Belfast Telegraph

It may be Lent, but giving up's still hard to do

As the religious celebration begins today, Stephanie Bell and Kerry McKittrick ask a few famous faces what they intend to forego for 40 days.

Lynda Bryans is a broadcaster and lecturer. She says:

I haven't given things up for Lent for quite some time now. I appreciate it means a lot to some people, but I don't (do it).

I think the meaning of Lent is different to a lot of people and many do it as a personal challenge for themselves instead of what the real meaning is. It should be an acknowledgement of the 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.

Some denominations don't call it Lent and just refer to it as the period before Easter - it doesn't matter what you call it. I think if you give up something, the meaningful thing is what you replace that thing with. To give something up, we should be replacing it with prayer and reflection on why we're giving it up.

Sarah Gilbert (48), from Newry, is a voiceover artist, presenter, script writer and author who has just released a book, Hello, At Last. She has one son, Thomas (8). She says:

When I was younger I would have given up all sweet things for Lent - chocolate, ice cream, sweets, cakes, sugar in my tea, the lot.

As I have got older I haven't given up anything for Lent for a while, probably because I know how hard it is.

I have decided to do it this year and give up chocolate. I do have some chocolate in the house and I was wondering, 'Do I have to eat all this before Lent starts or hide it from myself?'

As well as going off things, for me it is about going on to things - trying to be more tolerant or more patient.

(Or) deciding I am not going to shout or get cross, I am going to try and be more patient. To me that is just as important, so I am also going to try to be more patient for Lent.

I don't do it for religious reasons, but to try and prove to myself that I can do something - it is more like a personal test.

The Very Reverend John Mann is Dean of St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. He says:

I do give things up for Lent - it tends to be luxury things like chocolate and that sort of thing. The advantage of giving this up is that it's a reminder each day of the act itself.

We have daily services at the cathedral during Lent. I also personally undertake some special reading during Lent - I'll have a Lent book that gives me daily reflection. That's part of my discipline and I encourage others to do the same.

It is based on the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the desert, so there should be a sense that we're on a pilgrimage or progression towards Easter and Holy Week. It's part of the sense of one's spiritual life through these days.

Father Martin Graham is the administrator of St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast. He says:

I gave up coffee for Lent two years ago and I swore I would never do it again. I think it was the worst Lent I've ever suffered. Now I try and go for things that are a bit more realistic and aim for the luxuries: going out, take-out, sweeties or anything like that. I try to be satisfied with the bare minimum for the 40 days.

One of the big things we have in the Catholic tradition is the Trocaire Lenten appeal, which is about identifying that so many people in the world go without every day. I can go back to those things after the 40 days, but so many people in the world don't have that choice.

Radio Ulster presenter Kerry McClean (41) is married to fellow broadcaster Ralph McClean and they have three children, Tara (10), Dan (9) and Eva (1). She says:

I will probably attempt to give up chocolate again this year. I do try but I don't always succeed and usually give in after about a week and a half.

I always try to give up something. I think it is really good, even to encourage a healthy lifestyle. My son said this morning that he was thinking of giving up meat for Lent and asked me if there was much meat in sausages. When I told him there was he decided not to bother!

I try and encourage the kids to challenge themselves and maybe give up their Xbox or iPads, but it hasn't worked so far. I think they would prefer to give up food than their consoles.

My great weakness is crisps and I wouldn't even attempt to try and give those up.

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