Lent Activities for the Whole Family
This Lent season I want to make it about more than just giving-up chocolate. Now that my oldest daughter is 7-years-old, she has a much better understanding of what the season is all about and I want to nurture this in simple, practical ways that will inspire her – and the rest of the family for that matter. With that in mind, I have planned a few activities, all of which we will be making and doing over the next few weeks – I’ll post updates so you can see how we get on…
1) A Lenten ‘Advent’ Calendar
My daughter really enjoys counting-down the days to Christmas Day with the aid of an Advent Calendar – it seems to heighten the excitement and anticipation as well as the focus. So, to give it an appropriately Lenten twist, instead of toys or images or chocolate (obviously!), we’re going to fill the days with prayers, challenges and activities.
2) Revive the family Rosary
The Rosary is the most beautiful prayer. I came to full Catholicism in my late twenties and was never taught how to do the Rosary as a child; as a result, I found it really hard to adopt the practice of this daily devotion as an adult. Thankfully, with time, perseverance and divine grace I finally came to understand it.
Now, my husband and I make a huge effort to sit with our girls and pray the Rosary every day to help them cultivate this devotion for life. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we just don’t manage it, or the girls only manage one decade before nodding off (it’s perhaps not the best prayer to do before bedtime), but we’re getting there.
3) Make an altar space in the home
This doesn’t have to be complicated and you might be surprised to find you have everything you need already – Pintrest has some brilliant examples of what people have done in their homes.
Start by finding a suitable space such as a sideboard, small table or even a low shelf and select a Christ-centred focal point that can be placed in the middle, such as a crucifix or image of Christ. Next, collect all your religious items and books together and arrange them around the focal point – these might include prayer books, candles, incense, icons, holy water and rosaries. Finally, introduce some liturgical colours through a cloth or flowers – violet, the colour of penance, is used for Lent. Now, try to set aside time each day to pray before your family altar.
4) Adopt a Saint
The idea that we should all be aiming to become saints has always seemed to be an unachievable goal to me. How can I become a saint? I am a wife, mother, teacher and have a shocking propensity for swearing at other drivers – I always suspected that ship had sailed. That was until I stumbled across St Elizabeth Ann Seton; the first US saint, she was, you guessed it, a wife, mother and teacher! Weirdly, she kind of looks like me too…
But this discovery had an unexpectedly profound impact on me. Suddenly, I started to believe I could aspire to greater things as a Catholic woman and have begun including St Elizabeth’s prayers in my daily prayers and asking for her intercession.
Why not use this Lent season to find out about less well-known saints? See if you can find someone whose life or struggles mirror yours or your children’s and start to include them in your daily prayer life.
5) Pick a charitable cause
This has been an easy one for us this year as my daughter’s school, in collaboration with our church, has decided to support Mary’ Meals (www.marysmeals.org.uk). This charity works with the some of the most impoverished communities in the world with the primary aim of ensuring that every child get a meal in their place of education.
There are two ways we’re supporting this charity this year: first to add at least 20p to the collection tin at the back of the church for every day of Lent – one 20p piece is enough money to give a child a meal; second, to provide a backpack full of the necessities a child needs to attend school – a school outfit, sandals, toothbrush, stationary and a toy. My eldest daughter is desperate to support this charity – children helping children just seems to make so much sense.
Why not check out which charities are being supported locally and see how you can get involved or make some donations on-line?
6) Revive some traditional practices
Last Easter, I started wearing a chapel veil or mantilla to church. This was a big deal for me as I’m the only woman in our congregation that wears one outside of Latin Mass and I was really anxious about what people would think of me. The problem was, the more anxiety and embarrassment I felt, the more I felt I had to do it – it felt like an obstacle I had to overcome; a cross to bear for our Lord and my testament to His true presence in the Eucharist.
Needless to say, nobody batted an eyelid. Funnily enough, people weren’t as interested in me and what I was doing as I thought they would be, and I very quickly got over myself. A year on, I’m still veiling and absolutely delighted I found the courage to overcome my pride.
There are lots of articles on-line and Facebook pages which explore the reasons for veiling in Mass, so I won’t go into it here, other than to say that, as with other sacramentals (abstaining from meat on a Friday, the daily Rosary, etc), I have found it has helped enormously to deepen my faith and increase my daily devotion.
Earlier this year, we also began to attend Latin Mass every week – again, there was some anxiety as we had never attended Latin Mass before and had no idea what to expect or what to do or whether our 3 month-old baby, potentially screaming the place down, would be welcome.
Again, we needn’t have worried. The other people in the congregation that night didn’t seem remotely put off by my baby’s caterwauling and breast-feeding antics half-way through the Mass and actually came over to speak to us afterwards to say how lovely it was to see children at the Mass.
Several months on, we are able to follow the Latin Mass (reasonably) well and my eldest daughter loves going for what she calls her ‘very special blessing’ on a Wednesday night!
So, I couldn’t encourage you enough to see if your parish holds any Traditional Latin Masses and to give them a try. Also, check out www.fisheaters.com and their section titled ‘Being Catholic’; here you will find all sorts of traditional Catholic practises to help enhance your spiritual life.