Table of Contents
- Lent’s 3 Pillars: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
- Fasting Ideas for Kids/Teens
- Fasting Ideas for Adults
- Prayer Ideas for Kids/Teens
- Prayer Ideas for Adults
- Almsgiving/Donation Ideas for Kids and Adults
- Catholic-Affiliated Charities
When Ash Wednesday draws near, Catholics and other Christians seem to fall into two distinct groups when it comes to what to give up for Lent.
The first group takes it down to the wire: Tuesday night, continuing an internal dialogue trying to figure out what Lenten sacrifice to make. It’s a conversation they have every year.
And it may includes lines you’ve said yourself in past years:
“I never know what to give up for Lent!”
The second group is dialed in on the start of Lent, ready to activate “Lent autopilot” and prepare to give up the same thing as last year. And two years ago. And every year.
Lent is more than just “giving something up” and fasting from meat on Fridays.
In fact, Pope Francis challenges us to think about fasting as something more powerful than we normally consider it, describing it as “learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.”
However, Lent can be an unhealthy time for those who struggle with scrupulosity, or it can be overwhelming to people who are already in a time of suffering. For some, the best Lent might be to make sure they get at least 7 hours of sleep or making the commitment to attend therapy.
At the start of Lent, we should ask ourselves – what pulls me away from loving God, loving others, and loving myself well? How can I incorporate acts of sacrifice, acts of giving, and acts of prayer that will help me love as God loves?
Giving thought to observing Lent is important. Whether you wait until the last minute to decide or you’ve known your Lenten sacrifice since last Lent, it’s worth spending time to thoughtfully consider how to make the most of your experience this year.
Because observing Lent is so much bigger than what you “give up.”
Lent’s 3 Pillars: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving
When we hunger–whether it be for food, technology, comfort–it can be a reminder that Jesus is the bread of life.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”John 6:35
When we sacrifice things that this world tells us we need, it can remind us that only God can truly satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Lent’s three pillars are prayer, fasting and almsgiving–meaning that we’re called to do more than just abstain from a particular food or activity.
It involves not only what we’re willing to give up, but what we’re willing to take on.
When we think about what to give up for Lent, we ought to also think about what sort of commitment to prayer and ability to be charitable that we can hold ourselves.
Hallow provides numerous options for stepping up prayer during Lent. In the app, Hallow offers:
- Daily Gospel reflections
- Daily Rosary prayers
- Daily Saint prayers
- Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours
All of these options can help us commit to prayer during Lent.
In addition to fasting and prayer, almsgiving is equally important during Lent, helping us deepen our relationship with God while working to build God’s kingdom here on earth.
Pope Francis sums up the powerful impact that almsgiving has:
“Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness”Pope Francis, Lent Message 2020
Anyone can practice almsgiving, which is not limited to simply donating money.
Rather, practicing almsgiving can also mean donating one’s time in service, perhaps volunteering or serving those in need. Jesus tells us clearly in Matthew 25:40 that in serving those in need, we are serving him.
As Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez recognizes, there are unique spiritual gifts to directly encountering Christ in those around us in need that we can’t experience by simply making a donation from afar.
“So you say you love the poor? Name them.” – Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez
Ideas for What to Give Up for Lent
With the three pillars of Lent in mind, Hallow has suggestions for meaningful ways to observe Lent in 2023.
Lent Fasting Ideas
Kids / Teen Fasting Ideas
- Give up a favorite toy or game
- Fast from social media for a day
- Give up a favorite snack
- Drink only water at school
- Give up a favorite chair at home or seat at school
- Go without headphones/air pods for a day
- Play your favorite game, focusing on helping others instead of winning
- Allow others to pass in front of you in the lunch line
General Ideas for Lenten Sacrifices
- Give up coffee (or only brew it at home)
- Give up alcohol
- Give up certain social media sites, or limited them to certain days/time of day
- Give up electronics after a certain time in the day (i.e., no screens after 8 p.m.)
- Sleep without a pillow
- Wake up without hitting the snooze button
- Shower without hot (with only lukewarm) water
- Keep the thermostat several degrees cooler
- Park in the back of the parking lot and say a prayer as you walk to the grocery store
- Abstain from reading gossip/rumor sites
Lent Prayer Ideas
Kids/Teen Prayer Ideas
- Pray on the way to school
- Play Guess the Saint each day
- Pick a relative each day and pray for that person
- Call a grandparent after church and discuss the Gospel/homily
- Go to bed five minutes early and spend extra time talking with God
- Research the name of your church and learn about its origins
- Pay special attention to the intercessions at Mass and choose one to pray for during the week
- Explore Hallow Kids
- Go to confession
- Research organizations that support Catholic youth like LifeTeen and National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry
Adult Prayer Ideas
- Subscribe to a daily prayer newsletter (Notre Dame and the Jesuits both offer good options)
- Each morning, scroll through the contacts on your phone. Randomly stop and say a prayer for whichever person you land on
- Spend a few minutes with Scripture each day
- Start the Bible in Year podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz on Hallow
- Attend daily Mass once a week
- Attend or pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday
- Invite a friend to attend Mass with you
- Join the Bible study group at church
- Attend Adoration of the Eucharist
- Go to confession
- Pray the Rosary once a day
- Pray the Daily Examen on Hallow
- Join Hallow’s #Pray40 Lent Challenge
Lent Almsgiving/Charity/Donation Ideas
Kids/Teens/General Almsgiving Ideas
- Spend time volunteering as a family
- Allow kids to be the one to place money in the basket during the offertory at Mass
- Introduce children to a charity and explain to them how and why to donate to it
- Have children identify a toy they are willing to donate to Goodwill
- Help children identify an article of clothing they can donate and explain that their donation can be a blessing to someone in need
- Create a jar to collect change to donate
- Donate food to a food bank
- Donate a service (free homework tutoring, free professional assistance, etc)
- Give a smile to someone you pass who may be living on the street (instead of ignoring them)
- Follow new charities on social media and engage with their posts
- Support a business that advertises in your parish bulletin
Catholic-Affiliated Charities to Consider Donating to
- Cross Catholic – Supports clean water initiatives in some of Africa’s poorest communities.
- Catholic Extension – Works in solidarity with people in America’s poorest regions to build up strong Catholic faith communities.
- Catholic Relief Services – Carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas.
- Gabriel Project – Offers hope and assistance to any woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
- National Catholic Educational Association – Strengthens Catholic school leaders and educators to help support the future of Catholic education.
- Mary’s Meals – Provides meals to children in poverty, in recognition of Mary raising Jesus in poverty.
- Knights of Columbus – Fraternal service order of Catholic men that has been active since 1882.
- Young Catholic Professionals – Inspires and empowers young professional Catholics to work in witness for Christ.
MORE: Lent Prayers for 2023