Story by Taylor Zant
Lent is on many people’s minds as it is being observed and celebrated throughout the world for the next several weeks.
But what exactly is Lent?
It is technically known as a 40-day period, lasting from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), in which followers of many Christian denominations devote to penance and personal sacrifice.
This period reflects the 40 days of temptation Christ faced while in a desert, as described in the Bible.
“Lent is a time of preparation to strip away distractions in order to focus on relations with God to then prepare for Easter,” said Katie Harris, a missionary team director at St. Kate’s Catholic Church.
Lent is most commonly associated with the idea of giving something up, such as desserts or bad habits, for the entire 40-day period.
However, students involved in Lent at Drake University are making their own interpretations of the 40-day period.
“I do not believe that it is necessarily bad to give up things like sweets and social media during Lent,” said Cara Lutes in an email.
Lutes is a student at Drake as well as a Vision Team leader for an on-campus Christian fellowship organization, InterVarsity.
“However, I believe that there is more to Lent than simply denying ourselves. The point is to draw us closer to Jesus,” Lutes said.
“If you’re giving something up like junk food just because you want to start a new diet, it’s kind of missing the point. You should be making a sacrifice that will in turn help you love Jesus more,” Harris said.
Ty Betka, a sophomore at Drake and a member of InterVarsity, gave up soda for Lent — but has more reason to do it than just to be healthier.
“My friends all know that I drink pop a lot,” Betka said. “So when they see I’m not drinking it, they notice and ask why. Then I can tell them that I’m doing it in Jesus’ name, and I can become a light for Christ. In this way, I can help spread Lent and Christ all throughout Drake.”
St. Kate’s is also actively working to bring Lent to Drake.
“During Lent at St. Kate’s, we invite students into relationships with Jesus by inspiring them and equipping them through mentorship, prayer, Bible studies and outreach programs,” Harris said.
On the other hand, InterVarsity takes a more individualistic approach to Lent.
“Nothing formal is ever required or necessarily encouraged regarding Lent during InterVarsity meetings,” Lutes said.
“Many people are in a different place in their walk with Christ,” Betka said. “InterVarsity leaders understand this and respect the phase that each student is currently in.”
At St. Kate’s, the different ways Drake students observe Lent are apparent to Harris.
“Offering a sacrifice as a student can be interesting,” Harris said. “Many students’ Lent sacrifices are focused on giving up or devoting time and are not so much focused on money or almsgiving.”
Harris said college students do not have much money as it is, so giving money to the church during Lent (as is traditional among other community churches) does not apply as much to St. Kate’s.
“Here at Drake, it’s all about giving up something doable for your life as it is in the present,” Harris said. “That’s all we, as followers of Jesus Christ, can really ask for during this on-campus celebration of Lent.”