Lenten Devotions as a Lifestyle
When my husband and I started a family, I was hopeful we could live differently from the status quo, more reflective of love and peace. There will always be work, laundry, dinnertime and taking care of each other; but it’s easy to lose sight of the point in these routine mainstays of family life. What is the end goal of it all? Andrew and I had each other and these sweet children; what were we supposed to do with them?
We began with the end in mind. The whole point of marriage and family is for everyone to have a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus, then to live so as to reflect that wonderful connection, which will culminate in Eternal Life after death. There is no better way to encounter the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit than going to Mass. Receiving the Holy Trinity would fuel us to live the different life I could only vaguely conceptualize; but I continue to hope that, over time, each of us will transform into the individuals God made us to be—that we will simultaneously shift into being more our authentic selves and Christlike. Take more Jesus in, reflect more Jesus out.
During Lent, the Church beckons us to prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, all of which are profound imitations of Christ, Who was in constant communion with the Father. What if our families took these devotions as a lifestyle rather than a spiritual task to check off a list?
Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we’re in our most natural and authentic state when we’re connected to Him. Last month I mentioned St. Therese’s wisdom: “Prayer is a launching out of the heart toward God.” Whether that launch is slow and steady like a ship from its mooring or a great boulder catapulted toward the heavens, Jesus wants it.
Approaching the Lord in honest prayer ourselves and setting this example for our children is the best possible start toward the end goal of Heaven. And let’s never forget that, though bringing children of any age to Mass has its challenges, there is unfathomable grace just being in God’s presence.
I thought it would be hard to teach any child sacrifice, but kids show a natural propensity for it at an early age! Think of the toddler sharing his Cheerios or a 5-year-old giving you a sticker. What they love, they share; and this inclination is a fantastic foundation to teach sacrifice and fasting. Take it a step further to show your family that self-denial combined with love for a greater purpose is a powerful prayer at all times, and most certainly during Lent. From annoyances to emotional anguish, we should ask Jesus for the grace to endure with love, and do so out loud for our kids to hear.
I’m trying to teach my children almsgiving from a few different angles. They see us support the Church financially and work to fill a need we see or hear of among our neighbors. Ultimately, almsgiving is a gift of self; and though my kids make sweet offerings during the collection at Mass, they’re learning to give of their time and energy as well. We join Catholic Charities to distribute food to the poorest local population, and soon we’ll work at a local coffee stand that serves the homeless.
The point of teaching almsgiving is to open children’s eyes to the inherent dignity of their fellow man, so much so that they both know they can help and are eager to do so.
I hope I get to Heaven. More, I hope my whole family gets there. Living with this end in mind secures an abundant life; one in which we know God constantly invites us to prayer, gives us the grace to sacrifice and loves through us in our almsgiving. The result of this, both over a lifetime and in each instance of imitating Christ, is the joy of Easter morning and Eternal Life.
Katie Sciba is a national speaker and Catholic Press Award- winning columnist. Katie has been married for 15 years and is blessed with six children.
This article appeared in the February 2024 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.