Embracing Lent as a Family
An Interview with Catholic Author Meredith Gould
By Lisa M. Hendey
One of my most respected spiritual mentors once recounted to me her first experience of choosing not to “do” Lent – she was a student, away from home and the strongly enforced parental supervision of Lenten sacrifices and rituals for the first time. Feeling that she had evolved spiritually to the point that it was no longer necessary for her to “give something up” for Lent, she let the liturgical season pass her by with little notice. To this day, she recalls the sense of true loss she felt when Easter Sunday arrived and she recognized her lack of spiritual preparation for the moment of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. From that experience, she went on to become a major proponent of Lenten observances and a witness to those around her of the significance and benefit of Lenten fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
Catholic families have a unique and precious opportunity to share with their growing (and grown!) children the beauty and importance of the Lenten Season. By instilling in our children a sense of love and anticipation during Lent, we can overcome any negative stereotypes they may have related to the sacrificial nature of this time of the year. I recently had the occasion to consult with Meredith Gould, author of The Catholic Home and the newly released Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder and sought out her expertise on embracing the Lenten season with our families.
Q: How can we, as parents, share the season of Lent with our children without making them feel that it’s something punitive?
A: Like everything else on our liturgical calendar, Lent offers abundant opportunities for catechesis. I say let’s start by explaining the difference between penance and punishment. I think it makes sense to do this by discussing the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
First, remember to note that this is a sacrament of healing. Then, consider that this sacrament is as much about consciousness as it is about God’s mercy. After all, we have to become aware of the ways we’ve become disconnected before we can fully return to God’ embrace—even though the arms of God are always open to embrace us. Awareness requires willingness and focus.
So what does this have to do with Lent?
Like Advent, Lent is a penitential season during which we have yet another opportunity to check our spiritual fitness. During Advent, we recall watchful waiting for the birth of Jesus. During Lent, we contemplate his sacrifice before celebrating his resurrection. Both birth and resurrection are joyous events. How about encouraging children to view all Lenten activities as ways to watch and wait with joyful hope?
Q: What family traditions do your family share during the season of Lent?
A: My family of origin is Jewish! While everyone else was observing Lent, we were preparing for Passover, the holiday celebrating God’s liberation of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. (Read all about it in Exodus! Also in Acts of the Apostles 7:17-36).
The meaning and significance of Passover has changed for me since my baptism. I now view celebrating a Passover seder an essential activity for Catholics! In 1998, I started creating a Passover seder service to help Catholics more fully understand how the Last Supper was a Last Seder. Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder for Holy Week is now available (www.plowsharespublishing.com). I’m hoping more Catholics will pay closer attention to Passover, especially on Holy Thursday.
I also have a church family with whom I pray Stations of the Cross on Fridays. At home, I keep a journal focused on the ways I’ve been inspired by Lenten practices. On Palm Sunday, I follow the Eastern European practice of decorating with pussy willow branches instead of palm fronds. After Palm Sunday, I start messing around with decorative Easter eggs. I prefer découpage! I also start setting out my growing collection of lamb paraphernalia.
Q: How can families reinforce the concept of almsgiving during Lent with young children?
A: Although social justice is a core Catholic value, parishes tend to ramp up social service activities during Lent. Why? Because charitable activities are a suitable substitute when penance cannot be fulfilled through fasting and abstinence. This is a perfect way to involve younger children.
I’m a big advocate of having parents participate in service and justice activities along with their children. Being able to discuss observations and feelings in real time is always more powerful than asking, “How was your visit to the poor people?”
With regard to almsgiving, I suggest parents teach it and good stewardship by asking children to set aside a portion of their allowance for a charity the kids choose. Lent is a ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Featured Today
- Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
- My Dad
- A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
- John Paul II as an Apostle of Mercy
- Embrace every moment as sacred time
- A Recession Antidote
- The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
- Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
- Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
- Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience