101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent


[Note: I’ve updated this list with 10 more ideas at One Catholic Life – February 17, 2010]

Fasting, praying and almsgiving are the three penitential practices that we are asked to engage in during Lent. In addition to fasting and abstaining with the rest of the Church on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, we are also challenged to make individual sacrifices appropriate to our own spiritual condition. However, before we choose something to give up for Lent, it’s important to assess our current spiritual state:

  • What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?
  • To what material things am I too attached?
  • What areas in my life are unbalanced?
  • To what do I devote too much or not enough time?

Only after asking questions like these are we are ready to decide what to give up or what to add to our lives during Lent. The following list is meant to be an aid in this process. Use it as you need based on your current circumstances.

“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

–Pope Benedict, Lenten message, 2009

1-10: The Usuals:

  1. Give up candy/sweets.
  2. Give up television time.
  3. Give up eating snacks between meals.
  4. Give up or limit soda or coffee.
  5. Give up or limit video games.
  6. Spend more time with family.
  7. Give to the poor.
  8. Do an extra chore each day.
  9. Perform a random act of kindness.
  10. Spend more time in prayer.

11-20: Prayer

  1. Pray a book of scripture using lectio divina.
  2. Attend Mass on a weekday (every day if possible).
  3. Pray the rosary each day, alone or with your family.
  4. Prayerfully read Abandonment to Divine Providence.
  5. Make a special prayer notebook and list all the people in your life who need prayers; pray for them each day. Add someone new every day.
  6. Learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
  7. Make a commitment to attend Eucharistic Adoration regularly.
  8. Commit to examining your conscience each evening.
  9. Pray the Jesus Prayer throughout the day.
  10. Pray the Angelus each day at noon.

21-30: For Those Addicted to Popular Culture

  1. Switch from regular radio to Christian music radio or Catholic talk radio.
  2. Avoid shows with gratuitous sex or violence.
  3. Give up or limit watching sports on television.
  4. Listen to only classical music for the next 40 days.
  5. Drive to work in silence each day.
  6. Read a work of classic literature.
  7. Read a Catholic classic.
  8. Read a story to a child.
  9. Sit in fifteen minutes of silence each day.
  10. Write a letter to God each day.

31-40: For Internet Users/Bloggers

  1. Set time limits on overall online time.
  2. Limit Facebook time.
  3. Limit Myspace time.
  4. Resist making or adding to lists that rank people.
  5. Share one spiritual video with your online network once a week.
  6. Blog about the poor once a week.
  7. Add a spiritual blog to your blog reader.
  8. Subscribe to a prayer podcast like Pray As You Go or Pray Station Portable.
  9. Leave an encouraging or positive comment on a different blog each day.
  10. Help a new blogger by sending traffic their way.

41-50: For Those Who Need to Be More Grateful

  1. Each week, write a letter of thanks to a different member of the clergy, beginning with your bishop and parish priest.
  2. Each week write a thank-you note to your parents.
  3. Write a poem of praise for each person in your family.
  4. Get a stack of sticky-notes and write one sentence of thanks each day and stick it to the bedroom door of each person in your family so that by Easter they each have 40 sticky-notes.
  5. Find the psalms of thanksgiving or praise in the Bible and pray them.
  6. Write a list of the ways God has blessed you and add to it each day. This could be done in a notebook or on a big poster hanging on your wall.
  7. At dinner each evening ask your family to share one thing for which they are grateful.
  8. Make a CD or iPod playlist of praise and worship music and listen to it each day.
  9. Make a point of saying “Thank You” a certain number of times per day.
  10. Help your children write thank you letters to their teachers.

51-60: For Those With Lives Out of Balance

  1. Go for a walk each day with a loved one and talk about life and faith.
  2. Take the kids to the park each week for some carefree time.
  3. Give up fast food and give the money to charity.
  4. Exercise each day.
  5. Spend at least half an hour each day in meaningful conversation with your spouse.
  6. Go on a Lenten retreat.
  7. Pray with Sacred Space each day.
  8. Commit to a daily 3 Minute Retreat.
  9. Begin the online 34-week Retreat for Everyday Life.
  10. Give up your most unhealthy habit.

61-70: For Those Who Need Spiritual Nourishment

  1. Read the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes.
  2. Read The Cathechism of the Catholic Church or The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
  3. Sign up for adult formation classes at a local parish.
  4. Join a Bible study.
  5. Attend Stations of the Cross at a local parish.
  6. Find a spiritual director.
  7. Read The Imitation of Christ.
  8. Listen to a free Catholic audio book from Maria Lectrix.
  9. Read Introduction to the Devout Life.
  10. Read a spiritual autobiography (i.e., Augustine’s Confessions, Story of a Soul, Journal of a Soul, Witness to Hope)

71-80: For Those Who Need to Increase Their Service to the Needy

  1. Volunteer at soup kitchen or other food program.
  2. Coordinate a food drive at your parish, school or place of employment.
  3. Find out who in your parish is sick and offer to visit them or bring them food.
  4. Call your local Catholic Charities office and volunteer.
  5. Begin making visits to a nursing home.
  6. Help an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood with yard work or other difficult chores.
  7. Become a hospital volunteer.
  8. Become part of a prison ministry team.
  9. Coordinate a clothing drive.
  10. Make rosaries and give them away.

81-90: For Those Who Need to Be More Active in Their Parish

  1. Become a lector.
  2. Volunteer to become an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist
  3. Volunteer to help with the parish youth group.
  4. After each Mass stay awhile and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
  5. Join the Knights of Columbus.
  6. Offer to be a Confirmation sponsor.
  7. Volunteer to be an usher.
  8. Offer to help with funeral dinners.
  9. Help with the RCIA program.
  10. Volunteer to do lawn work, cleaning or other needed maintenance for the parish.

90-101: Potpourri

  1. Begin to receive the Sacrament of Penance weekly.
  2. Give up foul language.
  3. Give up gossiping.
  4. Read and study Healing the Culture.
  5. Study the life of a different saint each day.
  6. Cook dinner each night for your family if someone else normally does.
  7. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
  8. Carry extra food in your car, purse or backpack to give to street corner beggars.
  9. Begin practicing socially conscious investing.
  10. Spend a week meditating on each of the seven principles of Catholic social teaching.
  11. Make breakfast each morning for your family.


Lent is a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth. I hope these suggestions re-energize you on your spiritual journey. If you try one or more of these ideas, or if you’d like to share your own Lenten practices, please leave a comment.

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger, founder and editor of Catholic School Chronicle, is an award-winning Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He is a deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

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16 Responses

  1. Sr. Sunitha says:

    Very good ideas for the gacefilled season of lent. as im a formator i will suggest them to my formees too. i have already taken up one of these ideas and i will succeed in it for sure for the sake of my Jesus who saved me.

  2. Twinda says:

    Thanks for this. God Bless!

  3. Nibby Priest says:

    For a guy who grew up (and still is) Baptist this Lent stuff is rather new to me. Thanks for providing such a great list of things to do during lent and explaining.

  4. Freyja says:

    This is a great article — it gave me plenty of ideas. Thank you so much.

  5. Stella says:

    Thank you very much for this wonderful information. There are many things that i have been missing in mylife. this information will me a lot this lent season. May almighty God bless the author of this material and continue supporting the lay people.

    very grateful.

  6. Brendan says:

    Does this count as internet time or blogging? Oops… Good thing I’m giving up alcohol!

  7. kevin says:

    Thanks for this. god bless!

  8. Caryl Pritchard says:

    Thank you. For those with life out of balance, number 10- Give up yor most unhealthy habit (cigarettes). God Bless

  9. Maureen says:

    What a great list! Having it broken down into categories makes it easier to read and to find great ideas or prompt variations on these. I’ll be using this list myself and sharing it widely.

  10. Thekkan uncle says:

    Really Super!
    I am sure thousands would spiritually be blessed of this.
    God bless

  11. Ruth says:

    I will have try these. I was surprised there was no actual fasting though.

  12. Jo says:

    I LOVE the sticky note thank yous idea. My husband & kids will love it too. This has got me thinking. Thank you!

  13. Barbara Cianci says:

    My growth in my Catholic Faith continues each day. This list is so complete to me I will appreciate following it daily. Blessings.

  14. Rosemary Uyo says:

    My soul is so willing, but my flesh is pulling me down. Thank you for all these great ideas. I pray God to grant me the mental strength to participate fully in this year’s lent. That is fasting, praying and alms giving.

  15. Margaret Birch says:

    My Sincere thanks to you for your web page. It has given me food for thought and ideas regarding fasting and abstinence. I pray I will be able with Gods endless love and grace to make a good Lenten journey for the first time.

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