When Lent officially begins this week on Ash Wednesday, Catholic families worldwide will turn their attention to two questions:
- 1. What behaviors or treats will we give up? and
- 2. What new service activities will we adopt?
Fortunately, many free and low-cost suggestions to enhance family Lenten experiences are available online through various websites. These ideas are easily adaptable to most families and can offer every family member the opportunity to embrace sacrifice, freely serve others, and eliminate bad habits.
Prepare with simplicity
On its Praying Lent website, Creighton University’s online ministry notes that the days before Lent “are a time to start anticipating something wonderful is about to happen.”
It doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare for the beginning of Lent, the writers note, just desire and focus. “We can give God more of a space to touch our hearts if we begin to establish some simple patterns,” they say. “We could wake up each morning, and for something like a half a minute to a minute, stand by the edge of our beds, and just ask the Lord for the grace to let this day be one in which I long for the beginning of Lent.”
In addition, Creighton ministers say, the family can practice giving thanks to God before bed. “This simple pattern, in the morning and evening can stir our spirits to look forward to and prepare for Lent as a season of grace.”
Fill out your Lenten calendar
A variety of Catholic websites offer Lenten activity calendars you can fill out as a family. Include, for example, the days your parish offers Confession and Stations of the Cross.
A sample Lent calendar and a checklist for preparing your family for Lent is available at catholicicing.com.
Add, rather than subtract
Christian author and speaker Karen Ehman argues against giving up something for Lent and, rather, suggests doing something new.
“For the last two years, during the Lenten season leading up to Easter, I have tried a new spiritual practice,” Ehman writes in her blog at karenehman.com. “I decided that rather than give up something, I would take on something.” Last year, she sent daily hand-written notes of thanks and encouragement to friends, neighbors and family members. Other families serve in soup kitchens or homeless shelters, give to the Church the money they usually spend on fancy coffee drinks, and spend time praying the rosary together.
Read for inspiration
If you’re interested in learning more about your faith or developing Catholic parenting skills, Catholic writer Dianna Kennedy has published a list of “Seven Books I’m Reading For Lent,” at thekennedyadventures.com. They run the gamut from free-of-charge books on Catholicism to how-to tomes on dealing with spirited kids.
One of the books, “Style, Sex, and Substance” offers perspectives on spirituality from 10 different Catholic women. Edited by Hallie Lord, the highly rated 2012 paperback is available on Amazon.com for $9.99.
Best Lent ever
Again, this year Dynamic Catholic is offering Best Lent Ever, a no-cost email program designed to guide individuals on a journey toward the best version of themselves and transform lives in 40 days. Each day participants receive a short video on a specific topic or reading. The daily emails are supplemented with other content on the website, dynamiccatholic.com.