Ever since Epiphany, I’ve been looking forward to observing Lent. Not that Lent is exactly fun (it’s not supposed to be), but I got a lot out of observing Advent and the Christmas season, so I was looking forward to getting more out of Lent this year.
I have observed Lent in the past, to varying degrees, but this year I stepped it up a notch. I’m doing more personally for Lent and I’ve made a point to bring Lent into our family life, which I haven’t done before.
Here are the things we’re doing for Lent this year. It looks like a lot, but most of them don’t take much effort.
- Before Lent started, we celebrated Mardi Gras. We have made pancakes for dinner in previous years, but we skipped them this year (we had just had them for breakfast two days before). Simon and I had Burger King for lunch–a rare treat. Our totally junky dinner included paczki, root beer, and dirt cake/chocolate pudding cups.
- I made an Alleluia banner that I put up on Mardi Gras and then we put away for Lent, to return on Easter. This is a concrete way of showing that we don’t say “Alleluia” during Lent.
- Simon, Clara, and I went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and received the imposition of ashes. (Peter and Don were out of town because Peter was having oral surgery first thing in the morning on Thursday.)
- I put a purple cloth on the side table in our dining room (the one where we had our Advent wreath)–purple being the liturgical color for Lent.
- The boys are using Lenten countdown calendars, putting a sticker on each day to keep track of where we are in the Lenten season. I printed an English calendar for Simon and a French one for Peter.
- We are saying the traditional Catholic table grace at dinner (“Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…”). This is different from what we usually do; most of the time, we each thank God for three things, which I started as a way to get us to reflect on what we are grateful for instead of just reciting a prayer from memory.
- The boys are watching the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure videos. We are listening to some of the audio selections and doing the online quizzes. We’re skipping the printables, with the exception of the Mass quizzes, which are useful in helping Peter pay attention.
- We are observing meatless Fridays. So far, we’ve had spaghetti and lasagna for dinner on Fridays (and mac & cheese for Simon and a bean burrito for me on Ash Wednesday). The Lenten countdown calendar has little fish on the Fridays, and Simon has gotten into the idea of eating fish on Fridays during Lent–he insisted on having fish sticks for breakfast this past Friday.
- The boys and I have been going to Saturday evening Mass, followed by a soup and bread meal. (We usually go on Sunday mornings, but the Saturday soup/bread is a Lenten thing at our parish.)
- As a family, we have given up playing on the Wii for Lent.
- After seeing the Holy Heroes video about using a bean jar for sacrifices, Simon wanted to do it, so I set one up on the side table with the purple cloth. There’s a bowl of dried beans, and when the boys do little sacrifices (like entertaining Clara or cleaning up without complaining), they drop a bean into the Mason jar. On Easter, the dried beans will be exchanged for jelly beans. At first, I didn’t like the idea of rewarding good behavior with the promise of candy (extrinsic motivation has its pitfalls), but then I thought that the delayed gratification and the concreteness of seeing the sacrifices add up would be good for kids. In any case, I don’t think it will do them irreparable harm, and Simon likes putting beans in the jar.
- I signed up to get daily Lenten e-mails from Flocknote. I already get their Catechism in a Year and Popes in a Year e-mails (the Popes in a Year is much more entertaining than you might think). These e-mails are short, but I have learned things from them.
- For my own personal observance of Lent, I chose three things: I’ve given up Facebook, I’m limiting myself to eating one sweet thing per day, and I am reading the Bible daily. (I started a one-year Bible reading plan–not the whole Bible, but selected verses and stories–almost two years ago. I will read every day for weeks, and then fall off the bandwagon and not touch it for a couple months. When Lent started, I had 12 weeks left.)
- I plan to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Week services, when the time comes.
We are a quarter of the way through Lent. It’s going well; I don’t feel that I was overly ambitious in my plans. I must say that sacrificing during Lent is much more tolerable now that I understand that we can take Sundays off. It’s a lot easier to face six days of sacrificing than six consecutive weeks. I’m not sure that I could have survived the displeasure of my kids (and husband) if they didn’t get to binge on playing the Wii on Sundays, and I appreciate being able to catch up with my friends’ and family’s kid pictures, puppy pictures, and general news on Facebook once a week.