The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart). ...
The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.
We are thus encouraged to:
Embrace [that] call by fasting from or "giving up" material things, including food, superfluous to your basic needs; "taking up" charitable habits directed to helping and caring for others; and "lifting up" those in need through giving alms, praying and participating in devotional practices.
"Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance."
So I've been pondering what to "give up" for Lent. It should be something hard, something on which I spend too much money, and something which will thus free up money for alms-giving if I abstain from it. There was only one logical choice (well, actually two).
So I'm giving up wine and cigars for Lent.
I've figured out what I normally spend on them in a 6 week span (an embarrassingly large figure) and I'm donating half to the Los Angeles Mission and half to Catholic Charities of Los Angeles. They are both worthy causes. For those of you who aren't Catholic (or Christian or even religious, for that matter), the Los Angeles Mission is a non-sectarian charity that feeds and clothes the homeless and makes an excellent choice for your support. For those of you who are Catholic, Catholic Charities does great and good work and needs your support.