You'll hear many Catholic teachers tell you that you don't need to make a Lenten sacrifice. Now, the hearts of these teachers is in the right place. They are trying to combat the error of minimalism - the attitude that says, "What's the least I need to do to be a 'good' Catholic?" Too many Catholics use the Lenten sacrifice as a legalistic minimum, without exploring the depths of its meaning and purpose. So Catholic teachers are telling people to skip the sacrifice, and instead to do something more meaningful. But the Church gives us the Lenten sacrifice for good reason! Don't skip it. Enter into its full meaning instead.
Lent has traditionally been the major time of preparation for those entering the Church. Your parish may have RCIA candidates who go through a series of special ceremonies (like the "Rite of Acceptance)") and blessings. Traditionally Lent has been a time of sacrificial penance for adults entering the Church. They went through some rather "harsh" penances in order to turn away from their old life and embrace their new life in Jesus. Christians within the Church would often voluntarily take on penances during this season as well, in loving support and solidarity with those seeking entrance into the Church. Like many practices, this one moved from a voluntary act of love to a routine tradition. Through the years the focus shifted from solidarity with the catechumens to a personal act of purification and penance. There's certainly nothing wrong with this shift in focus, except that minimalism has stolen even that bit of meaning from us.
The Lenten Sacrifice Challenge
So let's join together in From the Abbey to re-capture the original meaning of the Lenten Sacrifice. There's nothing wrong with choosing a sacrifice for personal purification and penance. But lets's also perform our sacrifice in loving solidarity of those preparing to enter the Church! The Postulant Membership of From the Abbey has two people who are currently in RCIA. Please offer your sacrifice for them, for the catechumens in your own parish, and for all of the catechumens in your diocese.