Why I Still Observe Lent as a Latina Bruja

Getty Images | JGI/Tom Grill
Getty Images | JGI/Tom Grill

As a known spiritualist and bruja, it sometimes surprises people that I still observe the holidays and traditions of my Roman Catholic upbringing. But in my opinion, spiritual practice doesn't need to be exclusive. It is something that provides you with the tools to help you understand yourself, life, and its experiences so that you can grow from them in a healthy, constructive way. There is no "right" or "wrong" conviction. It is about what resonates with you as an individual and following down that path towards enlightenment. There is no one-size-fits-all with anything in this world, so why should spirituality be any different? We all function individually with various outlooks, feelings, past experiences, and needs.

I went to church every Sunday growing up. My Puerto Rican mother taught religious instruction at our home every week. I was baptized and made my Communion and Confirmation. I was quite rooted in Catholicism and at no point in my life felt the desire to abandon the religion I grew up with. Church service didn't always make sense to me when I was young, but theology was intriguing. I was drawn to the idea of exploration beyond the superficialities of life. I've always been intuitive and felt things deeply, but I desired to understand them on a deeper level too.

Jacqueline Fardella

The town I grew up in had a sizable Jewish population, so I started learning more about Judaism through my peers. Eventually, I expanded to Buddhism, Sikhism, Native American spirituality, Ancient Egyptian religion, shamanism, and beyond. I would go to the library and take out whatever spiritual books I could dig up. I found myself feeling a strong connection to earth-based religions, so I decided to focus more of my studies on those. Still preserving my roots in Catholicism, as a truth seeker I needed to learn about other belief systems in order to gain a more well-rounded perspective.

While my current daily practice includes tarot and meditation, it also consists of prayer in the more traditional sense. I still observe many conventional holidays as well, one of those most notably being Lent. In the Catholic religion, Lent lasts for 40 days. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Day. Lent is the remembrance and observation of events leading up to the death of Jesus Christ, as well as his resurrection (Easter Day). It is a celebration of Jesus' life in which we are meant to respect and acknowledge the sacrifice he made to absolve us of our sins. It is customary to honor this by making your own sacrificial offering for this 40-day period.

Often, people will give up chocolate, alcohol — anything they consider a guilty pleasure or vice. I used to give up simple things I enjoyed like pasta or candy, but as I delved deeper into spirituality, I began to see Lent as a wonderful opportunity for sincere self-improvement. What better way to show gratitude for your life than to take an active role in healing it? I try to give up something different every year that I believe will help me become a better version of myself. In past years, I have discarded procrastination, lethargy, and getting stuck in negative mentalities. Although the work lasts far beyond Lent, I find upholding a religious tradition that I grew up with gives me more accountability. It can be difficult to keep a promise to yourself sometimes, but when you make a promise to God? It's more likely you'll try your best to keep it.

Over time, this became instrumental in the healing journey of my life. It has assisted me in creating and, more importantly, sustaining overall healthier spiritual habits. I learned how to focus on one improvement at a time and have seen the abundant, positive impact unfold and consistently improve throughout the years. It's motivated me to work on other areas of my life, beyond those 40 days, with the newfound confidence that expansion is achievable, no matter how long you've struggled with it.

Jared Overeem

Decolonizing your spirituality doesn't mean you can't still respect or honor your cultural roots and traditions. Whatever your personal beliefs and practice, they will have a heritage, whether widely recognized and accepted or not. It is important to discover, choose, and acknowledge what makes sense to you so that you can truly have conviction. The whole idea of a moral code and belief system is to help guide you. If the map doesn't make sense to you, how can you follow it? Happiness can only be achieved when you live a life aligned with your values. Realizing those values is the first step to growth within yourself and through life's ever-changing landscape.