Jaime Sandoval does not take lightly the promises he makes for the Christian season of Lent.
The 23-year-old Colorado Springs resident once forfeited his bed for Lent, choosing to sleep on the floor. This year, he's giving up the snooze button on his alarm clock to go for daily runs before work. In the past, when he felt the urge to break his Lenten vows, he reminded himself of the famous words of retired Pope Benedict XVI: "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."
March 1 was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, the 46-day stretch preceding Easter Sunday. The liturgical season, which traditionally includes 40 days of fasting, is observed by several Christian denominations, including Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics.
Believers are also encouraged to make sacrifices during the season, such as giving up a favorite food or beverage or spending extra time in prayer or volunteering.
But local observers say Lent is about more than the carbs or caffeinated beverages they choose to go without for 40 days.
"People think that Lent is just sacrificing things. A lot of it, too, is reflecting on ourselves and adding something to our lives," said Springs resident Whitney Williams, 25, who was born and raised Catholic. "It allows you to identify what is it that's distracting me from becoming the person I can be. That's ultimately what drives my faith."
In addition to giving up eating meat, Williams has also committed to praying regularly with her family and attending daily Masses at her church.
The season is meant to commemorate the 40 days that, according to the New Testament, Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert.
"It's a way of disciplining ourselves to do without something we like," said Connie Pratt, co-founder of local lay ministry Disciples on the Way, who is giving up her favorite soda, Coke, for Lent. "It's just a little reminder of what the season is about."
Marjie Weldele, principal of Divine Redeemer Catholic School, said her observance of the season was once focused more on "the giving up, without the growing closer" to God. But in recent years, Lent has become a time of prayer and personal reflection for her.
"It's like a spiritual house cleaning," said Weldele.
Children at the school, grades K-8, are encouraged to make commitments. Some will choose to give up sugary afternoon snacks, while others will take on extra household chores.
Local clergymen offer different tips for keeping Lenten promises.
The Rev. Mark Zacker, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Parish, advises members of the congregation to be realistic when setting Lenten goals.
"What we fail to do is really opening to Jesus, a recognizing that we need Jesus," Zacker said. "It's admitting that we're sinners, admitting that we fail, and admitting that our attempts are blessed by God in the first place."
Divide Redeemer pastor, the Rev. Brian Roeseler, encourages parishioners to persevere beyond temptation. He also reminds them that it's never too late in the Lenten season to make a sacrifice.
"God understands that," he said.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108