Lent and Avoiding the Spiritual Diet
Written by Amanda Rohwedder. Originally published in Family Foundations in 2023.
I always ask my clients to remove “diet” from their vocabulary and instead replace it with “lifestyle,” focusing on small, consistent changes over time. For what good is it to eat healthful for a small period of time in the course of a lifetime? So, it is the same with our spiritual lives. Lent lasts forty days but let this not be a time of “spiritual dieting.” Allow your Lenten practices to develop into spiritual habits.
The hallmarks of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They are penitential in nature, signifying the purification of our interior life and a renewal of our cleansing at baptism. Let’s explore the three aspects of Lent together in more detail.
Prayer is our direct communication with God; in fact, it is our very relationship with Him. A word of encouragement if you feel that your prayer life has become stale: pray anyway. Pray for five minutes right now.
“If you have lost the taste for prayer, you will regain the desire for it by returning to its practice.”Blessed Paul VI
Consider beginning a daily prayer routine this Lent to draw closer to God in these forty days.
Fasting has very ancient roots planted in Lent. The early Church fasted intensely for two days before the celebration of the Easter Vigil. The practice of fasting aids in our prayer life in that experiencing physical hunger can remind us of our hunger for God. It also allows us to empathize with poverty, as our impoverished brothers and sisters go hungry without choice.
Almsgiving fosters a spirit of generosity. We should give not from our surplus but from our need. As Paul instructed the Corinthians, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Let us embark on this season of Lent with the excitement of receiving the Lord’s mercy and anticipation of the great Easter feast. Cheers, friends, to the start of this beautiful time of redemption!
Here are some practical suggestions for consideration as you embark on your Lenten journey. They merge the physical and spiritual: physical detoxification with spiritual improvement.
- Drink water with lemon as you partake in morning prayer. It is important to hydrate first thing in the morning versus drinking coffee, which further dehydrates. Starting the day off in prayer will calm your mind and invite God’s peace into your thoughts.
- Be present at meals. Put your phone away during mealtime. Don’t rush through eating. Chew slowly, savor each bite and enjoy conversation with the people at the table.
- Say grace before meals. Beginning each meal in thanksgiving for our blessings invites God around our table and focuses us to the present moment. Praying before meals in restaurants gives public witness to our faith and can encourage fruitful conversations.
- Do not eat after dinnertime or past a set hour, such as 9pm. This practice certainly enhances our Lenten call to fasting, but it may be beneficial to your health, too. Eating late at night is a predictor for weight gain and may also affect sleep quality.
Raw Brussels Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
This seasonal salad is one of our most popular recipes – major crowd pleaser! Brussels sprouts and fennel are high in nutrients, but low in calories. Brussels are a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate and fennel contains high percentages of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. The high fiber content of this salad keeps you feeling satisfied longer and benefits your digestion. Boost the protein by adding sliced chicken breast, hard boiled egg or chickpeas.
• 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts
• 1 medium to large fennel bulb
• 1 medium red onion
• 1 medium-size orange, zest and juice
• 1/2 c. pumpkin or sunflower seeds
• salt and pepper
• optional: 1/4 c. of pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries
• For vinaigrette: 1/2 c. apple cider (or white wine) vinegar, 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare the Brussels sprouts by trimming the stem end and removing the tough outer leaves. Then cut lengthwise into thin slices, yielding about 4 pieces per sprout.
- Prepare the fennel by trimming off the end and stalk. Reserve some of the more delicate fennel fronds to add to the salad later. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise, then make thin slices from the halves.
- Start with making thin slices from half of the red onion. Reserve the other half, if you desire more red onion to be added in the final salad mix.
- Next, prepare the vinaigrette at the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Start with the apple cider vinegar. Then add the zest and juice of the orange. Add salt and pepper to taste (good rule of thumb is double the amount of salt to pepper). Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously. Continue whisking until fully emulsified into a smooth vinaigrette.
- Add the Brussels sprouts slices, fennel slices, and red onion to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine. Add additional salt and pepper, the reserved fennel fronds, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds; gently toss again until combined. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Can be enjoyed immediately, or chill for a few hours before serving. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Amanda hosted a series of cooking classes and reflections about Lent in 2022. These recordings and resources are available. Check them out on FertilityScienceInstitute.org
Amanda Rohwedder is a degreed nutritionist, with a B.S. Nutritional Science and M.S. Medical Science with a concentration in Women’s Health. She founded Temple and Table as a way to nourish our culture by drawing a connection between physical and spiritual health. For more information about T+T’s mission, visit templeandtable.com or say hello on Facebook and Instagram @templeandtable.