Each year Emily’s and Leo’s understanding of Lent takes deeper roots into their faith life. In the past we’ve helped them to realize Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us through meaningful ways. Here are some of our favorite traditions to help the kids:
We start on Ash Wednesday. I love Ash Wednesday because it is such a great sign of hope and peace in the world. As a child, I remember feeling very self conscious about receiving ashes and going out in public so everyone important in the universe could see that I was a Christian! Gasp!! Last year Emily went around pushing up her bangs everywhere we went saying to anyone who would listen “can you see my cross? That means I love God!” I wish we could retain the innocence of small children forever! As an adult, so often I just want to blend in and not be noticed. (ok…ok…going around with 3 banshees isn’t exactly the best way to “blend”). Yet it’s amazing how many people are eager to receive the ashes and show an outward sign that they too are turning away from sin and returning to the Gospel.
Fasting--this year we’ve decided to fast from sugar. It’s important to note that this is not for a dietary reason, (as in, hey! Let’s give up sugar so we can all be skinny!), but rather because our favorite well deserved treats in this house are usually involving sugar. (no mom of the year award…but a m&m here and there ain’t gonna kill ya!) We like to take this sacrifice and offer it up for Jesus. This is great because it really teaches your little one self-control, patience, and how sacrifice is needed in a world of sin.
This is a tradition that we had in my house growing up which I always loved. You begin with a child selected bare branch and small tissue paper leaves. Not only do we fast during Lent, but also we can do small acts of kindness for each other. Each little sacrifice is signified with tying a leaf onto the tree--not to brag but to encourage the beauty of sacrifice. I love this idea because it plants the seeds of teaching the Theology of the Body at a very early age. Kids can clearly see that self-donation and self-sacrifice is awesome and necessary in a loving relationship.
Here's a picture from last year to get the idea:)
Stations of the Cross
Eli and I like to take the kids with us on Friday evenings to say the stations of the cross outdoors. Beforehand, they can color printouts of the stations, and match their paper to the station. Since we’re outside, they can really enjoy themselves as loudly as they’d like. Heehee. I also printed out a calendar for them that they can color one day at a time and really look forward to Fridays. http://catholicicing.com/2011/02/printable-lenten-calendar-for-kids/
I encourage you to make Lent more meaningful for your family. These are several ideas our family does, but we don’t do them everyday…the point is we *try.* Try This is such a great time to stop and reflect on how we’re living our life, and devote more time to God. Can you give Him 1% of your day? 24 minutes is not a lot considering He died on the cross for you. Maybe you could start by reading the Bible for a couple minutes during breakfast. Could you take half your lunch hour to go to daily mass? What about singing the Divine Mercy chaplet for 15 minutes at 3pm? If a rosary seems too hard a commitment with your spouse, how about a decade? How about 5 minutes on Sunday morning to read the gospel before you get to mass? The possibilities are endless…get started today!