Roisin Gorman’s open letter…. on lent

If you’re asking yourself ‘what would Jesus do?’, maybe it’s to cut loose once in a while and have the spuds

Lent is a special time of faith and reflection each year — with no chocolate

I’ve just had a Lenten lightbulb. All around me friends have given things up for Lent, sending out self-discipline vibes like a nun on a retreat. The chocoholic is giving up sweets, and no one has the heart to tell her it’s the Diet Coke addiction which rules her life. The party girl is sworn off booze until Easter, and somewhere a Tesco accountant is worrying over their falling off-sales profits. Neither are particularly religious but approach a Lenten vow as a chance to challenge themselves and detox, a Veganuary without any God, a juice cleanse without Jesus. Technically that’s missing the point according to the more devout among us, but if your approach is ‘what would Jesus do?’ he would surely appreciate the gesture, even if it’s just several kilos of chocolate and six weeks’ worth of wine. The idea is that Lent has to be a challenge like no swearing, no social media, no meat, no bitching — although perhaps not all at once because no one is that virtuous. A quick check of which religions indulge reveals it’s a largely Christian exercise, although compared to the sacrifice of Muslim Ramadan — abstaining from drinking and eating from dawn to dusk for 30 days — my mate giving up her Bounty habit seems a bit anaemic. We even get Sundays off for optional indulging. In Eastern Christianity, Great Lent runs from Clean Monday to Lazarus Saturday, eight days before Easter Sunday, with no days off. Surely they do a sneaky St Patrick’s Day beer? The Lenten lightbulb moment came from a bit of soul-searching that maybe this should be the year of the grand gesture, to stop something or start something. Should there be a bit of self-flagellation in my life for a few weeks (and not in a good way)? Then I had the daily self-denial of tea with no sugar, given up about five years ago. It’s just not the same without it but in a cruel irony tea with sugar also tastes disgusting. I reached past the lovely bread in the cupboard which will only be consumed at the weekend for my one-off slice of toast. Pasta is only ever served with a Papal dispensation and I get excited about eating rice on its once in a blue moon journey through my life, and I don’t even like rice. Meat is a rare treat after many years of mainlining steak because, you know, the planet. I’m not an ‘I don’t eat...’ person in other people’s homes because no likes a guest who announces their gluten-free, vegan, allergy-friendly preferences just before you set the plates down. But at home I’ve got more rules than rugby. Exercise is now a daily habit because every day has to involve movement of some kind, and fresh air. I blame the dog. Booze is a weekends-only occasion, a leftover from the sober school nights tradition. Sugary foods are allowed with a hangover as long as they’re served with a side of guilt, but only a small side because negative thinking is destructive and time-wasting and can’t be given house room. Life is already like an all-year round pilgrimage of self-denial, fitness, carb control and endless attempts to adopt healthy habits. I’ll see your six weeks of life without sweets and raise you the last time I ordered chips in a restaurant. If anyone really knows what Jesus would do, maybe it’s to cut loose once in a while and have the spuds. Email

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