With the season of Lent right around the corner we are delighted to offer you a variety of resources for bringing the season of Lent into your home.
- Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. On this day we receive ashes on your foreheads in the shape of the cross.
- The ashes used in Ash Wednesday are from the palms used in last year’s Palm Sunday
- Ashes are a sacramental (an object, or action that reminds/encourages us to be better disciples of Christ. Another example would be making the sign of the cross). The ashes remind us of our mortality and our need to repent. This is why you will often hear phrases such as “Repent and believe the Gospel,” when ashes are placed on your forehead
Facts about Lent
The season of Lent recalls Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert and his overcoming the temptations offered to him by Satan. This story is found in the Gospels of Matthew (chapter 4), Luke (chapter 4) and Mark (chapter 1). Here is an excellent illustration video of the story.
- The season of Lent lasts for forty days (not including Sundays) and concludes on Holy Thursday
- The season of Lent is a period during which we strive to become more faithful disciples of Jesus through fasting, alms giving and prayer.
Fasting: Facts & Ideas
- Catholics ages 14-59 are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
- Fasting means eating one full meal (as you would normally) and two smaller meals that by themselves would not equal a full meal.
- We are also called to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays during Lent. (Consider trading in a hamburger for a filet of fish) . For some great ideas on fasting – check out the meatless recipes from Catholic Relief Services
- All Catholics are also asked to fast through the season of Lent by sacrificing something. To sacrifice in this sense means to say no to something and yes to something else. For example, instead of watching television play a board game with your family; instead of eating candy learn how to make sweet desserts using fruit and honey; instead of using Facebook call a friend on the phone. Think of sacrifice like pruning a plant; you cut away some parts in order to let the plant flourish.
- For children, fasting can often be difficult. Consider inviting your child to give up something different each day of the week. For example: no TV Tuesdays, no video-game Fridays, etc. Another alternative is to challenge your children (and yourselves) to only watch television/play video-games, etc that are non-violent. This can often be harder than it seems and is an excellent place to have a conversation with your children about non-violent responses to difficult situations.
- Don’t forget to ask your family what they are giving up for Lent! Sometimes children forget to tell their parents what they are giving up and this can lead to confusion and frustration once dessert time roles around. Have a family meeting where you share what each person is giving up for Lent and what activity/food will be replacing it. For example, if Timmy is giving up video games on Fridays, plan on having a family movie night.
Alms giving: Ideas & Resources
- Alms giving is the practice wherein we donate our clothes, money, etc to help the poor. This donation can be given to your church, or another charitable organization. For ideas on where to donate consider Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities USA.
- Often families will make an alms giving jar at home where they will place money saved through fasting (example: if the family typically spends $10 per week on ice cream, and chooses to give up ice cream for Lent, that $10 instead goes into the alms giving jar). The link above shows one family’s alms giving (mite) jar where they put slips of paper to be drawn each day, which would determine how much change they would put into their jar. For example, .05cents for every chair in the house. Here is a link to Operation Rice Bowl from Catholic Relief Services and their donation calendar.
- This is also a great opportunity to teach your children about the importance of alms giving. If you give your children an allowance invite them to spend the season of Lent donating a portion of their allowance.
- Share Bible stories with your family about how good it is to give. For example: the story of the fishes and the loaves helps children understand that even giving something small can have a big impact (John Chapter 6).
Prayer: Ideas & Resources
- Lent is a wonderful season to develop your family’s prayer life. Consider exploring prayers you have never said before or write your own! Here is an excellent website of prayers for children. It also has an entire section of prayers for the season of Lent.
- Acrostic prayers: your children may have done acrostic poems in school. This is where you write a poem where each new line starts with the letter of the word you have chosen.
For example: Jesus calls us to hope, Easy is his yoke, Speaks the gospel, uses words when necessary, Unique in all the word, Savior of all. An acrostic prayer could look like this: “Loving God we pray together for our grandmother, Agnes, whose name to us means <acrostic poem>, please watch over her throughout the season of Lent.”
- Spontaneous prayers: It is often challenging for those of us who have grown up with traditional prayers like the Our Father or the Hail Mary to pray spontaneously. If you need help getting started, author and catechist Joe Paprocki suggests this method: (1) Address God, (2) give thanks, (3), ask for forgiveness, (4) pray for the needs of the group/family, (5) pray for the needs of others, (6) conclude: Amen.
For example: “Precious God, we thank you for the gift of this day and for each other. We ask forgiveness for the times we don’t follow your word; help us to do better each day. We pray for our family, that we continue to grow closer. We pray for those who have no one to pray for them. We ask these things through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Here is a great calendar you can print out and use at home: Lenten calendar
Here is a great calendar for younger children: Lenten Resolution Egg
Make Pretzels for Lent – a traditional Lenten food!
Plant a Catholic Garden & donate any extra food to a local pantry
Catholic Relief Services – offers many great FAMILY activities for Lent