March 4, 2022

Young adult asks a question that could help to transform Lent—and life—for people

(Editor’s note: The Criterion is inviting people to share the approaches, sacrifices and acts of joy and love that have brought them closer to God during a Lenten season. We are offering their responses as a way of helping all of us have a more meaningful Lent this year.)

Part two (see part one and part three)

By John Shaughnessy

Meagan MorriseyAt 26, Meagan Morrisey offers a perspective that could lead to a better Lent—and a better life—for people of all ages.

Morrisey maintains that our approach to Lent should go beyond the question of, “What do I want to give up for Lent?” to “What can I do to transform my life and my relationship with Christ during Lent?”

“I don’t remember which priest I knew who said this, but one of them once told me that most people think about giving up something for Lent, but the idea should be that you are different at the end of Lent,” says Morrisey, the associate director of the archdiocese’s Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry.

“It changed how I approached Lent because a lot of people think, ‘I’ll give up chocolate or alcohol.’ The idea isn’t that when Lent ends, you can suddenly be super gluttonous again. The idea is that you’ve actually been transformed by that experience. And so I started to think and pray about where do I need to be transformed.”

It’s a question that could make Lent more meaningful for most people, she believes.

“Maybe you’re trying to grow in patience or you’re trying to have a better relationship with a parent or a friend. Something that will continue beyond Lent,” she says. “Maybe Lent is a time to intentionally focus on it, but the idea is that it continues and you are different than you were going into it. Less about giving something up and more about who do I hope to be at the end of this, when Easter comes.”

Morrisey says that one of her most transformative Lents occurred during her college days at Auburn University when she decided to give up one of the joys of her life—music.

“I just felt like there was no break in my day, there was no silence,” she recalls. “I was in class, or I was with my roommates. Or I was watching TV. So then when I did get to Mass or I did get to eucharistic adoration, I could not focus at all. Because that was the only time I actually had any quiet in my week.

“Somebody had challenged me, ‘What is God saying to you in prayer?’ I realized I’m not giving him the chance to talk because there’s no silence in my day at all. Not everyone is called to be a monk. But having some intentional silence in there is really good.”

She also realized that giving up music during Lent was extremely hard, especially considering her personality—and her life that year.

“It happened to be that Lent I was doing a bunch of traveling, and I was in the car by myself for a really long time,” she recalls. “I am an external processor. I’m super extroverted. Being alone in general is really hard for me. But it was really good. It was actually a total surprise that when I got to Easter, I actually enjoyed the silence. I wasn’t just craving that constant noise.

“That experience helped me think this was so much more transformative than other Lents when I just gave up something for the sake of giving something else up.”

The influence of that Lent on her faith life continues today.

“Everybody prays at different times. I found that morning was really the best time for me. Realizing that if I don’t look at my phone, if I don’t listen to these 30 things before I actually go pray, whether it’s in a chair at my house or at the chapel, it’s a lot easier for me to actually pray.”

That approach has deepened her relationship with God. She also believes Lent can be a time to strengthen relationships with family and friends.

“Think about what you want in a relationship to be different,” she says. “Obviously, relationships are a two-way street. Just because you want to have a more intentional relationship with someone doesn’t mean they do. But maybe it’s hard for you to pray for them so you pray for them intentionally.

“Or I’m going to call this family member more often or make the effort to ask them how they’re doing. Or I’m going to work on forgiving this person for something they did, even if I’m not necessarily talking to them about it.”

There will also be Lenten seasons when the best approach a person may have is to be more accepting, loving and kind to yourself, she says.

“Sometimes, you’re just in a really hard season of life, and that’s hard enough. My spiritual director last year was really good about that. I was just in a really, really hard season mentally. A lot of anxiety, I was in a long-distance engagement, and I was just not doing well. Then I was distressed and more anxious because I could not figure out what I was going to do for Lent.

“He was like, ‘I think you have enough going on.’ He was encouraging me to take that to prayer basically. ‘Why don’t you use this time to intentionally give those things to Jesus?’ Sometimes your life circumstances just might be enough of a sacrifice.”

(If you would like to share an approach, sacrifice and/or act of joy that has brought you closer to God during Lent, The Criterion would still like to hear from you. Send your submission—and your story of how you were drawn closer to Christ—to John Shaughnessy by e-mail at or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)


Related story: Lent: ‘A time when faith can really come alive in the home’

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