The Lenten season in the Catholic Church is a time when we focus on fasting, sacrifice and prayer. The truth is that most people don’t look forward to doing so for 40 days. Giving up candy, screen time or your favorite celebratory beverage is really not something we ever desire or feel motivated to do. Yet, as Catholics, we have been taught that Lent calls us to focus on all of this. The question becomes, how can we make fasting, sacrifice and prayer more meaningful this Lent? How do we share this Lenten journey as a family?
When I was a child, my family would sit down together before Lent and talk about what we would do to make the season meaningful for each of us and why it was important to do so. One thing I always looked forward to planning together were our fasting Friday family meals. They were simple, kid-friendly meals like pancakes or pizza, but we all participated in preparing either the menu or the meals. We lived in a bay community in Rhode Island, and there were several Fridays when we would go clam digging at low tide and come home, cook the clams and eat pasta with clam sauce. Or, we would go out and catch our own fish or mussels.
Even though my brother and I were under the required age for fasting, my parents insisted that we do so. They wanted to give us an understanding that by eating simple, low-cost meals, many which we harvested ourselves, we were doing so in solidarity with the poor. It taught us to appreciate the gifts we had rather than take them for granted. These meals were more than just warm family memories for me. They instilled in me the practice of fasting and sacrifice while helping me see Lent as a season to celebrate special activities with my family rather than something to dread.
With each Lent came the decision for me to give up ice cream and candy and a lesson from my parents about what that sacrifice meant. They taught me that we do this to remain grounded by our faith and to recall where our redemption comes from: Jesus. We remember what Jesus sacrificed to ensure our salvation. Our sacrifices during Lent are outward signs of appreciation for all that Christ has done and continues to do for all of us.
This year make Lent more meaningful by planning some special events with your family. There are some wonderful planning aids which will help you and your family choose experiences that will make penance, sacrifice and prayer a “hands on” activity for everyone.
There are also calendars that will help you and your family make the most out of Lent by providing dayby- day activities. These activities include ways to help others, challenge you to sacrifice, entice you to pray and so much more.
Once you find activities that are meaningful for your family, they can become Lenten traditions that you can continue from year to year. My parents role-modeled for me positive Lenten traditions that I have carried throughout my life. Their faith was reinforced by their actions and helped me to see Lent in a different way and, ultimately enriched my faith journey.
-- By Liza Roach
Other Websites for Lent (click on each link to be taken to a site):