Saturday, March 1, 2014

Keeping Lent, 3 reasons

1. The Big Questions

What is Lent?

Definition: Lent is a 40-day preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church. A penitential season marked by prayer, fasting, and abstinence and almsgiving. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at Easter.

Why celebrate Lent?

We are all sinners. Lent is a time of repentance.

We are Baptised. We can join in the catechumenate as they prepare for their baptism at the Easter Vigil with 40 days of preparation after the example of our Lord fasting in the desert for 40 days, a set aside time for preparation and sacrifice. We can offer penances to amend for sins we have committed and "do" work for purgatory while on earth.

Must we observe Lent every year?

It is a gift to have the liturgical season to help our minds and spirits through the year just as nature gives us seasons to renew and refresh, the Church gives us seasons to enjoy and prepare always bringing our focus to Christ, and what He means to us in our lives. 

Aren't children exempt?

Train them how they should observe lent and they will not part when they reach adulthood.
Children not only aren't as resistant as us adults, their joy to offer gifts of sacrifices buoy up our own motivation. 

Canon 1250  All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
Canon 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Canon 1252  All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance. 

2. Actions to get the most out of Lent
"Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt." -Pope Francis

Take care of your soul.
Best way to do that, start Lent by making a good confession.
Spend designated time each day in silence.
Clear out space for prayer: physically, mentally, spiritually.
Do something intentional, whether that be a sacrifice or adding a work of mercy of some kind.
Pick up some spiritual reading during Lent.
Observe the Church laws on fasting and abstinence.
Plan to attend all additional church services through lent, especially during Holy Week.
Go to Stations of the Cross.
Renew yourself on Sunday to prepare for the week. Truly and strictly observe it as a day of rest.
Dedicate your efforts, offer it up, all of it.
Go to mass during the week.
Pray daily (family) rosary at preassigned time.
Remember to be good examples for our children. It's not a good time for do as I say not as I do. It doesn't work for children, is doesn't work for lent.
Don't over sacrifice and end up cranky because we gave up too much, what will our children learn from a sugar/caffeine deprived angry mama about Christ's love for us?
The better way is to support each other and give things up together: 
Give up Tv, that way everyone finds something else to do together
without the temptation blaring for the others room.
Provide alternative activities for the family.
Discuss together as a family sacrifices. Discuss with a spiritual director, during confession is a good time.
If we fail at keeping to our planned sacrifice, we have not sinned, we just gave less of the gift we had wanted to give. Don't be hard on yourself, try again tomorrow.
One thing we do to make the season memorable is to support local churches stations of the Cross and fish fry and meatless dinners. We have another family meet us for stations of the cross and dinner. 
It's been a family  fun way to ensure we celebrate the sacraments and devotions together with friends.
Look around for other ideas, here is 101 more 
Read what else Pope Francis says about Lent

3 Have Helpful Resources
I have found it to be a good practice to keep a calendar for lent, a countdown. Helps us see where we've been and keep on tract for the remaining days. I usually follow along with my kids.
Catholic Icing has lots ideas for kids linked here.
My younger kids like this extra work to do.

Spiritual reading
Every year I feel the pull for spiritual reading. This year I have the following set aside for my reading and for read alouds for the kids:

We probably will not get through all, but I am happy to have set aside good choices to grab daily.

We don't know how long we have, 
We should live this Lent like it is our last!

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