Russ Batenhorst The good, bad, ugly of Lenten sacrifices


There’s a question that is asked quite a bit this time of year. For Christians worldwide the season of Lent began this week with the observation of Ash Wednesday.

It concludes 40 days later with the celebration of Easter. (If you want to get real technical, I think it probably ends after Good Friday, but I’ll leave that to the theologians.)

It commemorates 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before his death — at least I sure hope it does or my parish priest will be correcting me this weekend. To help bring it into focus, it is to be a time of sacrifice, which brings me back to the original question.

 It has become a tradition for people to “give up” something for Lent, a bit of a sacrificial reminder. I don’t know if it’s just a Catholic thing, or if other Christian religions do it, as well. I know it just seems to be placed at the feet of Catholics more than any other.

A talk show on the radio Wednesday was even discussing it, and it seemed the one professed Catholic out of the five in the room was getting most of the heat.

 When I was growing up in a Catholic grade school, each Lent was greeted with the above question. Usually it was kids asking the question with a smile on their face. Other times it was one of the nuns with a guilt-inducing frown on their face.

Either way, throughout grade school, as I recall my answer was always the same: candy. Now there’s a sacrifice!

I don’t know if it was our parents who suggested that would be a good “give-up” for us, or if we came up with on our own. But for the siblings and me, that was the fall-back plan. Any candy that came our way during Lent was faithfully stashed away and saved.

Once Easter hit, it was a sugar-packed splurge that lasted days. It brought all new meaning to the phrase “Easter celebration.”

Those guys talking on the radio I mentioned earlier seemingly got started on the topic when someone pointed out that research has been done on the Top 100 Things to Give Up for Lent. It seems there’s a survey for everything these days.

I had to look, and let me tell you, it’s quite a list. From the usual suspects — junk food, coffee, alcohol — to the more ridiculous or less serious — caring, sobriety, sarcasm (yeah, right).

All of them are on the list. There’s a little bit of redundancy. There are people giving up junk food, pizza, French fries and any of a number of specific fast food joints.

And modern technology comes into play with people giving up Twitter, Facebook, social media and their cell phones. If that’s the case, it’s a good thing this list was compiled before Ash Wednesday, since it was a survey taken on Twitter.

 There’s a certain “been there, done that” quality to the list. Candy, chocolate, soda pop and nothing are just a few of the things on the list I’ve done before.

Soda pop was always a tough one when I was a sports reporter because state basketball usually hit during Lent, and there was free pop in the press rooms. If there’s two things sports reporters have trouble passing up, it’s free things and pop. Good thing donuts never made my list.

Here lately chocolate has probably been one of my toughest. I’ve kind of gotten into a “something chocolate every day” habit that wasn’t easy to give up. But, hey, that’s why they call it a Lenten sacrifice, right?

 I like people who give things up quietly, rather than proclaim it to all. However, looking at the list, it might be easy to find the 52 people who said they were giving up breathing — it was 76th on the Top 100.

 That’s why I’m not tipping my hand here. I don’t want to give you all a chance to catch me in a moment of weakness. Besides, with all these ideas, I’m thinking of giving up something different each week.

How many more days to Easter?. 



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