad habits.

“Doing little things like last year, I did my best to stop cursing and ever since then, I’ve stopped,” he said. “Lent builds a habit kind of thing. It puts us out of our comfort zone; taking us out of our norms and challenging us to do something better for ourselves and go against the flow of the world.”

Junior Jenelle Estrada uses Lent to help herself have a deeper faith.

“You give something up or you add something to help grow in your faith, to get closer to God because He made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His only Son up,” she said.

Estrada decided on improving her life in a spiritual sense for Lent.

“I used to have a tradition where I would just give up meat, but now I’m just adding more Scripture and reading the Bible every day as well as giving up sweets, soda, and Facebook,” Estrada said. “But I’m focusing more on adding adoration, which is when I go to Church and adore the body of Christ in the form of bread.”

She does, however, have to face her friends who criticize what she does.

“They usually ask me, ‘Why are you doing this? What does it do? You’re giving something up but it really doesn’t do anything’,” Estrada said. “But I tell them it’s more for me and my relationship with God.”

Dinh’s friends are open-minded to the concept of Lent.

“My friends are usually cool with it. It’s not like they’re totally new to it,” he said. “They’ll just ask me the basics. ‘Why do I do this? What does it represent?’ They usually don’t criticize it or anything.”

Freshman Vera Nweke believes that Lent is one of the few that makes Catholicism different from most other Christian religions.

“A lot of people, mostly other denominations, don’t know so much about the fact that Jesus had to die to be able to resurrect which is what Easter celebrates and so people ignore that part,” she said. “It’s acknowledging something that is a huge part of what Catholicism is and what we celebrate and what we believe in.”

Nweke reflects on her own actions during Lent.

“I usually plan ahead on what to give up, it depends on the year,” she said. “Some years I plan ahead and look back at what I’ve done wrong and what I think I can fix and do better. Some years I plan for it right on the spot.”

She finds the whole Lenten season to be worthwhile.

“Sometimes I think that it’s not but in the end it always is because it brings me closer to God,” Nweke said. “The fact that we’re giving up something so little compared to God giving up His only Son for someone else— it’s the least that we can do.”