Updated by Mary Bowen on March 13, 2020
Catholic Lent is a holy season of penance. During Lent acts of mortification, extra prayer, and alms giving are performed.
Lent is a time to really focus on the sufferings and death Jesus endured. It is a time to unite your own daily sufferings with His cross so as to build up the body of Christ. Lent gives families an opportunity to offer small daily sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for each member's spiritual growth.
There are two days when Catholics must fast: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation but it is a day of fast and abstinence. Good Friday is also a day of fast and abstinence. It is a sin to willingly eat meat on Fridays during Lent but Catholics should be observing this practice on all Fridays throughout the year. The ages of fasting are from 21 to 59 in the USA but it doesn't hurt to encourage this practice in children. Two days of no food between meals will not kill them. Friday abstinence means no flesh meat from animals, but fish is okay.
Besides abstaining from meat and fasting, performing other acts of penance is our custom. Rather than giving up one thing for Lent such as coffee or chocolate, perhaps a more spiritually beneficial idea is to give up something spontaneous each and everyday. This way you are truly living in a spirit of self denial and self sacrifice because you are deciding to deny yourself of something you really want each day.
Helping your children make sacrifice beads is a perfect activity for this time of year.
Holy begins on Palm Sunday, but you can begin your transition into Holy Week by decorating your house on Passion Sunday, the Sunday before Palm Sunday. Two weeks before Easter Sunday the Church covers the statues and crucifix to remind us that our Lord is in hiding.
Hide your crucifix and holy pictures by covering them with purple fabric. Covering the ones on your family altar will suffice. At this time it is appropriate to get out your Easter bunnies, plastic eggs, baskets, and other decorations.
Palms can be added to your family altar too! All this decorating really gets little ones excited and they will be eager to recommit to their Lenten pennies as they feel the approach of Easter.
We would really like to go to the Triduum Masses one year but until that day we will have our own costum of extinguishing candles, one by one while we pray the rosary and listen to some "Tenebrae." In total darkness and in silence we remember the betrayal and death of Christ.
To listen to the beautiful Tenebrae in this video, please click here...
A mini pilgrimage can be made on Holy Thursday. The custom is to visit the tabernacles of 3 or 7 churches. On this day, a plenary ingulgence can be gained by reciting the Tantum Ergo.
Now is the day to finish your Easter preparations: dye eggs, exchange the lilies for palms on your family altar, take down the purple fabric from your holy things, clean and iron those Easter clothes, bake and get ready for the big celebration tomorrow!
Catholic Lent is a fabulous time of year and a time for great spiritual development. Teach your children to embrace daily crosses and live in a spirit of penance. Reading the lives of the saints and especially the martyr stories will show them what courageous things that followers of Jesus can endure. In their live's you will find the secret of a fruitful Lent. The greatest example is the Queen of All Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary who perfected the virtues that you are trying to foster during this holy season.
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