Q. Is it ok to break our personal Lenten sacrifices? Let’s say I give up pizza for Lent, but my friend invites me to his birthday party, and it’s a pizza party. Do I hold to my penance, or allow myself to eat pizza for his sake?
A. The purpose of the season of Lent is a conversion of heart. It’s a time of penance and preparation as we contemplate the Passion of our Lord and as we await the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus during the Easter season.
This over-arching purpose of conversion during Lent must always be kept in mind as we enter into it. Any sacrifices that we endure during this season, or any time of the year for that matter, should never be viewed as ends in themselves, but rather a means of conversion.
The three traditional penitential acts during Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All of these acts should lead toward a greater conversion of our hearts. Through a greater dedication to prayer, where we take time, in silence, to be in conversation with the living God, we grow in our intimacy with him. We could also increase our devotional life. We can pray the rosary, meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ, through the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Or, we could pray the stations of the cross as an excellent way for us to walk with Jesus in his final hours and enter into the mystery of his Passion.
Almsgiving releases us from attachment to our own possessions and allows them to be shared with those who are in need. Almsgiving also allows us to be attentive to the needs of others, being grateful for what the Lord has given us.
The kinds of sacrifices and the exceptions to those sacrifices are up to the individual Christian, keeping in mind, again, the overall goal of greater conversion. If in the example you provided, you wanted to break the sacrifice of abstaining from pizza for Lent out of the good of friendship, you could do so in good conscience. There would also be nothing wrong with staying steadfast in your Lenten resolution.
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