Monday, February 23, 2009

Preparing for Lent

Yesterday morning, the priest at our church gave a thoughtful homily on preparing for Lent, which will begin in a couple of days on Ash Wednesday and continue through Holy Thursday. There are many years when I feel like Christmas has just ended when the Lenten season begins, but this year Easter falls so late that I actually feel somewhat prepared for Lent to begin! Nonetheless, I appreciated that our priest spoke to us about preparing for Lent, which he compared to preparing for the beginning of a race. Just as runners want to make sure that they arrive at a road race on time and with the proper mentality, so too should we as Christians arrive on Ash Wednesday ready to begin our journey through the Lenten season. Rather than muddling through the first couple of days (or weeks!) of Lent, our priest was challenging us to get off to a good start so that we could make the most of this season. 

I was also gladdened to hear our priest speak of the joy that comes with the simplicity that characterizes the Lenten season. Lent is a time to be introspective, to examine our consciences, to shed bad habits or wrongly ordered attachments, and to get back to the basics of what we believe and who we are as Catholics. It is a time to take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation more regularly than we might otherwise do, and a time to invite our friends and family members to do the same. The fruits of all of this are a deep and abiding sense of peace and joy, for we know that these things are right and good. We also know that we can only come to Easter glory through the Way of the Cross - as our priest often says, "Christianity without the Cross is not Christianity at all, it is something else, an imitation." 

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to share ideas about how we will help our children prepare for this Lenten season. What will you be doing with your kids during Lent? Which activities have been fruitful for your kids at different age levels? Last year my son was almost 4 years old, and we made this Crown of Thorns, which was great at first but then fizzled out after a couple of weeks. Let's share some new ideas for Lent 2009!


Juris Mater said...

Kat, what a great reminder to be fully prepared on Ash Wednesday. I'm not always diligent about starting the day with all my Lenten plans intact.

We are going to do the basic with our kids, now that at least Bella is old enough to understand it a bit in her heart, explaining fasting as we do it (and having them do the meatless days too) and including them in our more regular reception of the sacraments. I would LOVE other suggestions on kid-oriented activities, though. One of our favorites is pilgrimages with flowers to church, I think we'll implement those again weekly. Otherwise, I'm kind of at a loss. Wow, thank you thank you Kat for this post! My kids thank you, too, for getting me into gear regarding their Lenten spiritual formation!!

Right Said Red said...

Thanks for the pep talk Kat!

One tip from St. JoseMaria Escriva that I will add to all those out there thinking about Lenten mortifications--Choose mortifications that do not mortify others.

Getting up to go to daily Mass at 6am may seem like a good idea...but if it drastically affects the schedule of the rest of the family, it needs to be commitment the whole family makes for Lent. Another example, giving up meat for 40 days. Sounds really hard-core in theory, but if I'm not cooking meat, then nobody in the family is eating meat, or they are all eating less meat, which causes others to be mortified by my commitment. There are many sacrifices that are GREAT for our spiritual life, but there are many others that cause a great deal of extra work or difficulties for those in our lives. Think before you commit!

Last year, we added a daily Angelus to our family routine, and made a crown of thorns. Having a new baby we were looking for just a few simple things to make the season more meaningful and holy. These worked very nicely. I am thinking about doing both again this year. Any other suggestions for simple ways to celebrate Lent as a family?

Kat said...

Red, your reminder is a good one for all of us busy mamas to remember as we decide on our Lenten practices! I've been very aware of how my commitments affect my family over the past couple of years...I've had some periods where I've taken on too many volunteer activities, for example, and the whole family has been jostled and disrupted as a result. Other times, I've given up something that just was too much for me (coffee, for example), and I was a crab as a result - not fun for my family. So, I'm trying to find the right balance between something that is a sacrifice for me, but not something that will push us all over the edge :) Good reminder!

In terms of simple ways to celebrate Lent as a family, I've thought about having our family cook a nice Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast or lunch, and bringing a warm meal to the folks who stand on our street corners. It's literally a 5-second drive away from us, simple, and something that we could actually sustain throughout Lent.

4ddintx said...

Adding something (instead of giving something up) is a great way to observe Lent. Maybe Stations of the Cross on Fridays, or one (or more) family rosaries per week. There are some great downloadable Stations of the Cross that kids can color and then hang up in a hallway or around a room.

I'm not going to get it done this year (sigh) but next year I hope to do a Jesus Tree. It's like a Jesse Tree, but starts with bare branches--each day you read a story of the life of Jesus and then add a felt symbol representing that story. As you get closer to Easter, the barren tree is blooming and then Holy week you follow Jesus to the Cross.There are felt kits online that you buy.

Squirmy 4 month old is preventing me from adding the links. Sorry!

I am going to add adoration to my life for Lent. Our parish is offering 24 hour adoration each Friday for Lent and I'm going to trade babysitting with a friend so we can each participate.

Happy and Holy Lent, Ladies!

texas mommy said...

Kat, I agree with your sentiments about the timing of Lent this year. I feel like we've had a long time since the end of the Christmas season and I am looking forward to beginning again tomorrow.

Something very simple we'll do is change our family prayer corner, from a green cloth to a purple, remove the flowers and replace with a purple vase with a single bare branch. These physical changes help me to note the changing of the season as well.

We have a Lenten poster with leaves and will add a caterpillar everyday during Lent, then, on Easter Saturday while everyone is asleep, I will replace the caterpillars with butterflies. We have been raising butterflies from a Christmas gift the last two months, so I thought the boys would like this. It's based off an idea from, but I can't find the right post right now. I think it conveys the idea that we are on a journey, but, at the end of the day, it is still a miracle that the caterpillar is changed into a butterfly, just as it is not just our efforts during Lent that are the source of our transformation, it is the miracle of Christ in us that transforms us.

margaretjdmom said...

Great ideas!

One thing I try to do is the stations of the cross with the kids on Fridays. I just go in when the church is open at a convenient time for us. 7:30pm does not work for us!! We keep it short and simple...but my guys are young.

My MIL always had a really neat risen Lord and tomb that she put out at Easter. I looked around and Fontanini has something similar for a minor fortune. She made her tomb by going to a hobby shop and papermache-ing shut one end of a railroad tunnel. Then she used the cheaper 1 figurine from Fontanini. I saw some things (some sort of gaudy for my taste...but FYI) on

JesusThroughMary said...

When did Lent get shortened to 38 days?

JesusThroughMary said...

Easter can actually fall as late as April 25, so this is actually somewhere in the middle of the range. Wait until 2011 - Easter is April 24, which puts Ash Wednesday on March 9.

Kat said...

Jesus through Mary, my bad, Lent (of course) goes through Easter Sunday...I got confused by something that I read just prior to writing this post!

JesusThroughMary said...

Lent traditionally ends at the Easter Vigil. There's actually a trend in the Church today to separate the Paschal Triduum from Lent and to refer to it as its own liturgical season. They'll even tell you that at Catholic Answers. While this has some theological merit on its face given the very different nature of the Triduum as the moment toward which Lent moves, it is not the tradition of the Church. In fact, the reason Lent starts on Ash Wednesday is because the four days prior to the First Sunday of Lent were added to get to 40, which obviously implies that the days of the Triduum were counted as well.
In the East, Lent starts on Monday and ends on Holy Thursday evening. But they still maintain a full 40 days. For some reason, the Church today too often forgets that our tradition is as valid and beautiful as is theirs, so to recover "traditional" things we look to the East and try to imitate it. It never comes out looking quite right.