Saturday, February 25, 2006

And What Are You Doing For Lent?
Dieting, Quitting Smoking Don’t Count

Have you ever heard of Fr. Tom Euteneuer? He’s the forty-something man of God who heads up the pro-life group Human Life International. Oh, and in case you wondered, he’s a Marine (Hey! This IS the Lair of the Catholic Caveman!) You might recall that it was Fr. Euteneuer who was such a force for the teaching of the Church, aka “life,” back while Terri Schiavo was being murdered. He was on Hannity & Colmes and even shut down Bill O’Reilly (the so-called Catholic).

Anyway, Fr. Euteneuer has written a great article on making Lent a challenge that I commend to your reading. Following are a couple of tidbits to whet your appetite.

The power-of-positive-thinking piety that emanates from most of our nation's pulpits each Lent does us a grave injustice. We must avoid the temptation to whitewash Lent by making it into a season to do "positive" deeds. That misses the point by a mile and keeps us in a state of spiritual adolescence.

Most people tend to think that self-denial is some sort of a program of self-improvement. Giving up vices like smoking and drinking may improve our day-to-day living, but then again, it may make us even more miserable to live with! This approach to Lent, however, is still so absorbed with the self. It mires us in a concern about conduct and personal habits but does not bring us to the deepest conversion that Jesus sought to effect when He said, "Reform your lives!" (Not your habits.) Habits change when hearts change.


Blogger Jeff Miller said...

Fr. Tom Euteneuer is great. I love how forcefully he talks. No namby-pamby diplomatic language but straight forward and always to the point.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I haven't decided for certain, but I may be foregoing the blog thing for Lent - with the exception of (1) posting to mark my blog's 1-year anniversary, (2) posting to announce the birth of my daughter, and (3) a special St. Patrick's day post that I did last year, which I will put up again this year.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Off the top of my head... I'll be giving Rock 'N Roll. No radio, no CD's, no tapes.

Possibly the increase in "quiet time" will help me focus on things more Divine?

5:12 PM  
Blogger Rick Lugari said...

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with the good father. I know what he's getting at about the feel-good positive thinking piety, but I don't think that may or may not apply to something like quiting smoking.

Quitting smoking is not just giving up a habit you would rather not have. For long term smokers it involves great violence to one's physical and mental comfort. It is no doubt in my mind an act of mortification.

Lent is the only time I can actually get myself to quit. I think that's because I unite all that suffering (and it is suffering) with the sufferings of Christ. In turn, I believe that your efforts are rewarded with graces to continue.

Denying your weak flesh, gives strength to your soul and brings you closer to God in prayer and thought.

Should that be the only thing one does for Lent? No way. Personally I consider it a good Lent if I do a number of things, some planned beforehand, others on a whim. Like one night decide that I'm going to fast the next day. This stuff isn't lame-ass New Years Resolution stuff. It is the kind of practices that make you a better person and closer to Christ.

Frankly, I didn't like his comment about how giving things up may make us miserable to live with. That smacks of the feel-good piety he spoke of earlier. Of course you should become an ass when your doing violence to yourself, nor should you wear a pained expressiion. Suffer with joy. Why not preach, when you do these things, don't take your discomfort out on others...not becoming an ass and suffering in joy is what transforms us, is it not?

Maybe I'm misreading him, but I think when he adjusted the windage he went a click too far.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Rick Lugari said...

Of course you shouldn't become an ass when your doing violence to yourself...


12:30 AM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...

Okay, for the sake of (academic) argument, I'll agree with you that giving up smoking for someone who is physiologically addicted to nicotine (no argument that it is addictive) causes violence to the body. However, you say Lent is the only time you can quit. Well, what about the violence you're doing to your body the rest of the year? If God gets Lent, do you think your wife and kids deserve your mortification that other 46 weeks? Just asking (and I will say a prayer for you).

4:15 PM  
Blogger Rick Lugari said...


Perhaps I wasn't clear. When I speak of quiting for Lent. I am doing so with the intention of quiting for good. I've only managed to quit smoking for any real length of time twice. Both times were for Lent and with the intention of quiting for good. In fact, both times I would have considered true quitting - essentially over the "addiction", but by my own stupidity ended up smoking again at a later date. (and I don't make people around me miserable because of my quiting - though I may make them miserable by making corny jokes).

The reason I can fare better during Lent when quiting is I think, in part, psychological. I'm generally not motivated enough to do it for the right reason (that it has become a destructive behavior that needs to stop). When I do it for God during Lent, I know I have 6 weeks of extra motivation to get over the problem. Because it's Lent and I want to voluntarily suffer for God, and know He wants me to to. Then, from experience, it seems that I get some grace that assists me in being true to sacrifice.

It may seem silly, but it is that way for me.

Let me ask you this. Did I read Fr. Euteneuer wrong, or is he missing the point about mortification? He seems to be saying that we should be trying to change our attitudes rather than mortifying ourselves. If so, I think he is missing the point of mortification. Mortification is the best means to overcoming yourself.

We fast and do painful things to ourselves (I don't do it often, but I should) to remove our selfishness - to liberate us from self. That is what it has always been about, and it's what the saints have done to become holy, whether it be, fasting, throwing themselves into a thornbush, using a discipline, or wearing a hairshirt. That's the way to become unselfish.

Thanks for your prayers and you have mine in turn.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Dave said...


If you want to truly mortify yourself, don't give up all
rock music. Listen to Loverboy, Poison, Starship, Mariah Carey, and Britney Spears...this is what one calls real penance.

6:35 PM  

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