Here is the start of some simple and meaningful Lent ideas that you can do with your family. You are not meant to do them all, but to pick and choose what you feel would work best with your family.Or even better, use some of these ideas to come up with your own original ideas suited especially for your family.
Lent lasts for 40 days. Its purpose is to call us back to Christ, bring us closer to our Lord, especially in response to his love for us shown in his suffering, death, and resurrection. The church has given us some traditional practices to help us to do that. They are:
Use-full service and acts of charity,
Educating ourselves by studying the scriptures or other Holy writings.
In other words, we all need to PAUSE for Lent.
I came up with a simple way to keep us reminded the whole way through Lent. It’s a simple poster to put on your refrigerator (or wherever) that lists these out as well as providing a way to mark off the 40 days of Lent. I made this with the whole family in mind—children of all ages and parents. Take a look and print it out.
If you do only one thing with your family during Lent—this could be the one thing that is not only easy to do, but could be very meaningful.
These are some extra prayer opportunities that we can do during Lent, but don’t forget the regulars: dinnertime prayers and bedtime prayers. Just being more intentional about these prayers may be all that you need.
Stations of the Cross
- The best option is to attend the weekly stations with your parish family. This usually takes about 15 minutes. If that is not possible or convenient, here are some other options for praying the stations at your home. These could also be done so that younger children who are just learning the stations will have a better idea of what is going on.
- Find some Station booklets that suit the ages of your family. I’ve picked up many for free from pamphlet racks at churches or online. We also like the inexpensive St. Joseph’s books that you can purchase from Catholic Book stores.
- To keep the attention of really young kids and to create a more prayerful mood, we use a 14-candle holder. We start with all of the candles lit, and as we go through the stations, the children take turns extinguishing the candles until at the end when Jesus dies, there is no light left. To make this, I basically just nailed tea lights onto a long board.
- Here is a clever, hands-on Stations of the Cross. I did not come up with these. (They are courtesy of Joe and Irene Starrs. Thank you for allowing us to share this with others! ) I just came up with the box to keep them all together. This is also a very helpful tool to learn the stations, as well. Click for Directions and the downloadable list of items.
- Finally, we’ve shown a section of the film, Jesus of Nazareth, which goes through the Stations of the Cross, so the kids can get a better picture of what is really going on.It is a little bloody, so please preview it first.(But not nearly as graphic as The Passion.)
Other prayer opportunities:
- Mass-Go one extra time during the week
- Confession-Plan to go to confession a couple of times during Lent as a family.You can’t make anyone actually go to confession, but you can provide the opportunities. Mark this on the calendar and give everyone plenty of warning. Make a sign for your refrigerator: “Confession this Wednesday 7:00—Pizza Inn Afterwards”
- 40 Days for Life-One way we pray during Lent is by participating in 40 Days for Life. (http://www.40daysforlife.com/ ) We sign up for 1 hour a week and go there together to pray and bear witness to life.
- Adoration-Schedule this time for yourself every week if possible.Write it on your calendar like it is a regular appointment—it is an appointment with God.
- Rosary-We often will say the sorrowful mysteries–sometimes just a decade.
-We decorate a box with pictures of people in need.These usually come from pamphlets and letters we get in the mail. Sometimes we pick just one charity to support during Lent. Instead of trying to collect cash in the box, we use slips of paper which say a certain amount of money. For example,when we give up a dessert at a family meal, we put a paper that has $3.00 written on it into the box. This is typically what dessert would cost us at home. The kids are also encouraged to put in extra cash that they have. At the end, I count it all and send a check to the charity that we picked.
-Many churches also use the CRS project “Rice Bowl” and provide families and kids with cardboard boxes to fill with change and cash.
Try to find ways to serve–even if it’s just for a relative or neighbor (This is often best).
-Help out at a soup kitchen,
-Meals on Wheels,
-Your own Parish,
-Crisis pregnancy center,
-Or wherever you can find in your community that needs some help. This may take some phone calls and a little legwork. You may even decide to start your own charitable work. And you may even decide to continue this after Lent. It really is a beautiful act to do with your family. So much so that you truly get more out of it then you will put into it.
-Think outside the box. This year for Lent, our family is putting on a Catholic video series at our church. It’s not a major act of charity, but it means setting up the hall, cleaning up afterward, serving refreshments, and perhaps the most sacrifice of all: giving up every Friday evening during Lent.
- Giving Up Something.Whether this is chocolate or coffee or dessert, it’s important to remember every time we crave that chocolate and don’t give into eating it, that we offer that in love to Christ.
- Giving Up Something that Benefits Others. I’ve heard priests preach that it is good self-discipline to give up some kind of food or something else we enjoy, but the better sacrifice would be to give up something that will also benefit others and become acts of charity.Some examples of this are giving up negative words, having the last word, gossip, putting others down, nagging at our children/spouse, giving your opinion, or having others do for you what you can do for yourself.Picking one thing in particular and working on that during Lent, will not only be charitable to the others in your life, but will help you go further down the path to holiness.
- Some Reminders about Sacrificing. St. Therese had sacrifice beads that she kept in her pocket to serve as a reminder and to keep track of her sacrifices. I heard a story of monks who kept pebbles in their shoes.And remember the children of Fatima?They wore burlap or hair shirts under their clothes.Here are some other reminders for our home that are suitable for Lent:
- Crown of Thorns This is made from a small grapevine wreath with toothpicks stuck throughout it which represent thorns.It makes a solemn decoration for your table during Lent.Whenever someone makes a sacrifice of some sort, he gets to take one of the thorns out of the crown and place it in a small basket nearby.This is a great reminder for us all as we remember how painful it must have been to wear that crown of thorns and our small sacrifices in someway are a consolation to Christ for his suffering.The toothpicks can be stained a dark brown to match the grapevine wreath and can be saved to use again.
- Stained glass Cross This can be done as a family or individually.A section of the stained-glass cross is colored every time someone makes a sacrifice. The act of coloring it in reminds us to offer that sacrifice to Christ on the cross.Ideally by Easter, our sacrifices become a beautiful symbol of the resurrected Lord.These decorate our windows when it is Easter. To print your own, visit CatholicFamilyCelebrations.com
- Collection of Beans I’ve seen this done many ways. Some moms will dye dried navy beans purple (for Lent) or use kidney beans and put them in a bowl. When someone makes a sacrifice, he puts a bean in a jar. Sometimes the beans are glued onto a cardboard cross to make a picture as a way to stand for our offering our sacrifices on the cross. For some moms who collect the beans in the jar, the beans “turn” into Jellybeans. This can mean that our sacrifices when given to God are often returned to us with abundant joy. “You can’t out give God.”
“To know him is to love him.” Let’s take Lent as an opportunity to learn more about our faith both individually and as a family. Did you know that the best role model our children have for reading is to see us reading? In this time of Internet and reading bits of information, it may be good for us to switch things up and pick up a real book. (Although, a Kindle can certainly count, too.) It doesn’t have to be heavy-duty theology, but some good spiritual reading may be just what we need. Here are some other ideas to educate our families and ourselves.
–Family Devotions. I’ve always liked the idea of family devotions, but have had a hard time fitting it in to our family’s schedule. The only time I’ve been able to do it somewhat (we miss many days and sometimes only make it half way through) is to use Lent as our “excuse.” For us, we use dinnertime. And the simpler, the better. We’ve used Fr. McBride’s Teen Catechism. Other times, we’ve just used the evening prayer from the Magnificat. There are also many books written every year for Lenten devotions for all ages. We’ve used a handful of these. Remember, less is sometimes more, but none is always none.
–Family Movie Night. And I don’t mean let’s rent some movies from Redbox or go to the theatre. That is great for the rest of the year. In Lent, our movie night involves watching a movie that we probably wouldn’t otherwise watch. These are those great Catholic movies about saints and older movies with some great lessons. We also try to take the time afterwards to discuss the movie. If you find that your teens try to bail out on you, try putting it on your calendar or schedule it at a regular time so that they can get their homework done at another time or make their plans with their friends for another time.
So there you have it–PAUSE and take some time out of your regular schedule to remember Lent. The idea here is to pause–so don’t over schedule and try to do all of these activities. From our many years of trying to observe Lent as a family, I think what has impacted our family the most is doing just one of these types of activities well and to do it consistently.
Don’t forget to get your free poster to help everyone in your family, including you, to remember, “Hey, it’s Lent–how can I PAUSE and grow closer to my Lord?”
Copyright 2017 Tami Kiser