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Sarah Hanley

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Not long after Ash Wednesday, we ran a social media post asking, “What can we give up at Lent?”

Our answer was inspired by a reflection discovered on the ETWN website. It suggested that we should give up the negatives in our life and focus instead on being positive. “Give up,” the reflection said, “complaining and focus on gratitude; give up harsh judgments and think kindly thoughts; give up worry and trust Divine Providence. Likewise, give up discouragement and be full of hope; give up bitterness and turn to forgiveness; give up hatred and return good for evil; give up anger and be more patient. We need to give up jealousy and pray for trust; give up gossiping and control our tongues; and finally, we need to give up giving up.”

As I read through the list, I recognized that abstinence has a deeper purpose and meaning than most of us imagine. It isn’t just giving up caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, or some other pleasure item. Abstinence is the ability to give up something that is both real and intangible. This list calls for us to understand and acknowledge that we carry feelings, thoughts, and desires with us that are unintentionally harmful. How can we give up jealousy if we can’t admit that sometimes we feel jealous? To honestly give something up and transform our intangible selves, we must first acknowledge our weaker selves and then work on the change.

Matthew 5:44 asks us to love our enemies and pray for those persecuting us. When we are angry at our neighbor, can we stop and understand where that anger comes from? We know that if we return anger with love, love will prevail. But we need to be able to turn our intentions into actions. We need to love with our whole hearts and live the Way of the Cross, the way of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When I look at our community, I see good people working hard to take up the Cross of Christ—people  who are gracious, optimistic, patient, trustworthy, hopeful, forgiving, and kind. It’s easy to talk about the journey, but  it’s a challenging road to travel. It requires work and stamina. The Cross of Christ asks for us to be in a constant state of reflection. Rather than looking outward at what might be affecting us, we must look at ourselves and decide how we will behave towards those outside influences. When we find it difficult to carry the Cross, the answer is as simple as asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”

At CFGP, this is a question we ask ourselves every day. Our mission is to grow philanthropy according to the teachings of Jesus Crist. We are grounded in the principles of our faith, which calls for us to look inward and live a professional and personal life of service. Through charitable fund management and development consulting, CFGP meets the varied needs of donors and Catholic institutions. Our team is comprised of professionals who understand that we serve the Lord best when we turn our good intentions into good work.

This Lenten season, as we walk with our Lord, let’s be kind to ourselves, knowing that the work of Christ is not accomplished in a day, a week, or a year. But the way is marked if we stay on the road, never give up, and take up the Cross with love and right intention. At CFGP, we strive daily to walk with the love of our Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. To learn more about our work and watch our video, please visit


Sarah Hanley is the president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia

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