Persons, places and things – Lent in the desert or dessert?


By Barb Arland-Fye


“What did you give up for Lent?” a co-leader of a Bible study for older teens and adults with special needs asked the participants. One young woman said she gave up desserts, which was hard because she loves desserts, especially ice cream! Another young woman seated at the table quipped, “I’ll eat all of her ice cream!”

The second young woman’s comment provided balm for my restless soul that first week of Lent. Usually, I am unable to attend the monthly Bible study with our son Colin so my husband Steve accompanies him. A nudge from God brought me to the Bible study that night, which turned out to be a blessing.

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert and resisted temptation with extraordinary resolve. I confess that my resolve would have fallen by the wayside, particularly if I chose to resist consuming my favorite treat. The Bible study participant’s declaration that she would eat all of the ice cream for her friend who gave it up provided an insight for me. God is asking not for perfection in my practice of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, but pureness of heart and a desire to deepen our relationship.


A post I read in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) website offered three tips to deepen my relationship with God during Lent: 1) Participate in the sacraments. 2) Help those in need around me. 3) Sacrifice something that’s hard for you ( In my journey through the desert this year, I am discovering an occasional oasis, something to lighten the journey (like the ice cream comment) or an unexpected opportunity to give of my treasure or myself without counting the cost.

We live in a country with a mentality that seems hardwired for living with abundance; the idea of scarcity frightens us absolutely (guilty as charged!). Recall the run on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other “must-haves” at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, I need to keep in mind Paul’s words to the Philippians: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:12).

I am discovering that my Lenten journey this year is about growing in my trust in God. This passage from a canticle we pray during the Liturgy of the Hours (Saturday morning, Week II) helps me: “He found them in a wasteland of howling desert. He shielded them and cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye. As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:10-11).

In a Mass marking the start of Lent Feb. 14, Pope Francis “urged Christians to ‘return to the center of yourself,’ where ‘so many fears, feelings of guilt and sin are lurking.’” He continued, “Precisely there the Lord has descended to heal and cleanse you … There the Lord dwells, there our frailty is accepted and we are loved unconditionally” (Catholic News Service).

I smile thinking about the young woman enjoying the extra ice cream that her friend gave up for Lent. I smile knowing that I am resting in the palm of God’s hand in my Lenten journey.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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