Lent is almost here! Have you chosen your penance?

Father Mike Schmitz explains in this video the true meaning of Lenten penance and how to properly choose one. He unveils why many of us fall into two traps during this process.

Two Traps: Leniency vs. Strictness

Father Mike explains the two traps Catholics fall into: leniency and strictness.

“At times, we can fall into the trap of being way too lenient or way too strict with our penances for Lent."

He says we either choose penances we "don't even notice" or choose "the hardest thing I can imagine myself doing."

However, he says these two traps are not the problem. It's choosing "something unnecessary."

Is Your Lenten Penance Arbitrary or Necessary?

Father Mike elaborates on his reasoning, explaining that we can often choose an arbitrary penance that bears little fruit in spiritual growth.

“We choose something too lenient and it’s arbitrary. Like, I’ll give up a certain kind of pop, or I’m going to give up fruits that have peels."

“Or we’re way too strict. For example, ‘I’m going to give up food for Lent’, or, ‘I’m going to give up talking to my spouse for Lent. That would not make any sense. Why? Because…it’s arbitrary: arbitrary lenience or arbitrary strictness."

Father Mike then encourages listeners to choose a necessary penance "out of your felt need" according to God's call.

“I started doing a certain penance a little while ago, which involves a lot of asceticism. Asceticism is any kind of voluntary self-denial.

“For example, no snacks in between meals, no drinking sweetened drinks, or no drinking alcohol. Cold showers–it’s a whole thing," he says.

Father Mike then provides a personal example. He says he was very distracted "scrolling through YouTube" and "watching Netflix," and found himself "unable to say no to that on my own."

Therefore, he chose to eliminate streaming entertainment for a specific time period.

“It was no longer an arbitrary strictness. It became a necessary asceticism—a necessary fast that I needed because my mind was getting so pulled in different directions. When I recognized that, I realized, 'This is necessary.'"

Father Mike concludes, encouraging his audience to consider fasting from something that hinders "your relationship with the Lord."

“Maybe that’s the thing to have some necessary asceticism or necessary fasting. Lenient or strict, it doesn’t matter. Arbitrary or necessary—that’s the key," Father Mike says.

“Because what God wants ultimately is your freedom. What’s holding you back from freedom? That might be the area of life where it’s necessary that you have some restrictions—aka, some asceticism.”

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Father Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” and “Catechism in a Year” podcasts began airing nationwide on Jan. 15. via EWTN Radio.

Nationally, the podcasts air back-to-back in a one-hour time slot beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Local radio affiliates who add the show to their lineup have the freedom to shift the program to a time that’s best for their audience. Listeners are therefore encouraged, EWTN says, to check the schedule of the EWTN affiliate in their area or listen for free on the EWTN app. More than 600 domestic and international AM and FM radio affiliates carry EWTN’s Catholic programming.

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