A Letter to My Bishop

Friends, I’ve been praying and thinking quite a lot about what I actually want our bishops to do. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. I’ll be mailing them to my bishop (and, in some form, to several other bishops). Feel free to adapt my words and use them in your own letter-writing, or to find excellent templates at The Siena Project. Your bishop’s address can be found here.

Your Excellency,


You know why I’m writing. It’s the same reason everybody’s been writing. Priests abused children and adults, bishops coerced seminarians into unspeakable acts, and everybody seemed to know. And nobody seemed to care.

I don’t know what you knew. Perhaps your conscience is entirely clear. Perhaps you removed every abusive priest from ministry, chastised and reported abusive and negligent bishops, and wrote the Holy Father when you heard rumors. Perhaps you have been an exemplary priest and a saintly bishop. If so, I thank you. With fierce, desperate gratitude, I thank you.

But perhaps not. If you have been a part of this vile infection plaguing our church, even just through looking the other way, I beg you to confess your sins–not only sacramentally but publicly. You may be judged harshly by those you failed to shepherd; you will be judged more harshly by the Shepherd who appointed you if you continue to abandon your flock.

I can’t know which is the case, but I choose to believe you are who you say you are: a lover of God and servant of his people. And I’m sure that you feel lost and confused and exhausted right now. Believe me, I’m praying for you. Your PR department recommends polished statements and your people demand that heads roll, regardless of whether or not the possessors of those heads have been proven guilty. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a bishop right now. And perhaps more demands from your people just add to that weight. But in the hope that you are genuinely seeking to bring healing to this broken Church, I’d like to offer some suggestions of practical things to do right now–this week. Come November, I’ll have more thoughts about what the USCCB as a whole ought to do. But today, I offer these thoughts for your prayerful consideration:

  1. Begin by inviting a full investigation by the state’s attorney general and encourage all other bishops to do the same. Open all the files, whatever they contain. All of this will come out in the next ten years–if we deal with it all at once, the Church in America may survive. If we drag it out, we continue to torment survivors, endanger children, and abdicate any moral authority we still retain. The condemnation of wicked men could never cause such scandal as our secrecy has.
  2. Work to extend statutes of limitations such that justice can be wrought in this world as well as the next.
  3. Meet personally with survivors and their families. Meet on their terms: where they want, when they want, with whom they want. Allow media if they prefer, but do not make this a photo opp.
  4. Host town hall meetings throughout the diocese. Listen. Apologize. Don’t defend.
  5. Publicly ask the Holy Father to invite an investigation of what Vatican officials (including the Holy Father) knew about McCarrick and when. We have had enough of silence. Now is a time for fathers to answer their confused and frightened children, not to stand by impassively as the family self-destructs. I do not want Pope Francis to resign. I want him to lead the way in transparency and (if necessary) repentance.
  6. Establish a policy of surveying seminarians semi-annually about their experience of and concerns about seminary life. Visiting the seminaries you send your men to is essential, though it alone is not enough. Make it clear that those reporting sexual misconduct or the abuse of authority will always be granted a meeting directly with you. Their concerns will not go unheard.
  7. Commit yourself personally to public acts of penance and reparation. Bishop Reed in Boston has taken the lead on this, engaging in an act of prayer and fasting that has stunned the Catholic world. Ask the Lord how you can take a stand, showing survivors and all the wounded faithful that you will fight for us, that you will sacrifice yourself for love of Christ and for love of us.
  8. Call on the clergy of your diocese to return to the practice of Friday abstinence. Encourage them to undertake other acts of penance and reparation on behalf of their fallen brother priests and for the healing of the Church. Remind them that they became priests for the salvation of souls and that no good thing comes without effort. The demons attacking our church will be cast out only through prayer and fasting.
  9. Exhort all priests of the diocese to offer a Mass of Reparation every Friday between now and Christmas. (The Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Feast of All Souls are, of course, universal feasts that cannot be replaced by votive Masses, though both are particularly connected to this cause as well. It is, I believe, in your power to remove all obstacles to celebrating a Mass of Reparation for every other Friday between now and Christmas.)
  10. Ask every parish to recite the St. Michael prayer following each Mass (before the closing hymn on Sundays) for the purification of the Church and her protection from all evil influences.
  11. Continue preaching on this and asking your clergy to do the same. Not every homily needs to be an apology on behalf of the clergy, but too many Catholics have heard nothing at all and feel abandoned. Just mention that this is a hard time in the Church, that you’re sorry for those who have suffered, and that Jesus loves us in our pain–we just need to know that you aren’t pretending that this is business as usual.
  12. Finally, Your Excellency, if there is anything at all in your past that, if exposed, would force you to resign, skip the drama. Resign now. Tell us everything and retire to a life of penance. Owning up to your sins, begging forgiveness, and doing public penance may just get you canonized one day. Diverting blame and keeping your head down may earn you a place in hell. Catholics are in the habit of forgiving repentant sinners. This isn’t a hard choice.

You will, I hope, forgive my forwardness. But my Church is under attack and you, Excellency, have been clothed in armor and given a sword to defend her. I may pray and fast (and I do), I may call for reform, I may stand before thousands and point them back to Christ in the midst of this chaos they long to run from, but only you can be our shepherd.

Thank you for the gift of your priesthood and for the courage and wisdom with which you lead our local Church. I pledge to pray for you daily by name as you seek to be faithful in carrying out the work of the Spirit.

Yours in Christ through Mary,

Meg Hunter-Kilmer

Top Ten Ways to Fail at Lent

Lent’s a beautiful opportunity for grace and growth, but (like anything good) Satan can twist it. It’s easy for our penances to become about us, for us to be discouraged when we fail or arrogant when we succeed. 24 hours in, it’s probably about time for us to start checking our motivations and letting the Lord refine us. So let’s get judgey for a minute–judgey about imaginary people with imaginary problems so we can be convicted about our real problems.

1. “Super psyched about fasting this Lent. #skinny #40daycleanse”

The point of your Lenten observances isn’t to get hot or impress people. It’s to live for the Lord. Most of us will have some selfishness mixed in, but if it’s all about you, drop it and find something that’s more about him.

2. “I’m giving up TV for Lent, but it’s cool. I’ve got Netflix.”

Don’t sub out one empty pleasure with another. Read a good book. Call a friend. Go outside.1 Basically, if it feels like cheating, it probably is.

I love this guy.
I love this guy.

3. “Oh, chocolate? Gosh, I love chocolate. Too bad I gave it up for Lent. You’re so lucky that you didn’t give up chocolate. I guess I’m just really trying to be holy, you know? But not everybody can be holy like me.”

There might be some Lenten observances that you can’t keep quiet.2 And some might be encouraging to others.3 Or maybe you need some encouragement.4 But if you’re just bragging, shut up.

4. “Ew ew ew ew creamy peanut butter ew ew ew ew ew!! Ugh, this is so hard! My life is so hard!!!”

Sometimes it’s veiled bragging, but whether you’re showing off or not, complaining about your penance kind of defeats the purpose. Try asking yourself: is my fast worse than being crucified? If it isn’t, don’t complain about it. If it is, oh my gosh stop it right now!

sorry hungry5. “Shut up! SHUT UP!! Why are you talking to me??? Sorry…I gave up coffee for Lent.”

If it’s more of a penance for those around you than it is for you, stop. Also, deal with your addiction–just maybe not cold turkey.

6. “I love this no meat Friday thing! Seriously, lobster’s, like, my favorite.”

Please don’t use abstinence as an excuse to indulge in something expensive. Or even something delicious. If you really, really love seafood, you should probably avoid it on Fridays in Lent. Penance should be a sacrifice, not just a hoop to jump through.

7. “Yeah, I gave up Skittles but then I forgot and ate them so now I’m back on my diet of skittles as a side dish with every meal.”

Lent is like life. If you fall, you repent and get back up. Don’t quit just because you failed–recognize your weakness and rejoice that your salvation doesn’t depend on your penances. Then start again.

#ashtag #fasting #doesorangejuicecountasameal #sohungryrightnow #IcouldntfigureouthowtomakeducklipssoIwentwiththis
#ashtag #fasting #doesorangejuicewithpulpcountasameal #sohungryrightnow #IcouldntfigureouthowtomakeducklipssoIwentwiththis

8. “Aw, man! There were coffee grounds at the bottom of my cup and I swallowed them. Does that count as one of my three meals?”

On the flip side, some of us get so obsessed with the rules (even the ones we’ve set for ourselves) that we quit being broken sinners in the arms of a merciful God and start being Pharisees. Have mercy on yourselves and let him be the strong one.

9. “I gave up beer for Lent, which is awesome because I’m saving crazy money. I’m going to use it for a new tattoo once Easter comes.”

The purpose of your fasting is to make room in your life for the Lord. I’ve got nothing against tattoos, but maybe if your fasting is saving you money, you could send that money on and turning your fasting into almsgiving. It’ll help keep that selfishness from creeping in.

10. “I’m giving up homework for Lent.”

I’m sorry, every smart aleck kid ever, you can’t give up an obligation.

Speaking as one who’s probably committed every one of these, let me give you some consolation: it’s okay to fail at Lent. It’s hard to fast, hard to turn your heart back to the Lord, hard to live in the shadow of the cross. But as with so much in life, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ at work in you. Start over each day and let him teach you more and more to live for him. That’s what Lent’s about: not fasting, almsgiving, or even prayer, but a love of God that transforms you. Verso l’alto, my friends. Let’s be saints.

  1. Unless you, like me, are stuck in the frozen wasteland that is Michigan. []
  2. When I gave up sarcasm, for example, people kept wondering what was wrong with me until I explained my frequent tense silences. []
  3. “I’m doing daily Mass during Lent. Want to join me?” []
  4. “I can’t do it! I can’t live without Twitter!! Help me!!!” []

“Cheating” on Sundays

This isn’t entirely relevant, but check out the awesome Lenten manicure I got! I know it should be purple, but we were at a pink party, so deal. Seriously, though, how amazing are the crucifixes on our thumbs? And I have crosses on every finger. Basically, Madi who did my manicure is my favorite ever.

I’m sure this is old news to you, but you can eat whatever you want on Sunday. Sundays are considered days of rejoicing in the Catholic Church, each one a “little Easter.” On the first day of the week we celebrate the resurrection, most importantly by going to Mass but also by feasting. Because of this, Catholics are traditionally considered to be relieved of their Lenten penances on Sundays.1 Solemnities, too, are days of feasting, so enjoy your chocolate-covered bacon on the Solemnity of St. Joseph and the Annunciation, even if they do fall on Friday.

But the idea behind feasting on Sunday is not that we celebrate the resurrection with gluttony, that we indulge in some of the sinful behavior we gave up for Lent, or that we don’t pray as we’ve promised to. If you quit cursing for Lent, please don’t wake up Sunday with a resounding “@#*%@$^#$!!” Likewise, if you’re praying a rosary daily, Sunday is not the day to take off. But if you gave up sweets, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the Lord’s resurrection with a slice of cake and a few pieces of chocolate.

Before you call me lame or a cheater or a heretic,2 take a minute to recall how long Lent is. That’s right, 40 days. But how many days are there between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday? Well, shoot, there are 46! Take out Sundays and you’re back to 40. See?

Sunday in LentNow, you’re not obligated to feast on Sundays; maybe Lent is more meaningful to you if you’re in the desert the whole time rather than taking dessert breaks. But a little Sunday feasting can be a good idea if you can be reasonable about it. I think the occasional indulgence makes fasting that much more of a sacrifice. If you’re on a juice fast, for example, you eventually stop getting hungry. Resetting your fast every week makes it more sacrificial. And feasting on Sunday reminds you all day long that this day is set apart. I never really lived the liturgical year until I started feasting on Sundays, Solemnities, and Feasts.3 Now, I always know whose feast it is and what’s coming up and I really long for these liturgical celebrations, It’s not just about a little bit of chocolate–feasting makes these days feel like the Feasts that they are.

But Sunday being a little Easter cuts both ways. Our Sundays ought to look different from the rest of the week all year long–obligatory Mass attendance being the most obvious distinction–but particularly in Lent. So as the first Sunday in Lent approaches, consider how you can celebrate Sundays.

If you’re a student–or a teacher, or anyone else who’s got a tone of work to do at home–I highly recommend taking Sunday as an actual Sabbath. That’s right, no work. I first did this in college and never quit afterwards because it was such a blessing. Think about it: you wake up Sunday morning and literally the only thing you have to do is go to Mass. So you go to Mass, have a leisurely brunch, and get coffee with a friend. As your roommate works frantically on his lab report, you kick back and read a book. As your boyfriend holes up in the library to finish a paper that was assigned 6 weeks ago, you make a chapel visit and then watch a chick flick. Now, you may have done those things anyway, but you would have felt guilty. The beauty of the Sabbath is that you have to rest–you couldn’t be doing anything productive even if you wanted to!

I know that most of you feel that you have entirely too much work to do to take Sundays off. Give me a break. With very few exceptions, if you refocus your whole week so that Sundays are free, there’s plenty of time. Maybe you can’t go out Friday or Saturday nights because you’re in finishing an assignment for Monday. Maybe that’s good for you. In the two and a half years that I did this, I think I may have had two Sundays where I had worked my butt off all week and still couldn’t finish. So I got the work done early Sunday and had the rest of my Sabbath to nap, pray, and visit with friends. There’s a reason God gave us a day of rest–it’s amazing! So why not at least give it a shot?

If you’ve got a family, try making Sunday family day. Shut the computer off all day and go out to a movie or a museum or the park. Bake cookies to celebrate the fact that you can eat sweets on Sunday. Pray a family rosary or have a family Bible study. Rejoice in the fact that you’re not fasting, yes, but rejoice in faith and family as well.

If you’re single, Sunday’s a great day to make a holy hour, get a documentary about a Saint on Netflix, or go to your mom’s house for dinner–and bring the meal. Or just turn off your phone and your computer, put away the work you brought home with you, and sit around doing nothing. If you’re anything like me, you don’t do enough of that.

Because the only obligatory fasts in our Church fall on a Wednesday and a Friday, it’s entirely up to you whether or not you break your fast on Sundays. Take some time to pray about it: could you avoid being gluttonous? Would your feasting truly be a celebration of the Resurrection? Would fasting all the way through make Easter more meaningful for you? But do take this Lent as an opportunity to begin a more intentional celebration of the Sabbath. The day of rest was given us as a gift–accept it and rejoice!

  1. In much the same way, every Friday is a “little Good Friday”–which is why all Catholics are obliged to make some sort of sacrifice every Friday of the year. The U.S. bishops recommend abstaining from meat. []
  2. Which may all be true, just not in respect to chocolate on Sundays. I’m really not making this up. []
  3. The real ones that are technically called Feasts, not any random memorial of a Saint. []

10 Reasons We Fast

Image via flickr

I love my kids, and I always loved teaching, hard as it was, but I am not sorry to be missing the whining today. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we have to have pizza today! Why can’t I just have a hamburger? This is so stupid! The cafeteria should at least serve meat so people have the option to choose. Why does the Church get to tell me what I can and can’t eat? Am I really going to go to hell if I have a little bacon? That’s not fair!” You think I am exaggerating. I am not.

I’m always amazed at how we can sit before a God who was stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross for us and say that anything is “too much” to ask. Oh, I do it, don’t get me wrong. But when you think about the size of our sacrifice compared to the size of his, it seems rather pathetic to deny him. And yet when it comes to food (and sex), we are decidedly ready to.

Now, I love food. But the Lord drew me to fasting from almost the beginning of my walk with him. I was 15 when I started making significant sacrifices outside of Lent and 17 when I first really fasted–not the unimpressive one-regular-meal-and-two-small-meals rule that most of the world just calls eating, but the kind where you don’t eat for more than 8 hours at a time.1 At first, I was just being obedient to the promptings of the Spirit, but as the years have gone by and the Lord has led me to fast in many and various ways, I’ve begun to see just how much fasting can teach us.

In this world of food television, fast food, and gatherings that always and everywhere center around food, it can be hard to see the point of real fasting. Sure, I can give up chocolate so that I know I’m a good Christian, but what does it actually accomplish? If you’re just doing it because that’s what good Christians do, I would imagine it accomplishes very little. But if you’re submitting in obedience, uniting your sacrifice to Christ’s, or seeking the meaning of the practice, there is so much the Lord has to offer you through the gift of fasting.

  1. When you fast, you tell the Lord that you love him more than food.
    I think this is the most basic level, the first thing we understand about fasting as a child. Every piece of candy we don’t eat, every meal we skip is a love letter to the Lord. Early on, it’s very hard, but gradually we begin to put Christ first so that a snack or even (God help us) a piece of bacon seems nothing compared to Christ.
  2. Fasting helps to detach you from your psychological dependence on food. I think Americans especially are obsessed with food; we let it rule us. The idea of having enough self-control to skip a snack, let alone a meal, is astounding to us. But when you choose hunger for love of God, you begin to realize that hunger isn’t so bad. After years of fasting, I don’t have to plan my life around food.2 Food is a gift or a detail, never the driving force in my life. There’s great freedom in that.
  3. Fasting makes eating worshipful. If you’ve ever been really hungry–I mean really hungry–you know that the first bite of stale bagel is rapturous. That whole first meal, really, is the best thing you’ve ever tasted. Far from running from food because the world is evil, fasting teaches us to find God in the good things of creation. And if you fast frequently, you get in the habit of worshiping when you eat.3 Every good food becomes a prayer and soon you see the whole world as sacramental–which, after all, is the point.
  4. Fasting gives you mastery over your body. More than just helping you to rule your appetite, fasting teaches you to rule your appetites. When you fast, you discipline your body and learn to be its master, not its slave. I don’t know how people can be chaste when they haven’t practiced self-mastery in the arena of food first. If you can learn to deny yourself in what is an actual need, your ability to deny yourself a great desire is strengthened dramatically.
  5. Fasting unites you to the suffering Christ. I’m not just being flippant when I say “Jesus suffocated to death for you; I think you can handle skipping snack time.” During Lent, we walk with our suffering God through the desert, up the hill, and onto the Cross. When our Lenten journey is more than inconvenient, when it’s actually painful, to a degree, we can offer our hearts to him and learn to love him better. We suffer for love of him, which consoles his bleeding heart and teaches us just how deeply he loves us.
  6. Fasting teaches you to accept every cross, not just the ones you choose. I once found myself furious because I had been looking forward to lemonade and my table was given tea instead. It took me a minute to realize that I would gladly have chosen to go the whole day without food but I just could not accept not getting a drink that I didn’t even particularly like. For many of us, the great difficulty of our particular cross is that it is chosen for us. The more we learn to take up the crosses of our choosing, the more we learn to embrace the one that is thrust upon us. True fasting makes me decrease and him increase. I learn to rely on his strength at work in me; if he can carry this little cross I made for myself, he can certainly carry the big one he picked out for me.
  7. Fasting changes your attitude to discomfort. Before I started fasting, hunger was misery, an occasion for whining and self-pity. After years of training, my automatic reaction to hunger is to pray. There are even times when I find myself praising God for the hunger before remembering that I’m not fasting, I just haven’t gotten around to eating. When hunger is prayer, it’s not hard to make pain and exhaustion and other physical discomfort prayer. We adjust our attitudes by surrendering our bodies to God and before long we find that virtue isn’t as hard as it once seemed.
  8. Fasting teaches you to live in solidarity with the poor. I hear people say “I’m starving” all the time. “No,” I want to shout, “You aren’t!” You know who’s starving? Orphans in Africa and lepers in Calcutta and even, God help us, some people on our streets here at home. But you? You’re barely even hungry. I know the difference, because I’ve tasted that “starving” you throw around. Not starving to death, no, and not by necessity but by choice. It’s not the same and I don’t want to pretend that the hunger I took on is as crippling as the tragedy of poverty and hunger in this world. Still, I’ve felt a hunger so deep that you stop being hungry. When you’ve experienced that type of hunger, it’s hard to be swayed by missing a meal. And it’s easy to ache with love for those who don’t choose starvation. Now I’m not recommending that you starve yourself by any means, but if you’ve been really hungry–even gone 24 hours without food–the word “starving” will come less easily to your lips and aid for the poor will come more readily out of your pocketbook.
  9. Fasting humbles you. When you’re awkwardly turning down food without telling people why,4 you’re humbled. When you realize how addicted you are to Pop Rocks, you’re humbled. When you’re so hungry you get light-headed and you have to break your fast to honor your body, when your hunger makes you cranky, when you realize just how little control you have over your body or your mind, when you realize how much you take for granted, you’re humbled and humbled and humbled again.
  10. Courtesy of Kelly.

    Fasting strengthens your prayer.  The testimony of Scripture is clear on this issue: “this kind comes out only by prayer and fasting.” Fasting purifies our intentions and puts force behind our prayers. When you’re fasting for an intention, you’re telling God how much you mean it. This Lent, will you consider adding one sacrifice (food or otherwise) to your list of resolutions specifically for the Holy Father and the conclave that will elect his successor? It doesn’t have to be anything much, but every time you’re tempted, throw up a prayer for our German Shepherd and the man who will step into his large, holy shoes.

Now, there are many people who can’t fast in an extreme way, for whatever reason. If you can’t skip a meal, there are favorite foods you can cut out. If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder, though, your penance will be to eat. For you, dear one, that is penance enough.

Go to Focus for the whole infographic

For the rest of you, I’d like to challenge you to pray about stepping up your game this Lent. If you’re psychologically dependent on snacks, give them up. If you “need” 3 square meals a day, try cutting back to two on Fridays. Go vegan for Lent or just cut out meat. If you’re being led to something more extreme, I’ll assume you’re working with a spiritual director and don’t need my ideas. I’m only beginning to learn the lessons that I’ve listed above–I’m certainly no expert on fasting or holiness or prayer or really anything at all. But I feel so blessed to have been led to fast and thought I ought to propose to you all that there is more to fasting than just skipping your snack and calling it a day. It’s not too late to up the ante this Lent.

If nothing else, though, you’re looking at one regular meal and two small meals today and Good Friday and abstinence today and every Friday in Lent.  The Church in her wisdom has required these minor sacrifices of us; let’s offer them joyfully to the Lord and see what he has to teach us.


This song by Jimmy Needham (love him!) is a beautiful meditation on today’s first reading. Enjoy–and happy Lent, friends! May the Father strengthen you to persevere in your penances; may the Son rejoice in your heart as it suffers with and for him; may the Spirit bring you wisdom and clarity through the sacrifices you make for love of him.


  1. I’m not going to go into details. I usually don’t talk about fasting in a way that will give people any idea about how I fast, but I think I should today. Just know that I’m healthy and prayed up and that you should discuss anything ridiculous with a spiritual director. []
  2. If you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic or have struggled with eating disorders, this is not something to aspire to. Be where you are–God loves you just there. []
  3. Not what you eat, although breaking your fast with the Eucharist can be just incredible. []
  4. Do try not to tell people why. If you’re telling everybody how hard your fasting is, you might as well just start eating again. That’s the point of today’s Gospel: fasting is between you and God, not you and God and your friends and your frenemies and Facebook…. []

100 Things to Do for Lent

Do you realize how soon Ash Wednesday is? Shoot, y’all, it’s time to start praying on what you’re going to do for Lent.

I’ve always loved Lent. It’s like Jesus Boot Camp–6 weeks of hardcore prayer and fasting, but then you get 7 weeks of Easter, praise the Lord, to gain back all the weight you lost in Lent.1 I’ll write more about the gift of fasting later, I’m sure, but for now, let’s get really practical.

What the heck are you going to do for Lent?

You probably know that the three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.2 Did you know that you’re supposed to do all three? Did you know that you can do more than one thing in each category? Did you know that giving up regular Coke and only drinking Coke Zero, Diet Coke, and Caffeine-free Coke is a totally lame-o way to go?3

Lent is not the time to go so hard that you die–or make others wish they were dead because you’re so cranky. It’s a time to discern what the Lord is calling you to, what he wants you to be more detached from, what sin he’s calling you to abandon, how he wants you to lean on him and love his children. But it can be hard sometimes to come up with something more fruitful than giving up soda, so I thought I’d give you some options.

Fasting is the most obvious. Even non-Catholics will ask you what you gave up for Lent. For some of us, Lent is an opportunity to root out some of the evil in our lives. Maybe it’s time to give one (or a few) of these sins up.

  1. Drunkenness
  2. Gossip
  3. Pornography
  4. Complaining–try accepting the cross you’re given instead of objecting that you’d rather choose your own.
  5. Smoking4
  6. Masturbation5
  7. Calling your sister an alien6
  8. Negativity
  9. Being snarky or short or cold or whatever it is you do that makes talking to you an act of charity
  10. Laziness–try exercising for Lent
  11. Arguing
  12. Being picky–eat whatever is set before you
  13. Judging people
  14. Comparing yourself with others
  15. Anger
  16. Immodest clothing
  17. Impure books/television/movies/music
  18. Lying
  19. Cursing
    Or maybe there’s something good in your life that you’re too dependent on. Or even something good that is healthy for you but that you could offer to the Lord for 40 days. Fasting can help you grow spiritually in so many ways. How about:
  20. Snacking
  21. Television
  22. Lunch
  23. Facebook
  24. Makeup
  25. Soda
  26. Chocolate
  27. Shopping (the frivolous kind, anyway)
  28. Secular music
  29. Sweets7
  30. Hitting the snooze button
  31. Secular reading
  32. Meat
  33. Naps
  34. Junk food
  35. Fast food
  36. A reasonable diet8
  37. Coffee
  38. Cream and sugar in your coffee9
  39. Social media
  40. Sarcasm10
  41. Scratching
  42. Your pillow
  43. Hot showers
  44. Hot food
  45. Salting your food
  46. Staying up stupid late–give yourself a bedtime!
  47. Wasting your life on the internet
  48. In that vein: youtube
  49. Wearing your favorite color
  50. Alcohol
  51. Kissing11
  52. Gum
  53. Checking your smartphone when you’re with people12
  54. Driving when you could walk
  55. Idle curiosity–try not reading every sign you pass or googling every question you have. If it doesn’t matter, be content not to know.
  56. Anything that’s about popularity–checking your blog stats, posting things on facebook that are clever but not edifying
    Prayer should be at the center of your life all the time, but especially during Lent. Try one of these 50 ways to talk to God on for size, follow this daily Lenten prayer schedule to ease you in to a holy hour, or go for one of the below–altering amount and frequency if you like.
  57. Daily Mass–maybe even daily!
  58. A chapter of the Bible a day. You can get through all 4 Gospels if you read 2 chapters a day and don’t skip Sundays.
  59. 10 minutes of meditation a day
  60. Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  61. Join a Bible study at your parish
  62. 20 minutes of Spiritual reading a day
  63. The Rosary–a decade or even a whole Rosary each day
  64. Go to your Church’s Lenten mission
  65. Stop by an adoration chapel on your way home each day
  66. Don’t turn on music while you drive–pray instead
  67. Subscribe to some solid Catholic blogs
  68. The Liturgy of the Hours–once a day or seven times, if you like. My favorite is the Office of Readings (Matins).
  69. Wear a crucifix
  70. Spend the time you would have spent watching TV reading the lives of the Saints or watching documentaries on the Saints
  71. Go to confession–every week, every other week, for the first time in 30 years….
  72. Pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday
  73. Get up early to pray13
  74. List 5 things you’re grateful for every day
  75. Journal
  76. Blog!
  77. Be intentional about your time–make a schedule (with prayer featuring prominently) and stick to it
  78. Go to an art museum or a botanical gardens once a week and just rejoice in beauty
  79. Break your fast with the Eucharist every day–don’t eat until you’ve been to Mass
  80. Pick a virtue to strive for each day
  81. Spend 10 minutes each night talking to the Lord about your day–thanking him for the good and the bad, apologizing for how you fell short, asking for the grace to be better the next day
  82. Listen to Christian music while you drive
  83. Listen to Catholic CDs while you drive
  84. Pick a Saint to be like and do it
  85. Lectio Divina
  86. Pay attention at Mass
    Almsgiving isn’t always as easy as giving money to the poor. Figure out how you need to love the people around you and do it.
  87. Donate the money you would have spent on whatever you’re fasting from
  88. Spend the time you would have spent watching TV with your family
  89. Visit a nursing home–and bring your little ones if you have them. Nothing takes the awkward out of talking to old people you don’t know like a baby.
  90. Step up your tithing game from 10% to 15%
  91. Invite a priest or religious to dinner
  92. Do that rice bowl thing
  93. Save up all your change (and maybe even your singles) and give them to charity.14
  94. Write letters to your grandparents
  95. Call your mother
  96. Volunteer once a week–soup kitchen, shoveling snow, the nursery at church, whatever!
  97. Give someone a compliment every day
  98. Take someone to lunch every week–a lonely coworker, a neighbor you don’t always love, one of your children
  99. Perform an act of charity every day–do the dishes when it’s not your turn, take your kids to that awful playground they love so much, talk to your parents in multiple-word sentences, pick up litter
  100. Tell someone about Jesus

Here’s a printable list that’ll  help your family (or community) decide together what to do for Lent.

Shoot, friends, that’s a lot of stuff–what else would you recommend?

More ideas from LifeTeen here and here. Nick did me one better with his 101 Lenten practices–but he wrote it three years ago, so I can’t be bitter. Any other sites with good suggestions?

Well, shoot, I added this post to Haley’s Little Holy Days linkup–my very first linkup ever–and totally forgot to add a link back to hers and all the other great Lent posts! And now we’re almost a week into Lent and probably done with any serious traffic on this post,15 but you should click over and see what other people have to say about Lent. Enjoy!

  1. This is how I know my fasting is not just dieting–because while I may lose weight during Lent, I gain it all back (and then some) during the Octave of Easter. []
  2. Giving to the poor []
  3. I’m looking at you, Nathan. []
  4. Not necessarily a sin, but it’s fair to call it a vice, anyway, right? []
  5. Yeah, I went there. []
  6. Or, more broadly, making fun of people. I didn’t do Lent growing up, but I did make this New Year’s resolution once. You’re welcome, Rosie. []
  7. Stephen Colbert hadn’t tried his own ice cream flavor because he gave up sweets for Lent. Love him. []
  8. Options include: going vegan, a juice fast, bread and water, or (my favorite) gray and tasteless. I actually went an entire Lent eating only plain, flavorless foods like oatmeal and dry toast. Consult your spiritual director–and maybe your doctor–before doing anything that ridiculous. []
  9. The only time I’ve ever had black coffee was during the Triduum. How do people drink that stuff?? John Paul (my nephew, not the pope) says it tastes like sidewalk and orange peels. I think it tastes like regurgitated tar. []
  10. Yes, I’m counting this as a good thing. Did you read my post on 1 Corinthians? That thing was awesome. []
  11. Probably a bad call if you’re married. []
  12. Maybe this should go in our first category…. []
  13. I do not recommend combining this with giving up your snooze button. If you’re anything like me, one of them will have to give. []
  14. If you do this, switching to your credit card for every purchase is cheating. FYI. []
  15. Except for the slackers out there–hi! []