CAFE stands for Catholic Adult Formation Experience. Our RE Office strives to offer monthly opportunities for parents/guardians to gather together to deeper their knowledge of our faith and provide resources and tools for family spiritual development. This post covers the resources and discussion we had at the beginning of Lent. The topic was: how to celebrate Lent with your family!
Creating a Prayer Space
We began the session by breaking the adults into table teams who were then instructed to use the materials provided to create a prayer space. Creating a prayer space in the home is a fun, engaging activity for children of all ages that can be changed and updated to follow the liturgical calendar. For example, at this CAFE we created a Lenten prayer space using purple cloth (swatches can be purchased for $1-2 at any fabric store), small palm trees, and cactus in addition to the general objects such as a Bible, crucifix, and prayer cards. As we said in the meeting – your whole home is holy because your family (the domestic church) lives and works together there to become better disciples of Jesus. A prayer space is simply a focus point for your family faith. Changing out some special items as the year progresses is a fun way to help our children get to know the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. Here is a more detailed liturgical calendar given to us by the USCCB.
For basic instructions on how to create a prayer space in your home please click here Praying Together Handout
As a community we shared what we already do at home. Many families engage in meatless Fridays and fasting. One family stated, and were affirmed by others in the community, that instead of using the language of “giving something up” they focused on “changing a bad habit. ” This family went on to say that if one of the purposes of Lent is to become better disciples of Jesus, then we must decide what we will fast from knowing that that fast should ideally become permanent and last beyond the Lenten season. For example, if we fast from arguing with our family members during Lent, we must continue to strive to build better relationships after Lent has ended.
We provided the families with this Celebrating Lent Handout, which provided some simple suggestions for family ways to live out the three things Jesus calls us to during Lent: prayer, fasting and alms giving. We encouraged our families to look for “twofer” opportunities; for example, if we choose to give up ice cream as a family (fasting) we would then donate the money we save by not buying ice cream to Catholic Relief Services, our local parish or another charitable organization (alms giving). The three tasks Jesus calls us too should not exist in a vacuum, separate from one another, but are rather all expressions of the same hope – to unite ourselves more closely to Christ and how he would have us live. Another example: we choose as a family to give up watching television one night a week (fasting), spend some of that time in prayer, and then give each other the gift of our time and talent by spending time together.
We also encouraged families to visit the Lenten resources page on our RE website.
Feast of the Annunciation
We also highlighted the Feast of the Annunciation on Tuesday March 25th. This feast remembers when Mary’s YES! to the angel Gabriel to carry and bring Jesus into the world. The same joy that Mary felt at bringing Jesus into the world is probably very similar to the joy your family felt knowing that a new member would soon be joining you. We noted that this is an excellent opportunity to spend time with family and remember the joy of pregnancy or adoption, look at family photos that commemorate births or adoptions, baptisms, first Eucharist celebrations, etc.
We also used this as an opportunity to teach our families about the Guardian Angel prayer.
As our closing prayer we taught each table group the “prayer bump.” This is a great community prayer activity that could be done at home during family prayer time. Here is how it works:
- Stand in a circle and hold hands
- One member of the family/group begins the prayer. This can be as simple as “Jesus, thank you for gathering us together as a family. Please listen to the prayers of our hearts.” That same person then has the option to EITHER prayer out loud OR pray silently to themselves.
- When the first person is done, she/he squeezes the hand of the next person (can be either the person to the left or the right). That person then has the same choice to either pray out loud or silently. When she/he is done, she/he then squeezes the hand of the next person.
- When the last person in the circle has said her/his prayers, that person then finishes the prayer by either leading the family in a traditional prayer, a prayer your family has created, or a simple “Amen.”
The “prayer bump” is a great way to encourage your children to be comfortable with praying out loud and spontaneously and to help build your family’s prayer life together.