A priest I knew very well used to give up smoking every Lent. Then as soon as Easter Sunday arrived, he took up smoking again. I found this very surprising and I once asked him why after going through all the cold-turkey of giving up smoking for Lent he took it up again immediately Lent was over. His answer was very simple, ‘I just like smoking.’
For him, giving up smoking for six weeks was a real sacrifice. It cost him a lot because he was not only habituated to it but he really enjoyed smoking and got a lot of pleasure out of it.
Every Catholic ought to take on some worthwhile penance for Lent. It should be something that is a real sacrifice and that requires some serious effort. It could be something as simple as getting off the bus three or four stops before home. It could be making an effort to go to mass on a Saturday morning or on another weekday. Or perhaps doing the Stations of the Cross a couple of times a week. A certain amount of fasting is another important penance that is very appropriate during Lent and which any of us could take up without difficulty.
Whatever the sacrifice we must make sure that we offer it up as our gift to God, recognising that it is our very small contribution to the sufferings that Christ himself underwent on our behalf.
Father Alex McAllister SDS