Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26. Why not kick off Lent as a family this year?
At first glance, it seems that Lent, the somber season when we prepare ourselves body and soul for the joy of the Easter resurrection, is a poor time for family togetherness.
Still, committing to fast, pray, abstain from pleasure and make other sacrifices as a family unifies us in the common pursuit of holiness.
Why is Lent Important?
The 40 days of Lent symbolically link us to Jesus, who was tempted by the devil during His time praying in the desert.
“By uniting ourselves with the mystery of Christ’s trial in the desert, we’re reminded that the 40 days of Lent are like our journey through the desert in this life,” writes Gary Michuta, an Ohio apologist, author and speaker. “If we remain faithful, following the new Moses, Jesus Christ, we too will enter into the true promised land of heaven.”
Fasting and Abstinence
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Thus, meal planning is critical, with opportunities to create main dish alternatives to meat, adopt strategies to battle hunger pangs, and replace sugary desserts with healthy choices.
Prayer and Worship
Family focuses each family member on the purpose of Lent. Prayers needn’t be long or complicated. Pray for someone who’s ill, pray for world leaders, pray for Pope Francis, and pray for each other.
Stations of the Cross are offered Fridays during Lent and provide a time for the family to gather together in prayer. Family members may want to attend daily Mass. Going to confession early in Lent is another time for family worship. Sign up to spend an hour with the Eucharist in Adoration. Commit to praying the rosary once a week.
Abstinence and Sacrifice
We think of abstinence as giving up chocolate or other luxuries, but abstinence comes in many forms: Turn off the television for a day, limit internet time, read a book about a saint’s life instead of a magazine – these actions ensure that God remains first in our minds.
Lent is an opportunity to challenge and heal ourselves. We can ask forgiveness from one another, memorize a prayer, volunteer to serve the less fortunate.
Almsgiving – and Other Giving
Lent also is a great time for spring cleaning. Picking up after each other without complaining is a good lesson. Doing chores without being asked, and without expecting thanks, is another way we can sacrifice ourselves.
Extra cleanup means we can gather gently used clothing and toys for a big donation to Goodwill. Collecting loose change guarantees a little extra giving on Lenten Sundays and money saved from meatless meals and fasting can be added.
Creative Lenten Activities
Making homemade pretzels or baking hot cross buns are just two ways family members can mark the season together.
Taking care of our bodies is another way to acknowledge Lent, providing the perfect excuse for a family hike and the impetus to get up early for an exercise class.
Whatever activities you pursue as a family will foster your Lenten spirit as we head toward Easter.