“If God can do it for 40 days in the desert, we should go through that challenge, too,” said Sherwin Serrao.
Serrao, 20, a student at the University of Guelph, gave up eating McDonalds meat for Lent this year. Since Serrao also works at McDonalds in Mississauga on weekends, he usually eats the restaurant’s food on his lunch breaks during his shift.
“Fasting is my biggest weakness. The fact that I go to the gym and all, it’s really hard to not eat when you are supposed to…it was a really hard challenge, but I didn’t eat as much,” Serrao said.
Serrao is one of the 2.18 billion Christians in the world, according to Pew Research Center. And Lent is a Christian season in preparation for Easter.
In the west, Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and begins 40 days before Easter. Easter Sunday is not included in the fast. This year, Lent began on Wednesday Feb. 13 and ends on Saturday Mar. 30.
Lent is a period that many Christians observe as a way to reflect on oneself and the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made for man—his life. During this time, individuals are supposed to fast, give up luxuries, practice abstinence, and pray. The 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert.
According to the Catholic Education Resource Centre, before modern Christianity, people in Jerusalem would fast for 40 days, Monday through Friday, for eight weeks. In Rome and in the West, people would fast for six weeks, Monday through Saturday. The practice of Lent evolved to fasting for six days a week for six weeks.
The rules of fasting varied over time. Today, what people choose to do for Lent is all based on personal preference. Before, some parts of the Church would abstain from eating all forms meat and animal products, while others made fish an exception. These rules have evolved allowing individuals to eat meat throughout the week, except on Ash Wednesday and Friday.
Today, a faithful fast consists of having only one full meal a day and snacks, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these days one must abstain from eating meat. One must also abstain from eating meat on the other Fridays during Lent. However, even with fasting, individuals still choose to give something up for Lent, such as a luxury.
Matthew Chin, 22, is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough majoring in English. He gave up eating pork for Lent this year. He also gave up eating meat every Wednesday and Friday. Chin knows that the amount of pork and meat he eats can have health issues in the future, however he will not continue his abstinence outside of Lent.
“Because fasting or ‘giving up’ something for Lent is implemented in order for a Christian to turn his or her life back towards God, I will continue to build my relationship with God in addition to my sacrifice,” he said in a Facebook interview. “Even though that was a temporary sacrifice, the impact has lasted me well over the forty days, which has not only taught me discipline but also to appreciate the true contentment in my life.”
This is not Chin’s first time observing Lent. The reason he gave up eating pork is not only because he loves eating it, but also it has been something his whole family would give up during Lent. When Chin was younger, he gave up his Sony PlayStation. He described this as his “most challenging Lenten season” ever.
Father Pierre Robitaille of St. John’s Church on Kingston Road in The Beaches, says everybody has a different perspective of what they want to give up during Lent.
There is no law governing what people should give up during Lent, Father Robitaille noted.
“For some people it’s more material, giving to a cause, [abstain] from eating certain foods or smoking, or drinking, some people will do charity work, some social work, it all depends. It can be physical, it can be spiritual, it can be financial, or a combination of all the above. Everybody has their own way of doing that, [such as] being nicer to people, abstaining from swearing,” he said.
According to the website “What to give up for Lent” , some common things people choose to give up are food or drinks as part of the fast. Giving up luxuries such as chocolate, eating dinner out, Facebook, or Twitter are also common during the Lenten season. However, the website suggests people should choose something to give up that has taken their attention away from Christ and their devotion to him and the practice of Christianity.
Andre Thurairatnam, 22, a University of Toronto graduate who majored in a journalism gave up his negative attitude.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a horrible person who goes around saying spiteful things to or about other people, but we all have our moments. I felt that by choosing something like this to ‘give up’, I would not only be forced to have a more optimistic view when life throws its curveballs at me, but would also be made fully aware when I was saying or acting in a less than favorable manner,” Thurairatnam said.
Thurairatnam also vows to continue his practice outside of Lent. He says it is something he always strives for and by being more actively aware of it, he can get a feel of why he may act a certain way in situations. He usually does not give something up every year for Lent, but he tries his best. In his past he has given up chocolate and candy. On Good Friday he does not eat meat.
On Holy Saturday at St. John’s Church, Father Robitaille will be taking part in mass. The day of Saturday is for prayer and quiet.
“[Lent] is a form of self-purification, self-denial, self-renewal, to prepare ourselves to be more acutely aware of Christ in our lives…Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and also to prepare our lives more fully for the joys and resurrection of Easter,” Father Robitaille said.