Lent begins Wednesday! The 3 pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. While we (hopefully) practice these all year round, during Lent we pause and reflect on our relationship with God, and we intensify our devotion to these 3 pillars. Here are some fresh ideas for experiencing an intentional Lent in your domestic church. If your family is new to Lenten practices, just pick a few ideas to get started!
Setting aside more time for family prayer during Lent draws us closer to one another as a family and to God. Through family prayer, we begin to recognize ourselves as a family rooted in Christ’s mission, set aside for good works.
Teaching children to pray. We can teach our children to deepen their prayer life during Lent, no matter their ages. Great tips from Catholic Digest.
Family altar. This is a post from my (neglected . . . ) homeschooling blog. I explain how we set up our family altar at Lent and the symbolism of the objects on our altar.
Stations of the Cross for Children. Love this beautiful free Stations of the Cross booklet from Feast and Feria. They also offer ideas for creating a hands-on Stations of the Cross box. You place little objects in a box that your child can hold while your family prays the stations. My favorite book for praying the Stations with kids is Mary Joslin’s beautifully illustrated picture book. However, it’s currently $50 on Amazon! Yikes. I’ll treasure my copy. This similar (and cheaper) book by Angela Burrin looks lovely, too.
During Lent we “give things up” not to torture ourselves, but to free ourselves! By sacrificing food and things we find pleasurable during Lent, we are preparing ourselves for Easter. We are eliminating any stumbling blocks between ourselves and God’s love.
Lenten sacrifice box: Here’s an idea for a Lenten sacrifice box from Lacy at Catholic Icing.
Sacrificing Levels 1, 2, 3: Some of these tips are more relevant to adults, but they can easily be adapted for the whole family. Simple sacrifice ideas at differing levels of difficulty. If your whole family gives up something together (like not taking the best parking spot), it will be even more meaningful.
Fish Fridays: Prior to Vatican II, all Catholics were required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays throughout the year in recognition of Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday. Now you can eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent, though if you eat meat you are supposed to make some other form of sacrifice on Fridays year round. Even if your family eats meat during Ordinary Time, abstaining from meat is obligatory on Fridays during Lent for anyone 14 or older. You can have fish and nuts, so explore some new recipes with your kids.
Last week our parish priest, Father Mark, offered some wonderful advice at Mass: If your faith life is stale or stagnant, instead of giving up soda or chocolate, commit to praying every day instead. Our sacrifices should come from love, not a sense of guilt or obligation. I think it’s critical to teach this to our children. I will be posting something next week about explaining Lenten sacrifices to kids.
I have another challenge for the modern family: don’t announce your sacrifices on social media. What?!! While posting your sacrifices on Twitter and Facebook is a great way to show your non-Catholic friends how merciful and generous Catholics are and to give them a little insight into the richness of Catholic culture during Lent, it can also become an end in itself. You can start feeling like your sacrifice isn’t complete unless you’ve told the world about it. By making your sacrifices privately and without recognition, you are practicing many virtues: generosity, self-control, love, and humility.
As a sign of gratitude for all God has given us, and as an act of love to those in need, Christians give generously to the poor and needy especially during Lent.
Rice Bowl: Your parish will likely have small cardboard boxes that you can use in your home during Lent to participate in Operation Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services hunger relief program. Since its inception in 1975, this program has raised $250 million to fight hunger. You can have one box for your whole family, or perhaps each child can have a box. We can give our children extra opportunities to earn money during Lent so that they can fill their boxes. Let them fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean out the garage.
Pay for Technology: In this post, Sarah suggests that we place a pot near the t.v., computer, or other technology. In order to use these items during Lent, the user must pay for the privilege! Wow. My family would raise a lot of money doing this . . .
May God bless your families during Lent, enriching your faith, love, and commitment to mercy.