Amazing! We are a mere thirty days from the start of the Lenten Season. Ash Wednesday comes early this year, February 6th, to be precise. There's no time like the present to begin contemplating this season of sacrifice.
A great way to prepare for Lent is to start with a novena. The Novena may be recited nine days prior to Ash Wednesday (in true Novena form) or may be recited throughout the holy season. Here is an excellent Novena from Catholic Doors to start with:
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
During the Holy Season of Lent
You call us to a closer union with Yourself.
Help me to prepare to celebrate
The Paschal Mystery
With mind and heart renewed.
Give me a spirit of loving reverence
For You, our Father,
And of willing service to my neighbor.
As I recall the great events
That gave us new life in Christ,
Bring the image of Your Son
To perfection within my soul.
This great season of grace is Your gift
To Your family to renew us in spirit.
Give me strength to purify my heart,
To control my desires,
And so to serve You in freedom,
Teach me how to live
In this passing world with my heart set
On the world that will never end.
I ask for the grace
To master my sinfulness
And conquer my pride.
I want to show to those in need
Your goodness to me by being kind to all.
Through my observance of Lent,
Help me to correct my faults
And raise my mind to You,
And thus grow in holiness
That I may deserve
The reward of everlasting life.
In Your mercy grant me this special favor:
(State your intention(s) here...)
The days of the life-giving Death
And glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Your Son, are approaching.
This is the hour
When He triumphed over Satan’s pride,
The time when we celebrate
The great event of our Redemption.
The Suffering and Death of Your Son
Brought life to the whole world,
Moving our hearts to praise Your glory.
The power of the Cross reveals
Your judgment on this world
And the kingship of Christ crucified.
Father, through His love for us
And through His Sufferings, Death and Resurrection,
May I gain eternal life with You in heaven.
Another excellent preparation for the season is viewing (once again, I'm sure) The Passion of the Christ. Our youngest children have been allowed to view only the Agony in the Garden, but the rest of the family views the movie in its entirety prior to Ash Wednesday. It provides an excellent opportunity for all to contemplate the sacrifices we wish to make, both material and spiritual.
Involving the little ones takes a bit of creativity. A dear friend shared a tradition that I find intriguing. The Crown of Thorns
You'll need a styrofoam wreath form, brown paint and a couple boxes of toothpicks. Paint the wreath form. Insert toothpicks (thorns) randomly, but not too deeply. Your Crown of Thorns is complete! When the children are observed engaging in good behavior, kind and sacrificial acts, then they are allowed to "pull a thorn." "Thorns" may be placed in a jar beside the crown. The goal should be to remove all of the thorns by Good Friday.
Another suggestion is an empty bowl and bunch of small, paper crosses. As a sacrifice is made, the child places a "cross" in the bowl. The goal: fill the bowl by Good Friday.
Our family performs the Stations of the Cross at home. The fourteen "stations" are set up throughout the home, with the family "processing" to each station. This year, I've been thinking about setting up the stations along the path to the woods. It is generally very cold and windy here...I'll have to think about that one!
And then there's food. Which is how most to secular world knows that Lent is here. The lines at Long John Silver's are longer and your local grocery store will have prominent seafood displays. You'd think that Lent is the only time that Catholics are obligated to fast!
Nonetheless, fast and abstinence definitely play a large role in the mortification of the flesh. For a rules regarding fast and abstinence, read this.
I'll be posting a couple extra recipes per week under the "Fast Food" tab on my menu bar. Allowing the children to take turns choosing the "fast" meal, is another way to encourage involvement.
How will you prepare for Lent? What are your traditions? Spiritual exercises? How do your children approach "sacrifice"?
Wishing you a joyful pre-Lenten preparation!