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7 Practical Ways to Observe Lent as a Family

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by Rebecca Sontag

There is no Easter without Lent. Prayer, penance and fasting can be tough for anyone. And meditating on the Last Four Things (death, judgment, heaven and hell) is a heavy task at any age. While it is tempting to ignore the tough spiritual preparation that results in a meaningful Easter, you simply cannot have one without the other.

As parents, our duty is not just to our own souls, but equally to those of our children. It is a huge responsibility – one that can seem incredibly daunting – but it need not be.

Here are seven ideas to help your family have a fruitful and meaningful Lent.

Going to Confession as a family is an impactful way to show your children the importance of this grace-filled sacrament. To make it even more special, try this old custom before you go. Each member of the family takes a turn bowing before the others saying to each, “In the Name of Christ, forgive me if I’ve offended you,” to which is replied, “God will forgive you.” A parent asking a child to forgive their missteps is an impactful statement.

As a child, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was known to carry around a small set of beads on a cord which she’d keep secretly in her pocket. Sliding one of the beads from one end to the other for each small sacrifice she made out of love for Jesus, St. Thérèse would keep a daily tally of these acts of devotion. Take that idea and change it up! Give each person in the family their own jar placed in a conspicuous location. For every good deed or sacrifice made, you get to put a bean in the jar. For Easter, switch out the beans for jelly beans to show everyone howsweet their sacrifices have become in the eyes of God.

Ask each family member to fill a bag of personal belongings to give away to those in need. After the bags are filled, pile everyone in the car or on the bus and deliver the goods in person to
St. Vincent de Paul to be shared with others. On the way, take the opportunity to talk to your children about how these donations might help those in need, ask them questions about how they think these donations will help others, what it might feel like to be in need and why God wants us to help.

Try giving up something as a family. Have everyone sit around the table and decide what that might be. Maybe it’s sugary drinks or perhaps going out to eat at restaurants. But whatever it is, decide together and stick to it. Remind one another of the family commitment and encourage each other to keep going. Adults and children alike benefit spiritually and otherwise by loosening the bonds that tie us to earthly desires.

Take a look at the household grocery budget and see what you can cut out. Consider choosing and planning modest meals for those days of fasting and abstinence. As a group, decide where you’d like to donate the money saved from the reduced grocery bill, and deliver the decided upon donation in person if circumstances allow. There’s always the Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl collection, too!

Praying as a family is always important, even more so during Lent. Depending on the age of your children and other family considerations, go pray the Stations of the Cross – maybe even at a
parish different from your own. Alternatively, find a Stations of the Cross coloring book and pray the stations at home while you color.

Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is a fun and symbolic tradition. Technically, Lent has ended, but it’s still a day of fasting. The spices in the buns represent the burial spices used to prepare Jesus’ body. The cross on top is the Cross of Christ.

To sign up for the Ultimate Guide to Lent, Click here (It’s awesome!!!)

There are endless ways to engage your family and dive deeply into Lent. Preparing for the promises and joys of Easter is infinitely worth it.

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