Already Failed at Your Lenten Penance? This Priest Encourages Catholics Not to Give Up

@FrGoyo, Twitter / Pixabay, Public Domain / ChurchPOP

Have you already failed at your Lenten sacrifice?

Fr. Goyo Hidalgo of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently explained the true meaning of Lenten penance. The post comes after social media users criticized him for giving up chocolate for Lent, rather that something they believed to be more difficult.

Here’s his first tweet below:

@FrGoyo, Twitter

Fr. Goyo’s first tweet reads, “I gave up chocolate for Lent. This morning I saw one in the office and ate it. It was so good until I remembered. I was horrified. I lasted less than 24 hours. I am here to tell you that I already failed but I will try again. If you failed at your penance, try again. #hope”.

The associate pastor of St. Philomena Catholic Church in Carson, Cali. later followed up with a thread explaining the true meaning of penance.

The thread’s introduction reads, “Many of the comments for this post surprised me a bit, so I think it is important that there is a (small) thread on penance for Lent and always. Bear with me.”

Here’s the thread’s text below:

1) Doing penance does not mean that we are better than other people.

If that were the case, then it would not be penance, but a competition reality show. It doesn’t depend on what we give up–as if giving up beer is holier than giving up chocolate or bread. #NotaCompetition

2) Penance becomes just a diet if our hearts do not change – if it doesn’t transform us to be better.

What’s difficult for some might be easier for others. Due to my illness, I don’t drink alcohol, so giving up beer for me is not a sacrifice.

3) You can choose to give up something very specific…

Like dessert, or soda, or even coffee (I pray especially for those who do). Specific is good because it is easy to remember, BUT think about how this will make you grow spiritually and how you can make it lasting and…

4) Add something spiritual

Give up gossip, and wrong judgment, bad temper, swearing. And maybe pick up something too: longer time in prayer, put down phones for some hours, visit someone sick and alone.

It is all about good habits and discipline.

5) Sacrifice is not easy, but we do it for the ones we love.

We give up our time, money sometimes, our comfort, and we do it naturally. Out of love. We have practice on this. Look at so many parents who sacrifice for their children and they would do it all day long out of love.

6) My father used to pretend not to like chocolate so I could have the last piece. Out of love.

I never thought of telling him, “well your sacrifice is nothing. You are only giving up chocolate. Give me something better.” No. For him, that was authentic giving up…out of love.

7) You see, the small specific things we give up (coffee, soda, etc) are not about seeing how much endurance we have.

It is about creating a discipline – a practice to be free from the things that seem a necessity, but they aren’t. We practice to be better–to be holier.

8) The point is that by sacrificing something, we are more aware of the sacrifice of Christ for us.

It gives us the discipline to stop bad habits and pick up holier ones. It also gives us the opportunity to reflect on our sins and practice (discipline) how not to fall.

9) And the moment comes when we might fail and that was THE WHOLE POINT OF MY POST.

Not about competing to see who has the biggest penance, but to encourage us all that even when we fall and fail, we can try again and again. That’s the practice of discipline to become better.

10) There is more to be said about penance.

There are many books on this, but I hope that if you already failed, that you try again until it becomes a holy habit during the whole year, whether you gave up chocolate, alcohol, or gossip, or lying, or insulting drivers on the freeway.

11) The discipline of penance will help us develop good virtues.

More prayer time. Patience. Being more loving. Reading more spiritual books, going to Mass daily, or going to confession more.
So I wish you all a wonderful journey towards holiness this Lent and the whole year.”

Here’s Fr. Goyo’s Twitter thread below:

@FrGoyo, Twitter

What do you think of Fr. Goyo’s explanation? 

[See also: Secrets of the Saints: The Forgotten Spiritual Power of Fasting]

[See also: Fasting: What the Church Actually Requires Will Probably Surprise You]