Yes, we know it’s not Lent yet (and gosh, are we regretting the omission of a date on the lesson cover!), but we hope you’ll take time this week to get ready for your family to have the holiest Lent ever.
For this week (Feb. 19) we want to allot some time for your family to prepare for Lent. Next week’s lesson is on the why and what of Ash Wednesday, but this week we hope your family will spend some time preparing things for your ongoing task of growing in holiness throughout all 6 weeks of Lent. We have several ways for you to do that, but you’ll want to plan ahead a bit so you have materials on hand.
- Bury the Alleluia is a Family Formation favorite highlighting the custom that the Alleluia is not spoken or sung at all during all of Lent. The instructions say to color your Alleluia banner, seal it in a Ziploc bag and bury it in the biggest snowdrift you can find. That is a great activity for the typical Minnesota February, but keep in mind that the weather is fickle this time of year and what is buried in February may well be blown away in an April wind. Be sure to bury it someplace secure, where you’ll be able to find it later. (Under a rock in your garden or some other noteworthy place.) In my family, we got burned on this a couple times before we finally started simply “burying” our alleluia under the purple cloth on our prayer table. Not nearly as much fun, but no disappointment in the spring. Also, it’s not uncommon to hear of FF kids being slightly scandalized when they hear someone saying “the A word” during Lent. (And that’s a win!)
- Stations of the Cross is one of those uniquely Catholic things that pretty much every parish offers throughout Lent. (7 p.m. on Fridays at COSP) Even if you can’t get your whole family out on a Friday evening in the middle of winter, this is a powerful prayer experience that you can recreate at home. We’ve given you two copies of a booklet with meditations that are the right length and language for children to enter in and experience Christ’s great sacrifice. There are a number of ways you can use them:
- The packet suggests a variation of a liturgical service called Tenebrae which involves candles (always a kid favorite!). You can follow the directions to build your own candelabrum, or you can simply buy some votives or tea lights at the dollar store. Either way, you start with all the candles lit and extinguish one after each of the Stations. By the end, you’re in a dark room which is a powerful illustration of that day when the Light of Christ left the world.
- If you think the length of this prayer is beyond your children’s attention span, you may want to just cover one or two of the stations each day and then continue to cycle through it throughout Lent.
- The Nun Calendar is just a very simple way for younger kids to keep track of the weeks until Easter by taping a heart on the string each week. As they do so, there should be some simple family discussion about what they’ve done for Jesus that week.
- The Holy Week Banner is another great activity for the youngest kids, fostering discussion of the unique character of each of the days of Holy Week. The instructions say to make it out of felt – and that would certainly make it a more durable manipulative that could be handled by a little one throughout the week – but it could also easily be made of paper.
- The Crown of Thorns is something that the whole family could use throughout Lent as a visual reminder of Christ’s suffering and how their extra prayers and sacrifices, in union with His, benefit the entire body of Christ. You start with a simple clay recipe and lots of toothpicks. (The kind with two pointed ends are a little better illustration of suffering, but any kind works.) Form the clay into a circle, poke in lots of toothpicks, and bake according to the directions. Once Lent starts, each time a family member does a good deed or makes a sacrifice, he or she should remove a toothpick, and by the end of Lent, they should have a good illustration of their spiritual progress.
- The Caterpillar to Butterfly activity simply uses an example from nature to illustrate Christ’s time in the tomb and His glorious resurrection! Again, this is a picture that younger kids particularly like.