Resend: 40 Catholic Feminist Practices for Lent
yeah, that starts Wednesday!
Hi, friend. This is a resend of a letter I wrote a couple of years ago. It’s just a way to get your gears moving as you think about how to best embrace a lenten practice this year. Thanks for letting me pop into your inbox an extra time this month!
I also wanted to share the piece I recently wrote for The Public Discourse entitled “Cultivating a Holistic Feminism”.
“Feminism, as it was originally intended, identified and honored the differences between men and women. It didn’t emphasize the stereotypical differences that both modern gender ideologues and Instagram #tradwives tend to emphasize—what a person wears, for instance, or what hobbies she enjoys. Feminism originally illuminated the fact that because women are life-bearers, and because of their innate capacity for care and serving, they were uniquely positioned to suffer discrimination.”
Read more here.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who knew what they were giving up for Lent around July of last year and those who are cobbling together a plan as we speak, because we just glanced at the calendar and realized it was Ash Wednesday in two days.
February always sludges past in some kind of strange, slushy space-time continuum way, and to know that March is right around the corner gives me a little spring in my step—pun very much intended. But I also look forward to Lent every year in some kind of strange, morbid way. It just feels good, in my bones, to give something up. I think it appeals to the part of our human nature that knows just how unChristlike we are, but wants to reach towards Heaven.
Allow me to confess one of my biggest pet peeves: when people give something up for Lent in a way that will benefit them. I hate to throw the sweet girls I worked with as a FOCUS missionary under the bus, but if I had to have one more conversation about “giving up sugar because you want to look great in Cabo during spring break isn’t EXACTLY the penitential spirit we’re going for”, I was going to scream. So often, we choose to fast from things that, well, we wanted to fast from anyway. I really want the latest iPhone, so I’m going to give up shopping. I really want to lose the last of my baby weight, so I’m going to give up alcohol. I really want to see how I feel without gluten, so I’m going to give up bread. But look! Now we can do it for Jesus!
But the point of Lent is to align ourselves with Christ’s suffering, not to better our lives with self-improvement and cleansing. We’re not going for Gwyneth, here. More like sainthood.
Matt Charbonneau writes, “As Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days, we, too, are called to forgo something for the same period when observing Lent. It is during this time we can deepen our awareness of his sacrifice on the Cross, as well as Jesus’ daily forgiveness of our sins and unconditional love for us. It should be noted, however, this personal sacrifice should be difficult but healthy, while respecting responsibilities. For instance, giving up coffee for Lent takes little to no effort if one rarely or never drinks it. Along the same lines, going without something you enjoy regularly—like Netflix, if you watch it often—may seem like an impossible task, but is a small price to pay for a step closer to eternal salvation. A student electing not to do any homework for the Lenten weeks ignores his or her academic obligations and can suffer harmful ramifications. The decision not to use any illicit drugs only during Lent, and then resume the practice afterwards, contradicts our moral duty to obey civil laws and not participate in criminal activities.”
So if you haven’t yet brainstormed a Lenten plan, never fear. Here are forty practices that might be a good decision for a Catholic Feminist. Some are prayer, some are fasting, some are almsgiving—we’re directed to do some sort of combo of all three. Notice I said might! Might, as in, might not be right for you. Some of these may feel more self-care-esque to you; some of these may feel like a great Lenten practice to you. Some aren’t right for you in this season; some might be just what you needed. It’s so individual to your temperament + life circumstances. These are just to get the wheels rolling in your head. You know what’s best for you to embrace as a Lenten practice! Ask the Lord what he desires from you these forty days, and then remember the point of it all.
Not to be the most creative, the most intense, the most penitential.
But to unite with Jesus.
Dive into the writings of a great female Catholic, like Thea Bowman.
Stretch for five minutes every morning before you open your phone.
Give up scrolling your phone when your kids are in the room.
Give up counting calories.
Donate to your local pregnancy center.
Pray for unborn baby girls in areas where gendercide flourishes.
Say a daily rosary for women in Afghanistan, China, and other oppressed areas.
Read Bitter + Sweet by Tsh Oxenreider.
Give up looking in the mirror.
Give up podcasts.
Say a daily chaplet of divine mercy for post abortive women.
Donate for ethical research to end women-exclusive diseases, like PCOS.
Give up gossiping (I have a friend who defines this as not saying anything she wouldn’t say if the person she’s speaking about was in the room.)
Give up makeup.
Get 8 hours of sleep a night.
Volunteer at your local Catholic Worker house.
Read the writings of Dorothy Day.
Give up social media.
Give up hate-following certain people on social media.
Give up alcohol.
Get outside every day.
Read the writings of a female saint you’ve always rolled your eyes at.
Donate 40 things to your local domestic violence shelter.
Read a poem every day.
Give another woman a sincere compliment about something other than her physical appearance every day.
Create a gratitude journal and thank God for three things every evening.
Donate to a woman-led ministry you think is especially needed in the church, like Eden Invitation.
Give up music except praise and worship or spiritual hymns.
Read about the fierce women of the Old Testament, like Deborah or Esther.
Write a weekly handwritten letter to a woman in your life who’s impacted you and mail it to her.
Say a daily rosary for women suffering from infertility.
Invite a single woman friend over for dinner each week.
Say a nightly prayer for the woman in your life who’s the most difficult to love.
Go to daily Mass once a week.
Every time you complain about the hard work of motherhood, follow it up by a prayer of gratitude.
Read 33 Days to Merciful Love.
Every time you see a mom in public with her rowdy kids, thank her for being a mom and tell her she’s doing great.
Donate 40 books to your public library or local jail.
Pray nightly for the conversion of pro-choice politicians.
Don't buy anything that may have been made by enslaved people (this requires some light research).
People are so divided on sharing what they’re giving up for Lent—some people think it makes them seem like they’re yelling about their sacrifice in the public square and some people think it’s helpful. I don't know! The jury’s out. But if you feel so inclined, I’m always interested in what practices people are embracing for Lent; feel free to share them in the comments.
In Him Through Her,