Lent Pizza

(Not lint pizza… that is gross)

Lent is upon us, and everyone wants to know, “What are you giving up this year?” If your middle schoolers are anything like me as I grew up, they are probably giving up very impractical things like “going to the moon” or “homework” (they will not let you skip homework for “religious reasons”… I’ve tried). I normally gave up candy because that’s what everyone else did and I never liked it that much in the fist place. I didn’t see the point of this sacrifice, so I never put my heart into it. But, one year something changed when I gave up pepperoni pizza.

Yeah, that is right, “pepperoni” pizza. Not even pizza in general, just pizza with pepperoni on it. Allow me to give you a little backstory.

I am a meatatarian; a carnivore at the highest level. I love meat (Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation is my “spirit animal”). On top of this, I was also a picky eater. I would always pack my lunch and ever since a microwave entered cafeterias everywhere; my lunch was a pepperoni pizza (I think I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle when I grew up).

One year, in 6th grade, I was packing my lunch for school when I noticed we ran out of pepperoni pizza at my house. What was I to do? All of the pepperoni pizza was gone! I was going to starve…or just have to take this boring cheese pizza that we had. My sneaky Catholic mother knew Lent had started and equipped our fridge with something that picky little 12-year-old me would eat on a Friday.

Eventually, we went grocery shopping, and I filled up our cart with the pepperoni pizza I missed so dearly when my mom told me to grab some cheese pizza. When I asked why she informed me it was Lent, and we were two weeks into it.

Oh no! Lent had completely snuck up on me. If only there had been a sign to let me know (like everyone walking around with ashes on their forehead).

I hadn’t given any thought to what I would give up. I had already had candy so I couldn’t give up sweets like I normally did. It was very hard for me to try to think of something to retroactively give up that I hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks besides my precious pepperoni pizza. The wheels turned in my little head, and I realized what I had to do; I had to give up pepperoni pizza!

Somehow I made it through that Lent, and it gave me a deeper appreciation for this tradition in our church. When I gave up something I genuinely wanted, instead of just trying to get away with as little as possible, it changed how I saw this sacrifice. By letting go of a small thing, we can practice self-control. This helps us say no to greater temptations that the devil throws at us.

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” – Luke 16:10

This Lent, I want you to challenge your middle schoolers to enter fully into the season. Set the bar high; they can do it! Help them understand that abstaining and fasting are more like a training routine for their souls (cue the inspirational music) and not just a chore or annoyance they have to do. Invite them to ask the Holy Spirit to help them grow through this process and guide them in figuring out what to do or give up this Lent. In case they need some inspiration, here are some non-lame things to fast from or add during this Lenten season.

Things to fast from:

  • Your favorite food that you often eat ($50 steak maybe your favorite thing to eat, but unless you have it every week, it doesn’t count)
  • All drinks except water
  • Complaining
  • Listening to your music (let someone else pick the radio station in the car or go to the next level and embrace the silence)
  • Sarcasm
  • Waiting to do what your parents ask you to do (so when a middle schooler’s mom asks them to take out the trash they get up and do it there and then)
  • Netflix/Hulu or if you are daring, television altogether
  • Texting (have a real conversation!)

Things to do:

  • Pack your lunch if you normally don’t and give the money that you save to a charity
  • Ask your parents to take you to a morning Mass before school once a week
  • Pray a daily rosary or start with a decade a day (I find that on the way to school is a fantastic time to do this. Ask your driver to join in too!)
  • Every time you curse, say an Our Father and/or a Hail Mary
  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Read the daily reading or the Sunday readings throughout the week to prepare for Sunday Mass
    Sing at Mass
  • Spend an hour of your free time every week with your family (play cards or a board game!)

About the Author

Zachary Hemmi

Zach has been involved in ministry for 10 years in various roles: core member, summer missionary, worship leader, and a middle school youth minister for the last 3 years. His passions apart from church include writing music, making bad puns, being a huge nerd, and singing with his amazing wife. “I was that annoying kid at Life Teen that just wouldn’t shut up… and now I am a Middle School Youth Minister. I am living proof that God has a sense of humor.”

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