Monday, February 13, 2012

Lent 2012

St. Athanasius, our family's patron saint
I've been spending a lot of time recently thinking about our Lent. This time of repentence and preparation is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. It's a time that provides daily opportunities to ponder our Lord's sacrifices and our own blessings. I want very much for it to be a meaningful time for our family.

With that in mind, I have carefully considered our past Lenten activities, expanded a few a bit and added a few. Please keep in mind a few things as you read this post.

1. I do not have a newborn or a needy infant. I am not pregnant. These plans would have been far beyond what I could handle the past couple of years.

2. The readings listed below will take place during our normal school hours. They are in addition to what we are doing for our lessons, but they will add no more than 15-20 minutes a day and will flow with our existing schedule.

3. These activities have developed over the past two or three years. I would not recommend trying to do all of them for the first time together. It's always necessary to balance the daily needs of your children and your home or work life with your desires in celebrating the liturgical year.

Our Fast, Prayer, and Alms Calendar is a newly revised and more ambitious edition of last year's calendar (which was originally inspired by Monica). This year I've written a plan for each day of Lent, excluding Sundays.
2012 Lenten Calendar                                                                                                   

Each day we'll:
our book of Lenten prayers
Fast from something. We will fast from dessert every day except Sundays and our important feast days (St. Patrick's, St. Joseph's, the Solemnity of the Annunciation), but each day I've selected something in addition.

Pray for someone or a group of people like priests, godparents, our parish, etc. I've typed up a few prayers we know and a few new ones. I like the prayer die Monica made, but until we have one of our own, we're going to use a regular die with a number assigned to each prayer. We'll add this prayer during our evening prayer time, reciting one prayer with for our special intention.

flowers ready for the prayer garden
Then, we'll add a flower to our prayer garden for each of the people for whom we have prayed. I envision using a lot of flowers. For example, when we pray for priests, we'll put up a flower for each priest the children can name, each priest that baptized a member of our immediate family and then flowers for groups of priests like those in the military, the seminarians preparing to be priests, priests in our diocese, and so on. The flowers are a highlight of Lent for the children. There's almost nothing they like more than taping a flower to the prayer garden.

prayer garden, ready for flowers
This year, instead of cutting them all out by hand, Kansas Dad stopped by the craft store for me and picked up this flower punch. It was far easier and the flowers are lovely!

Alms for the poor. Each day we'll count something in our house and put a penny for each one in the alms jar. Our children are still young (8, 5, 3 and 1), so this year Kansas Dad and I will provide the money and decide where it will go, but as they grow, they will be expected to take a greater role in contributing and deciding. Our alms jar is one I made last year. It's a large container of peanuts (emptied, of course). I covered it in black construction paper and made a few designs on it with colored chalk. It has held up well but eventually I'd like to replace it with one the children design.

Next to our alms jar, you can see our newest Lenten activity. I had read online lots of different ideas focused on sacrifice beans. Most of these involved giving each child a jar filled with jelly beans for various virtuous activities (and filled at Easter with white ones to signify Christ's grace). Well, those sound very nice, but the last thing my children will need is more Easter candy. Inspired by this post I found when searching for Lent ideas, I opted for lima beans (which Kansas Dad was very glad to see were not for dinner). I drew a cross on them with a purple Sharpie (oh, I love those!) and made three jars for the three older kids. When I see them doing something lovely and good, I will add a bean to their jars. I didn't want to give them money for their beans, though, because I don't want to reward their behavior like that. Instead, I decided we'd put a penny for each bean in the alms jar. In an ideal world, they'd start to get an idea of how our good deeds, prayers and sacrifices can benefit other people in visible and invisible ways. Kansas Dad joked I'd never need all those beans, even for all three kids throughout Lent, so we must pray the children prove him wrong!

Stations of the Cross with The Way of the Cross for Children each Friday. This link is for a package of ten. Your local Catholic bookstore will have individual copies for sale. I have three or four so children can each hold one of their own. A year or two ago, I copied the stations from Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church (which is encouraged in the book). The children colored them and I laminated them. I'll have to find a new place to hang them, though, as last year's spots are taken by the timeline now. I find it much more manageable to read the Stations at home than to try to take my children to church, but we will try to make it out for Stations at least once during Lent. I also the printed the Stations of the Cross cards here, laminated them, and will encourage the children to use them to order the Stations themselves.

Some Lenten reading with the children:

Celebrating Lent (This link is also for a package of ten, but a local bookstore will have single copies available.) I found this book incredibly useful when trying to explain Lent to First Son when he was in kindergarten. We read just two pages of text each week during Lent each year.

Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander. As recommended at Mater Amabilis, we'll read one story twice a week during Lent.

Jesus: His Life in Verses from the King James Holy Bible, illustrated by Gennady Spirin - We'll be reading this during Holy Week

Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs by Melody Carlson and Resurrection Eggs. My children lost the chalice from our set and I haven't replaced it yet. I plan to read this during Holy Week so I still have some time.

Petook: An Easter Story by Caryll Houselander, illustrated by Tomie dePaola, which I always read to the children around the time of Holy Week.

The Easter Story, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, with a guide from the wonderful people who brought us Catholic Mosaic (Hillside does not sell The Easter Story or I would have linked to their site.) I absolutely love Brian Wildsmith's illustrations.

We'll be taking most of Holy Thursday and Good Friday to focus on our Lenten prayers and activities. If I'm feeling ambitious, we'll try making some paper mache eggs (Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church).

Resurrection Cookies - I've never made these before, but they look pretty simple, so I thought we'd give them a try. 

During the Easter season, First Son and I will be reading The Way of the Cross: A Story of Padre Pio by Clare Jordan Mohan.

I have a few plans that don't include the children as well:
  • Kansas Dad and I are giving up Netflix and television online (other than the movies we're watching for our class). This one will be hard as we have a habit of watching one show together each night, but we'll be reading or playing games instead. (And we always take Sundays off from our fasts; that's just how we do Lent on the Range.)
  • Reading The Imitation of Christ. I read this years ago and thought then it would make for wonderful Lenten reading. This year, I'm going to try it.
  • Lenten cleaning - I tried this for the first time last year. I selected a room of the house for each week of Lent and will make a concerted effort to clean and organize it deeply, taking care of all the little things I let go during the rest of the year. If done thoughtfully, it can be a good metaphor for the cleaning we do of our souls during this time. It's not one of those 40 bags for 40 days programs; I'm not trying to get rid of things (unless necessary). Just deep cleaning.
If I could add one thing, it would be the Lenten Faith Folder. I'm very tempted by this, but am thinking I've added enough new stuff for the year so I'm leaning toward waiting a year on it. Has anyone tried it? Is it wonderful?

Lent doesn't start until February 22nd, so you still have time to make some plans. What will your family be doing to prepare for Easter?


  1. What a great post! Thanks for the shout-outs. I appreciate it, and am glad you're able to use the ideas. I did our pray, fast, give a little differently, with a different chart of each week and three rows (one for each action). It worked well.

    I stumbled upon a (different) post about sacrifice beans, and debated it, but decided it wasn't quite for us this year. Some year though. I have a few posts in my drafts about some of our ideas for Lent. I'm still trying to debate when the best time to do the Stations is...I don't think my kids would hang with them for all 14 at a time. Last year we did one a day with morning prayers, but this year we have our "Welcome Risen Jesus" meditations, and I don't want prayers to get too long (for the sake of the kids' attention spans). Maybe at dinner with our intention?? Or after naps?? This is the only thing I haven't found a specific spot for.

    At any rate, thanks for your post. It is always interesting seeing what other families are doing.

  2. Wow, you have awesome plans for Lent! It is sneaking up on me this year. Thanks for the kick in the rear! :) I might have to use some of your idea.

  3. Monica, the Stations are a lot. First Son struggled with them last year. Again this year I'm not going to make the girls stay with us the whole time, but I think it's good for them to see First Son doing them with me. It's nice once they can read some of the words themselves. We'll be doing ours as part of school, probably in the morning. If we were going to do just one a day, I'd probably add them to evening prayer when we're all already sitting and have at least the expectation of peace and quiet if not the reality of it.

    H of B, feel free to use any of them! If you want to use the calendar and can't download it (not sure if that works), I can email it to you. Hope to see you later today!

  4. This is absolutely fabulous! I am bookmarking it for a future Lent when I have the time and energy (and old-enough kids) to draw from your ideas! Till then, I love that you started with caveats that included not being pregnant or caring for a baby - helps lessen the good ol' Catholic guilt for those of us in those categories.

  5. motheringspirit, I'm glad you stopped by! I wrote that first caveat because I was thinking very much of myself a year ago when my youngest was still spending most of the day in my arms or crying. A plan like this was not remotely possible. We have many years ahead of us with the children so there's lots of time to add new activities in future years. It's not about how much we do, right? It's about loving and serving God and teaching our children to do the same. God bless!


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