Giving Up Lunch for Lent: One Working Mom's Devotion


Editor’s note: This article is from a special guest writer — my sister Erin! Erin is my childrens’ Godmother, my best girlfriend and the most amazing woman (aside from my mom) that I know. I think her life represents that of many moms who are busy beyond belief, helping to support their families and struggling to find time for their own spiritual lives as they minister to their families full time. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Erin’s chosen Lenten fast. LMH

Giving Up Lunch for Lent

Giving Up Lunch for Lent

What should I give up for Lent?

I just decided: it’s lunch. LUNCH. More specifically, my lunch “break.”

I’m a lawyer, I work full time in the Chicago Loop. I have several people reporting to me (that’s corporate speak, I call them my “associates” and my “secretary”, very old school, but that’s the law) and I “report” to some people myself. Besides my very busy job/practice, I am a wife and and a mother of 2 boys and have some outside of work and home commitments (parish council, college alumni club, volunteer activities, etc.).

In short, I’m busy. But who isn’t? And, as I ponder Lent and think about what would be a great sacrifice for me, maybe the greatest sacrifice for me, it would be …… LUNCH. I mean, stop taking a lunch break.

See, “lunch” has become, for me, a time to myself, or a time to spend with a friend. Sometimes it involves eating. Sometimes it involves shopping. Sometimes it involves looking at things on the internet which are probably a waste of time but that I actually enjoy, selfishly (all of the photos of the stars from the red carpet at the Golden Globes?! That could take an hour. The blog or “recap” of the latest episode of my favorite show? Whatever–whatever it is that I am selfishly in the mood for on that given day.)

I have to admit: I give myself a selfish “break” in middle of the day that most people refer to as “lunch” and I do WHATEVER I want to do. Gosh, how I wish I had a couch in my office so I could take a nap, but that’s a whole different story.

Anyway, when I reflected on the “giving something up” aspect of Lent, I first thought: I should give up “lunch”. I should give up that selfish time, be it 1 minutes or 2 hours, on any certain day, and devote that time to my family instead. Instead of reading the internet or having lunch with a friend or simply wandering around the City to clear my head: I should keep working through that break so I can come home earlier. That’s what I should do.

There are other “selfish” things I could give up. I could give up my downtown parking space and donate that money to the poor (or put it in my children’s college funds). I could not stop at Starbuck’s on my way back from lunch (seriously, today it was a $5.00+ grande half-caf skinny caramel latte, it tastes so good….) and donate that money to the poor. And it’s not like I don’t donate money left and right, I do (we do, my darling generous husband and I, who’s in charge of the checkbook even though I’m a financial lawyer, and who never, ever questions me when I send him and email saying “send some money to the Little Sisters of the Poor!” or to “Joanie (our missionary friend”) in Africa”). It’s just too easy for me to do those things.

I think I need to do something harder. So: should I give up Lunch for Lent? Or should I give up Starbucks for Lent? Or something else? Thoughts, please.



About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. Erin, this is your very wise older sister here, reminding you that Lenten devotions don’t need to be the thing that makes you “suffer” the most – but rather things that draw your heart closer to Christ. You are already such a giving person in so many ways. I think your idea would be good if you use your lunch period maybe as a “retreat” during Lent. Read a spiritual book, take a walk to one of the nearby churches and just sit in silence for five minutes, learn about a new charity in the Loop, or even spend time having that Starbucks with a friend and being a listening ear for her. Your heart is full of love. I’m praying for you today!

  2. I remember the struggles of being a working mother – trying to balance 50+ hours of work, family, and God. Although I had a very supportive husband (who pulled more than his fair share), there simply wasn’t time for me. It isn’t healthy to not have ANY time at all to yourself. If “lunch” is the best way to have time to yourself, I’d echo Lisa’s comments and ask how you can give that time to God, perhaps by reading five minutes of a spiritual book or going to daily Mass one day a week.

  3. Just remember to tell everyone you work with or report too what you are doing otherwise you may end up giving up lunch for work instead of family

  4. Lunch (food), and Breaks for your brain, are an important part of your health, that make you your BEST self for others. If you become Less of your Best Self for others because of a Lenten practice, then it probably isn’t a good choice. Something like Starbucks, and a parking place, are more likely to be things that you can give up, donate to charity, and spend that time and money toward a Godly purpose. Also…giving up anything that is a barrier between you and God is a good suggestion. It could be as simple as uncharitable thoughts, or being more patient with children’s whining, and coming up with a strategy that will benefit you and them.
    The fasting thing is always an issue with us women….because we are never quite sure how pure our motives are. Best wishes in your search.

  5. I think giving up your personal time or “Lunch” is a good idea. Especially if you substitute a devotion, scriptural reading or spiritual book in lieu of surfing the net or whatever time-filling thing you do. Lent is a time of giving up ourselves and trying to fill that empty space with God.

  6. I wouldn’t suggest sacrificing your personal time, but perhaps redirecting your activity during that time. You need to have a break in your day. Otherwise your productivity at work will suffer, as will your family life when you’re home. As a mom, I learned years ago that it’s not a good idea to choose a Lenten sacrifice that winds up punishing those around me.

    Take that walk around the city–but carry a rosary in your pocket and pray it on the way. Or download an online breviary to your smartphone and pray Daytime Prayer on your lunch break. Pack a devotional book in your briefcase to read while you eat your sandwich.

  7. If you really want to give the time to your family, maybe you could (while eating–you need energy to keep up with all of that!) keep a small notebook for each family member, and each day write one thing you appreciate about that member in their notebook. Then give it to them on Easter. In my experience, when I try to skip a chore at work to leave earlier, the time gets swallowed up by more work.

  8. What if you take that time for lunch and redirect it, as Barb suggested, and pray for a special intention close to your heart during Lent? Or maybe you could resolve to not eat out or shop during your lunch break during Lent, and take that money and put it into the Rice Bowl or whatever you donate it to. (I did that one Lent, incidentally, when I still worked in an office. I made a mark for every time I would have gone out to eat for Lent. It ended up being quite a chunk of change in my rice bowl!)

    Blessings to you and kudos to you for trying to stretch yourself spiritually!

  9. have a simple lunch
    (we get grumpy when we get hungry)
    then use the ‘break’ to pray
    I know working & juggling family committments is hard
    and prayer time goes by the wayside
    ASk the Holy Spirit what you should do
    I know He’ll answer 🙂
    and thanks for the column

  10. Thank you all for the great comments and ideas! I will pray for all of you this Lenten season. Let’s keep each other in our prayers.

  11. Erin
    Time to yourself is essential. I am tired of Lent being regarded as giving up the few things most of us like. Better be positive and do something nice for someone else especially someone you don’t much like,

    • I should also say my husband use to work through
      lunch in a very stressful job and it did not help his mental state

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