By Francesca Santelli
As a child, I was taught that Lent was a time during which Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays and gave up something they love for forty days, and I noticed that my parents observed this tradition. Every year, my father gave up sweets for Lent. He explained to me that, for him, it was a true sacrifice because he loved them so much! My parents encouraged childhood me to give up my favorite toys for Lent, and I would. I now know that I did not exactly understand why this was done, but I understood that my parents, and the larger Church, did so for Jesus.
When I was in the ninth grade, my understanding of Lent became clearer, more dynamic, and more beautiful because of a homily from my priest, Fr. Allen. He said that we do not necessarily have to give up or sacrifice, anything for Jesus during Lent. We can go out and serve others. And so, inspired by him, I made that an indispensable part of my Lenten observance. I went out into my community and did service work with others. I learned a great deal about myself by giving up my time to help others that were in need. I learned that I loved sharing Jesus’ love for all by doing these works of service.
My faith has flourished because of this understanding. I have my heart and mindset on serving others year-round, not just during Lent. Lent is a time for me to be totally engaged with the truth that Jesus died for me and that he would do so a thousand times more for me. So when times get tough during Lent, I offer them up to him because he was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights and faced many challenges, but he made it through and he paid for my sins on the cross.