Thursday, February 24, 2011

What The Heck Are We Doing For Lent? (and watch for the seven hidden Quick Takes...)

I've always made Lent all about ME: I choose something to give up, or say extra prayers, maybe try to make it to daily Mass more often; but we've never really done anything for Lent as a family. My kids often choose to give up certain video games or electronic gadgets, but when Sunday rolls around (cuz Sundays don't count, don't have to count, don't ya know) they're getting them back out again and making up for the time they lost during the week. Do you want my honest opinion? I don't see how that can bring a person closer to Jesus.

For Advent we have certain traditions: we have an Advent calendar that doubles as a Nativity scene, and every day during December the kids hang a new picture of the manger scene on the calendar. In the beginning there were scripture readings to go with each piece, but we've long since stopped using them. (The kids call it my "panic calendar," because as the scene begins to take shape, I'm reminded that Christmas is drawing ever closer and looking at it makes me worry about getting everything done.) We light a wreath every Sunday during Advent, and read and reflect on a Scripture passage. There is a lot more we could be doing during the Advent season, but at least it's a happy time, and we're looking forward to Christmas. (I think I'm writing this blog post today because I woke up this morning with the song "People Look East" running through my head.)

Why is Lent something that we dread? I still haven't figured that out. Is it because we tend to reflect more on the sufferings of Christ, and that makes us a little bit depressed? I don't see how it could, given the fact that He suffered and died to save us from our sins, and we know the story has a happy ending. Is it because we're giving up something that we love, maybe even something we feel we can't live without? Maybe we're approaching it the wrong way. I know that Lent is a time for us to spend more time in prayer, to perform more acts of charity, and deepen our relationship with Christ, but for many of us it's a time we simply endure and count down the days until it's over.

I've been thinking about ways I can personally observe the season of Lent:

1. Give up chocolate and/or alcohol as usual

2. Go to daily Mass at least once a week. With my schedule there is no reason why I couldn't go every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; my usual excuse for skipping it is that I have too many other things to do. Or I just don't feel like it.

3. Read a spiritual book. (Hmm, maybe it's time to pull the Catechism of the Catholic Church off the shelf and dust it off...)

4. Establish a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.

5. Participate in at least one 40 Days for Life vigil

6. Put myself on a gluten-free diet, once and for all. This would be more for my physical health than a spiritual exercise, and that isn't what Lent is all about. It would be quite a sacrifice, though, that's for sure. (Read more about my reluctant resolve to do this here.)

7. Give up Facebook and Twitter. Maybe I could allow myself to take a peek on Sundays...

Some great ideas for myself, but once again I seem to be leaving it up to the kids to decide what to "give up." Abstaining from the Wii is great, of course, but I want to encourage them to do something more. I've been looking online for some ideas (there are some great ones here and here), and I have a few of my own. Sometime in the next few weeks, I hope we as a family can come up with something simple that we can do together.

So, my dear readers, how about it? Do you have any Lenten traditions that you practice with your family? How do you plan to observe Lent this year?
Be sure to visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes, and I even managed to get a 7 Quick Takes post up on Cooking Nick's Books yesterday, too. Check it out! (Now to the laundry that didn't get folded because I was blogging...)


  1. New to your blog. It's always hard to pick something to give up that's meaningful.


  2. One thing our family has done to keep Lent alive and meaningful for the children is to fill a bucket with papers and let each one pick a paper for each weekday. On the papers are written little "above and beyond" tasks, like, "I will make my brother's bed" or "I will not complain today." You can brainstorm together for little things that fit your family, from special prayers, little tasks, or small sacrifices (like giving up an evening of tv or video games) starting Ash Wednesday and start using the bucket the following week. You only have to have enough to get each child through one week, and then put the tasks back into the bucket, shake up, and start again!
    God bless!

  3. I do not know if Lent is a Catholic thing, or not. I know many Protestants who do. That's fine and everything. "The faith of some people not allowed to eat meat" and all that.


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