What to Give Up for Lent? Some Ideas

Giving something up for Lent has a long tradition in the Church — with Benedictine roots.

In Chapter 49 of his Rule, St. Benedict said about Lent:

“During these days … let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”

He asks monks to check with their abbot to see if they are taking on too much or too little. Laypeople should also check with a mentor they trust to see if they are letting themselves off too lightly or being too difficult.

Here are some ideas for prayer, fasting and almsgiving to get started. Consider taking on one or two practices from the lists below.

Ideas for Adults

Fasting ideas

  • Fast with one full meal, no snacks one day a week.
  • Skip meat an extra day (or two) a week .
  • Give up alcoholic beverages. (Except in social situations; then you get just one!)
  • Give up coffee (or reduce to one cup a day).
  • Give up all desserts.
  • Give up all unnecessary shopping.
  • Fast from music in the car.
  • Fast from talk radio.

 Prayer ideas

  • Begin (or begin again) the daily Rosary.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes a day (get a Magnificat to follow those).
  • Choose one extra devotion per week during Lent: Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic adoration or a weekday Mass.
  • Read a book on the Life of Christ. For example:
  • Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s 74-page section on prayer. (Section four; less than two pages a day!)


  • Visit a nursing home with your children.
  • Forgive someone and patch things up in a visit, or, if necessary, by phone or letter.
  • Give up gossip, judging or profanity.
  • Find one “act of forgiveness” to make every day: A driver who cuts you off, a co-worker who annoys you, a shopper who cuts in line, a store clerk who is rude or a family member who ignores your needs.
  • Say a kind word to everyone you meet.
  • Pay a significant compliment (or more!) to each of your children every day.
  • Offer to watch the children of a new mother one day a week throughout Lent.
  • Visit an elderly friend or relative.
  • Save up a significant amount of money for a deserving charity or apostolate.

Works of Mercy Action Plans

For teens: Works of Mercy ideas grouped in the Father Michael Gaitley manner (in You Did it To Me):

Feed the Hungry. Give Drink to the Thirsty.

  • Share my food with friends.
  • Share my drink with friends.
  • Help my mom or dad in the kitchen.
  • Pray every day for those without food.
  • Pray every day for those without clean water.

I was a Stranger, and You Welcomed Me. Give Shelter to the homeless. Bury the Dead. Bear Wrongs Patiently. Forgive offenses willingly.

  • Include someone new in conversation at school.
  • Invite someone new to an activity you are involved in.
  • Invite someone new to a birthday or other party.
  • Never gossip, and change the subject when others do.
  • Smile! At your family, your teachers, your acquaintances, old people at Church.
  • Pray for the homeless.
  • Pray for those who have lost a loved one.
  • Pray that the souls in Purgatory will reach heaven.
  • Pray for patience and practice it.
  • Forgive those who were mean to you, etc. Don’t act mean in return.

I was Naked and you clothed me. Instruct the ignorant. Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the afflicted.

  • See if you can donate old clothes.
  • Mention to others your gratitude for the good spiritual things you do (confirmation, confession, etc)
  • Know your faith. Read your YouCat or perhaps the Prove It! series.
  • Pray to know Jesus better, and pray for a chance to share his love.
  • As Our Lady of Fatima said: “Pray for the conversion of sinners.”
  • When you see someone sad, try to cheer them up.

‘I was Sick and you visited me.’

  • Stop by your sick family member’s room to check on them and say you love them.
  • Make it a point to smile and be kind to your elderly relatives.
  • Write to your grandparents.
  • Organize a trip to a nursing home.
  • Get flowers for a friend who is under the weather.

‘I was in Prison and you came to me.’ Admonish sinners. Pray for the Living and the dead.

  • Pray for those in prison, that they will be visited by others — and by grace.
  • Pray for the victims of crimes.
  • Pray for the end of any and all unnecessary executions.
  • Pray for the persecuted Church.
  • Don’t join others who look at or do something wrong. Suggest something else, then go.
  • Pray that God will have mercy on sinners, of which we each are one.
  • Offer something up for souls in Purgatory or for others.


  • I will share at least a small amount of the money I get with the poor box at Church.
  • I will periodically (specify when) not pay for a treat and put the money to the poor box.
  • I will do an extra chore in my house.
  • I will help someone at school.
  • I will always say yes when someone in my family asks for a favor.

For Children

If none of the adult ideas work for you, try:

  • Do chores without complaining
  • Draw pictures of Holy Week events.
  • Restrict your TV, Internet or music time.
  • Restrict your phone time.
  • Send a letter or picture to a grandmother, aunt or Godparent.
  • Make a new friend outside your “crowd.”
  • Be a friend to a shy person.
  • Give up that bad place, person or thing.
  • Choose a favorite toy, book or piece of clothing and put it away until Easter.


Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.