This Lent, the Catholic Herald is supporting Pact, the Prison Advice and Care Trust. We have asked our friends and contributors to support Pact by telling us what they’re giving up for Lent. From marmalade and malice to chocolate, alcohol and swearing, read our favourite entries below.
If you’d like to support Pact, or find out more about the work they do, please see https://www.prisonadvice.org.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons
“I will be giving up alcohol for Lent, which I do every year. It is not too difficult to do yet is a daily reminder that we are preparing for Easter. I once tried giving up coffee but that just made me grumpy so I have never risked it again.”
Lady Antonia Fraser, author and historian
“‘I take giving up things for Lent very seriously, especially the things other people give up. For example, I worried that my father Frank Longford, in his late eighties, would give up white wine, which acted as a kind of petrol in the powerful engine of his continuing philanthropy. When I mentioned this concern to my mother, she reassured me: ‘Oh no, this year he’s giving up marmalade instead.’ On the other hand, when my friend John Casey told me he was giving up malice for Lent, he says that I replied: ‘Alas, poor malice, how she will miss you!’. Bearing all this in mind and choosing between malice and marmalade, I think I will give up marmalade. More of a sacrifice.’”
Mary Killen, agony aunt and Googlebox star
“I’m not giving up anything. Instead, I’m taking up a daily devotional habit. If the habit sticks it means I will have achieved what Auberon Waugh never managed to. Some decades ago, I was struck by his confession, in a Daily Telegraph series called ‘Books I feel ashamed not to have read’, Waugh revealed his was the Bible and he was ashamed that despite his career as a prolific book reviewer, he had never got round to reading the fundamental document which has shaped Western civilisation.
“I will listen, instead of reading (because of the time famine) for fifteen minutes a day, to an Audible download – David Suchet’s The Bible in One Year. It includes an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading and a daily psalm and proverb. I’m going to listen while ironing or dog walking.”
Harry Mount, editor of The Oldie
“I’m trying to give up shouting at rude drivers when I’m on my bicycle.
“If I’m in the wrong, I say sorry. If I’m in the right, and a driver apologises, I’m polite back. But, if I’m in the right, and the driver swears at me, then I go mental – that’s what I’m trying to give up.
“I aim to emulate a glamorous woman who cut into the queue in front of me for the bridge over the Corinth Canal, five years ago. I was about to shout at her when she blew me a kiss – I melted.”
Rachel Johnson, author and journalist
“I am as hopeless as giving things up at Lent as I am in January. I was a vegan for three weeks last year and it almost killed me though I did sleep well, the sleep of the pure of heart.
“I will however practice a saintly moderation in all things apart from publicising my new book which lands on March 19 called RAKE’S PROGRESS so forgive me for plugging it here.
“As I am the marketing budget I have to use any opportunity I can to spread the word like a starving bearded Old Testament prophet.”
Sebastian Payne, journalist
“Throughout her 97 years, my maternal grandmother always gave up chocolate and specifically chocolate biscuits. As Ash Wednesday neared, she ferreted around her bungalow for every crumb and piece of cocoa to throw into the same rusty tin under her bed. It made childhood visits far less compelling, but I always admired her determination and dedication to this ritual. It never occurred to her give up anything else for Lent. Minus that old tin, and with her in mind, I’ll be doing the same.”
Melissa Kite, journalist
“I’m thinking of abstaining from looking at all internet sites on my iPhone. No Googling to find out things I don’t need to know while I’m meant to be having dinner with friends in a restaurant, no lying in bed at night prodding at news or gossip sites or buying stuff I don’t need in one click on eBay or Amazon. It will be an interesting experiment to try to stay present and enjoy the world around me.”
Ann Widdecombe, politician and television personality
“This year I will be giving up coffee and alcohol, as I have done for the last 27 years, and also bread. This is the first year I have given up bread so to avoid driving myself mad wondering if I have swallowed an errant crumb, I have set out the rules in my vow to God. The giving up- refers only to slabs of bread as in sandwiches and toast. It does not cover breadcrumbs nor the odd crouton lurking under the lettuce in a Caesar salad. Nor does it cover any soggy bit of baked bread I might find at the bottom of my dessert but I do promise not to have bread and butter pudding.
“Why bread? Because it will be a real nuisance, which is the purpose of penance.”
Tim Stanley, journalist and historian
“‘There’s not much left for me to give up. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I can’t handle coffee. I could try to give up watching TV in bed. I’ve got into a habit of putting some classic telly on my laptop and falling asleep to it: Mission Impossible sends me off within about 15 minutes, Blake’s 7 within five. Episodes of McMillan and Wife can knock me out with the theme tune. One has to be careful and not watch anything too involving: Dynasty gives me nightmares.
“If that doesn’t work out, I guess I could stay off social media, but I wouldn’t look upon that as a sacrifice. Forty days without knowing what Piers Morgan thinks about transvestites sounds like Heaven. Bacon. I’ll probably give up bacon.”
William Cash, Chairman of Catholic Herald
“I’m giving up breakfast, bottled water, missing mass, and trying very hard to live according to the gospel according to Matthew: 5: 38-48… until I run out of cloaks. And to read more bedtime stories. I’m also going to try to be a better ‘pilgrim in progress’ in the tradition of my 17th pilgrim ancestor William Cash who ferried British pilgrims to New England including the family of my God-fearing distant cousin, country singer Johnny Cash.”
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