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Christian Holy Season of Lent Commences on March 6 with Ash Wednesday

Posted by Mary McCoy on Mar 6, 2019 4:13:42 PM
Mary McCoy

A new Saint Leo University Polling Institute http://polls.saintleo.edu survey shows that 29.2 percent of those who report being Christian (all denominations) and 45 percent of Catholics say they gave up something last year or will give up something for Lent this year. Poll respondents included 280 Catholics and 386 Christians of other denominations from a national field of 1,000 total respondents.

Jordan Williams, sophomore, receives ashes from Father Kyle Smith_editedDuring Lent, Christians—primarily Catholics—fast, engage in special prayer, donate to charities, reflect, and repent for about 40 days to prepare religiously for Easter. The ashes dispensed at many special services on Ash Wednesday, and worn on the foreheads of worshipers throughout the day, are a visual reminder that Lent has begun. The ashes symbolize the acceptance among worshipers that in the physical sense all people are made of dust and will return to dust, and also act as a reminder to adhere to the Gospel.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute inquired about Lenten practices in its most recent survey. As part of a Catholic university, founded on Benedictine traditions, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute often surveys on topics that affect Catholics.

The response base is drawn to mirror the actual demographics of America, which is why 280 respondents are Catholic and 386 respondents are from mainline Protestant denominations or other Christian non-denominational churches. When all 1,000 respondents answered questions, the margin of error for results is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The responses were collected online between February 16 and February 25, 2019.

In the survey, 49.9 percent of those who are Christian say they will give up candy or sweets, while 49.5 percent of American Catholics polled say they will refrain from the same treats.

Chocolate comes in second as 30 percent of sacrificing Christians and 27.9 percent of Catholics say they will forgo it.

MarcPuglieseChristianity adopted the Jewish tradition of fasting, which was bound up with almsgiving and special periods of prayer, said Dr. Marc Pugliese, Saint Leo University associate professor of religion. “Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving were associated with periods of repentance. Of course, there is the period at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry described in the synoptic gospels in which Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and nights. Early on, Christians started fasting on certain days of the week, choosing Wednesdays and Fridays. This was partly to distinguish their practice of fasting from the Jewish practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursday, and partly based on the Good Friday commemoration of Jesus’ passion and death on a Friday.”

Respondents who reported they are Christians were asked the following: “Many Christians observe Lent, a period of around 40 days leading up to Easter, by giving up something as a form of sacrifice or penitence. Which of the following statements best describes whether you observe Lent by giving something up?”

The results are:

National Results

All Christians %

Catholics %

I gave/will give something up for Lent this year

29.2

45.0

I have given something up for Lent in the past, but did not/will not this year

23.8

27.9

I have never given up something for Lent

37.9

17.9

Don’t know / not sure

9.1

9.3

The Saint Leo University poll shows more respondents say they will give up sweet treats, alcohol, soda (soft drinks), fast food, and ice cream than those that say they will abstain from activities such as swearing, smoking, having sex, using social media, and watching television.

Those who gave something up in 2018 or say they will give something up for Lent in 2019 were asked what they gave up or will give up this year. The results are displayed in the following table nationally:

National: Giving Up

All Christians %

Catholics %

Candy or sweets

49.9

49.5

Chocolate

30.0

27.9

Alcohol

26.2

30.4

Soda

21.5

17.6

Fast Food

17.6

14.2

Ice Cream

16.5

15.2

Swearing

16.0

16.7

Meat

16.0

16.2

Smoking

13.5

10.8

Other

9.6

10.8

Coffee

9.4

7.4

Sex

8.5

5.9

Social media such as Facebook or Twitter

8.0

4.4

Television

7.7

5.9

“There are some traditional things that Christians give up during Lent, such as eating sweets,” Saint Leo’s Pugliese said. “Given the meaning and spirit of Lent as a period of repentance and penance, it is good to consider giving up something that is very important, which will vary from individual to individual. It is also good to try committing to perform charitable acts instead of giving something up.”

One theological reason for helping others, Pugliese added, is that, “To obey is better than to sacrifice. [1 Samuel 15:22]. One might consider committing to engaging in charitable acts on Fridays instead of giving up meat.”

The recent survey also covered topics including Americans’ opinions of the Catholic Church, the work of Pope Francis, national and Florida state politics, and more. To keep up with the polling institute results as they become available, follow on Twitter @SaintLeoPolls.

Topics: featured, catholic

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