COLCHESTER, Vt. (Catholic Online) - The season of Lent brings to mind thoughts of reflection, fasting and "giving up." Lent can also be thought of as a wonder-full opportunity to take 40 days - or what is left of them - to make desired life changes that may have been set aside due to ultra-busy schedules.
FILE PHOTO OF CROSS DRAPED IN PURPLE OUTSIDE CHURCH DURING LENT - A cloudy evening sky provides the backdrop for a cross outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., during Lent last April. The penitential season, which begins with Ash Wednesday, calls Christians to prayer, fasting, repentance and charity. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
Lack of free time seems to be the cause or excuse for not doing what might be needed to be done, or what one might want to do. The desire of spending more "quality" time with the family, visiting a sick friend or getting a bit of exercise if often blocked due to lack of this precious commodity called time.
There just never seems to be enough time.
Lent is a time for people to reflect on their lives, their families and how their valuable time is spent. Chances are they will probably find an hour or a half hour that could have been spent in a more meaningful, productive and/or spiritual way. People can take a few minutes and calculate the amount of time spent watching television and/or the amount of time spent on the computer and decide whether or not there is an hour or even a half hour that could be spent doing something else.
Parents can look at their children's schedules, as well, and see where there are windows of time.
When, and if these short periods of time can be found, it is a gift that can be shared with others, while enriching an individual's live.
The idea of coaxing the whole family to "find" extra time by curtailing television watching or instant messaging, may be met with great resistance and statements like:
"You can't make me...."
"I don't want to..."
"Why do we have to..?" The answer is quite simple. This is the season of Lent and adults and parents can lead their families into new, more meaningful ways of spending time. Pulling the plug on television and Web surfing for 40 days and 40 nights is unrealistic in today's society. But, one hour or one half hour shouldn't be too much to ask. As Catholics, we are blessed with 40 days and 40 nights to reflect on our lives and actively make changes to improve our lives and strengthen our faith. Listed below are 40 ways to care and share during the season of Lent: 1. Have special time to walk outdoors with your spouse and/or children and let them know how special they are. 2. Encourage your children to talk about a topic of their choice, and really listen to what they are saying. 3. Set time set aside for reading to children. 4. Make an effort to have family meals more regularly, even a fun meal like pizza. 5. Make a quick stop at a relative's house for an overdue visit. 6. Remember to say grace at mealtime. 7. Pray in the evening alone, as a couple and/or as a family. 8. Pray the rosary together. 9. Go to the library to find artwork by the masters that relates to the Lenten season. 10. Volunteer at a food shelf to help prepare a meal. 11. Sort through closets and give away outgrown clothes to a charity. 12. Offer some time to help out at the parish. 13. Read from a meditation book. 14. Make a visit to a nursing home. 15. Offer to have children's friend, especially one experiencing trouble in their life, over for a meal. 16. Call a friend that you haven't talked to in some time. 17. Have family discussions about the season of Lent. 18. Share some your favorite music with the family and ask that they do the same, encouraging dialogue about music and creating a new way to spend time together. 19. Begin to plan for planting and caring for a garden. 20. Prepare new recipes that are related to the season of Lent. 21. Plan for an extra special Easter celebration. 22. Go to Mass on days other than on Saturday and Sunday. 23. Find time for play as a family, experiencing how positive it is share joy together. 24. Take time to listen and look at the natural wonders that God has created. 25. Go to confession. 26. Keep some fresh flowers or a flowering plant as a reminder of spring and the coming of Easter. 27. Sit and meditate in a prayerful way. 28. Do some arts and craft projects connected to Lent with young children. 29. Participate in Operation Rice Bowl. 30. Write an overdue thank you note to someone who has done a kindness. 31. Call a friend or relative that has recently experienced a loss. 32. Have a regular family reading hour. 33. Create a Lenten gratitude list as a family, adding one or more items each day. 34. Begin spring housecleaning or indoor projects in a present state of prayer and a joyful spirit. 35. Take time to review negative behaviors. 36. Consider ways to create more positive behaviors. 37. Give away smiles. 38. Try to avoid complaining and criticizing. 39. Offer to help with someone else's project. 40. Offer prayers of thanks in the morning and at the end of the day. If our efforts to make changes falter, we can remind ourselves that we are not perfect. We can also remember that we are given the gift starting the process over again and taking another opportunity to consciously make choices in line with the life we have been taught to live as Catholics. - - - Mary Carty is Home and Family editor at Catholic Online.
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