WATCH: Personal Journeys Through Lent

Videos from CRS' Rice Bowl Program share young adult's Lenten experiences

CRS Rice Bowl. You might read those words, click on the link, and think that you’re headed toward a tasty recipe on Pinterest. Or a trendy new restaurant. No, not quite.

CRS stands for Catholic Relief Services, an international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS Rice Bowl is a way to dedicate Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help those in need. A CRS Rice Bowl is actually a small cardboard box (rice bowl) where you collect your gifts. Through giving, daily reflections, weekly prayers, meatless recipes, a mobile app and stories of hope from around the world, CRS Rice Bowl engages people — body, mind and soul — in Lenten sacrifice.

This year, CRS Rice Bowl has invited college students to reflect on their Lenten journeys in short videos. A new video is being posted every day of Lent. You can take a look at all of the videos here.

Below are some of the videos and written reflections from the young adults about Lent. See how their spiritual practices are bringing them closer to God and creating a greater awareness of the needs of others.

It’s not too late to use CRS Rice Bowl as part of your Lenten practice! Go to the CRS Rice Bowl website for details.

Breaking a habit


crs-despina“I have learned that Lent is about conversion rather than just giving something up. Lent is about rejecting our desires and becoming closer to God just as Jesus does when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. 

“I chose to give up biting my nails for Lent: A habit I have attempted to break many times in my life but have failed each time. It may be silly, but biting my nails is an unhealthy way for me to deal with my stress. Instead of praying, reflection or reading the Bible, I zone out and bite my nails. I bite my nails when I am bored, I bite my nails when I am in class, and I bite my nails when people are talking to me. It is rude, it is useless, and it is unhealthy for me. Biting my nails is one of my greatest temptations. By expelling this habit from my life, there is one less thing that can distract me from God. I have been sticking to not biting my nails, but finals are coming up, projects are due, and I am most certainly stressed. However, by understanding that this habit takes me away from God, I am more adamant about not biting my nails during and after the Lent.” — Despina Bubaris, Marywood University

Lenten fast


crs-shantelleOn her practice of sun-up to sun-down fasting: “Lent is showing me the power of God. I went into this process with fear, but that fear turned into strength. I am just so amazed with how long I lasted and my motivation to continue. Nothing in life could have prepared me for this process of fasting; it is an experience that is completed individually and I am glad for the lesson that it is teaching me.” — Shantelle James, College of St. Elizabeth

Spending $40 during Lent


crs-mary grace“So far in my Lenten journey, the hardest part has been realizing how often I give in to myself and my own needs during my everyday life. For Lent this year I decided to take part in what I guess you could call a monetary fast. I am striving to only spend $40 for all of Lent (gas, groceries, activities, etc.). My thought in doing this was that I could enter into humility and solidarity with a lot of the friends I’ve made who are experiencing homelessness. All that they have is what they can carry in their packs. In having little, they experience true humility and see Jesus in a whole new way. Furthermore, I’ve come to realize how much ‘extra’ we live with in America. If we were to follow the words of Jesus, we would let go of all that we have to follow Him without reconsideration. Anyways, it has been hard to deny myself, and I realize that’s because I’ve trained myself to look to my own needs first, and that pains me. It is difficult to realize that you are your own idol. 

“The most rewarding part of this journey has been the growth in seeing all that Jesus does to satisfy my needs and the needs of others. There is so much joy in denying ourselves — in remembering that we came from dust and to dust we shall return — to allow Jesus to enter in. May my own self drain away so Jesus may be all that is left.” — Mary Grace Sexton, University of Georgia

Living simply


crs-erin“Being able to live simply this Lent has opened my eyes to new experiences and opportunities. Instead of always focusing on past events or thinking about what I have to do next, I’ve been able to live in the moment. I’ve taken in the moments I have with my friends and family. I have come to realize what the important things in life are.” — Erin Shellene, Merrimack College

Honesty in my spiritual life


crs-brendan“Throughout Lent I have been taking time each day to reflect upon my day, discern where God is working in my life and where he wants me to grow. The importance of honesty in my spiritual life really struck me while I was on a service trip in Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in the United States. It seemed odd to me that a place like Camden, which is usually viewed as a place to avoid as opposed to a place of spiritual enlightenment, was where I came in contact with God’s presence. I think the reason for that is because people in places like Camden hide very little, they are upfront about their addictions, the abuse they have faced, and the struggle they face to feed their families. But through that honesty you can see where God is working in those struggles. After all, it does make sense that honesty is an essential part of knowing the work of God. How can we know and be encouraged by the work God has done in our lives if we aren’t honest with each other about our struggles? How can we know where in our lives we need God if we aren’t honest with ourselves? And most importantly, how can we allow God to work in our lives if we aren’t honest with Him about the struggles we face? This insight I have gained in Camden has been something I have been trying to incorporate into my relationship with God and my relationship with others, and has given me a much deeper understanding about who I am, who God is, and who God wants me to become.” — Brendan McCarthy, University of Buffalo