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As I sit here giving my kitten a well-earned belly rub, it occurs to me that I haven’t decided what my Lenten penance shall be. Considering I’m 17 weeks pregnant and gluten-intolerant, I feel that I have already given up quite a lot of foodstuffs. I genuinely don’t know if I could emotionally handle being away from chocolate right now.
But maybe you’re stronger than me. Perhaps you’re not pregnant OR gluten-intolerant. I dunno!
Whatever situation you find yourself in here at the end of Ordinary Time, I made a list for you. Here’s my brainstorm of ideas for pregnant women (or really, anyone) to give up for Lent.
Why Penance & Why You Should Consider Taking Something Up
I feel like I have to say: giving up things for Lent is about fasting. It’s about leaving this world behind and instead focusing on God:
Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.  And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.Matthew 4:1-4
Jesus fasted in the desert in preparation for His final works on earth and His Passion. He fasted and resisted Satan’s temptations. Since God did it, we go ahead and follow his example during Lent: fasting for 40 days in anticipation of Holy Week and Easter.
We meditate upon Jesus’s twofold explanation of what man needs to have life. We need to nourish our bodies with physical foods. And we must nourish our souls with spiritual food. Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35) and the wellspring of living water (John 4:13).
Fasting is basically pointless and our everlasting reward far from our grasp without focusing ourselves on God. If we ignored the Lord but kept our fasts, we’d just be a bunch of sad, hungry, purposeless folks.
And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.Matthew 6:16
TLDR: I have a hard time waking up cheerily at 8 a.m. without constant reminders of why I’m doing so. This is why I like to pair my Lenten penance(s) with a practice of spiritual nourishment! So I can get a little good amongst the fasting that doesn’t feel as good.
A note for my fellow pregnant penitentials out there:
Catholics aged 18-59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday UNLESS they’re pregnant or nursing. (Or if they meet any of the other exemptions the USCCB mentions on their website.)
Fasting while pregnant can lead to some nasty side effects (nausea, dizziness). The Church recognizes the need for women to sustain themselves and their babies in the womb. All this means is pregnant ladies need to be a bit more creative when it comes to Lenten disciplines!
I could give up chocolate, but I’m being realistic. I know that some evenings I feel starving and the only thing I can eat without throwing up is a bowl of ice cream. So chocolate and ice cream stay.
Though I could very contentedly eat hamburgers every Friday of Lent, I would really like to help my husband keep the Lenten abstinence. And I gotta get those Omega-3s . . . so it’ll be fish Fridays in our household! See what I mean? Get creative.
Without further ado, here is le list of things to give up for Lent for pregnant women (or anybody else who is here looking for penance ideas)!
Things Pregnant Women Can Give Up for Lent
- Gossiping (and I mean talking about anything remotely negative without that person being present)
- Fast Food
- The convenience of Walmart / bigger stores
- Using your phone before / after a certain time of day
- Crippling fear of disease / bad things happening (read Job for inspiration)
- Driving over the speed limit
- Being on your phone with other people around
- Meat (unless you’re pregnant)
- Alcohol (if you’re pregnant . . . way to go in advance on this sacrifice🎉)
- Social Media
- Big, unnecessary purchases
- Amazon Prime
- Video games
- Sleeping in
- Staying up late
- Wearing makeup (or a certain amount of it)
Things to Give Up if You’re Stronger than Me
- Candy / Sugar
- Podcasts (or just the ones that are more . . . frivolous)
- Music in the car
- All secular media (books, TV, movies, etc)
Penances to Take On for Lent
Technically, we are only required to abstain and fast on specific days in Lent (Ash Wednesday + Good Friday + fridays during Lent). But like I mentioned earlier: a little virtue-building never hurt nobody.
- Say a “Hail Mary” every time you go up the stairs / enter a room / etc
- Take the stairs (that is, if you’re not too pregnant)
- Establish a morning and nighttime routine. I’m going to return to my Rule of Life routine this Lent (’cause I’ve been slacking a bit on it!!)
- Start a donations jar. Anytime you come home with any cash / coins in your pockets, put it in the jar and donate it during Holy Week.
- Say a daily rosary.
- Say the daily office or morning prayer or evening prayer.
- Plan to celebrate saints’ feast days in advance
- Create a cleaning schedule and stick to it
- Donate 5 items of clothing every week of Lent
- Attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily or maybe just once more in addition to Sundays
- Say the Stations of the Cross every Friday
- Adopt better posture practices and stretching routines
- Write and send 1 letter a day. You could even start being pen pals with someone if you’re so inclined!
- Read the Bible every day for longer than usual (we’re supposed to be reading it every day anyway!!)
- Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every week
- Consecrate yourself to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary
Alright. That’s all I can think of right now! Hopefully this list got your mind abuzzin’ with Lenten penance possibilities. Remember, the most important part of Lent is devoting ourselves to the Lord through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting (from things other than nutritious food if you’re pregnant).