Friday, February 13, 2015

A Few Plans for Lent

***Note:  Previously posted prayers for the Lenten season can now be found under the Prayers within the Liturgical Year tab at the top of my blog.  Once you click on it, just click on Lent and all of the links for the prayers will be listed.  I will keep updating this page.***

St. Madeleine Sophia Barat commented on impatience with trials and suffering, saying, “Let us go to the foot of the Cross and there complain—if we have the courage.” 

Lent is a fitting Liturgical season to ponder these words as we focus more on the suffering and death of Christ. It is also a wonderful time to practice joyfully accepting our daily crosses and offering them to our Lord in reparation for sins committed against Him.

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One Lenten activity that can help us focus on offering our crosses to God for love of Him is a homemade crown of thorns. I believe I first found this idea from Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda.  (By the way if you are looking for religious coloring pages for your children, Charlotte has some wonderful hand-drawn pictures.)  The crown of thorns is an idea we have used in our home for a few years now.

There are numerous ways to create a crown of thorns for this practice, but perhaps the easiest method is by using a grapevine wreath, which can be purchased from many local stores, brown paint, and toothpicks.

1. To begin creating the crown of thorns, decide how many toothpicks to use. Toothpicks symbolize the suffering and pain endured by Our Lord throughout his Passion and death.

2. Once the number of thorns has been decided, create them by dipping the toothpicks into brown paint to color them a similar shade as the grapevine wreath.

3. After the toothpicks are dry, wedge each one into the wreath, leaving half of each toothpick protruding from the wreath to create the effect of thorns.

4. Place the wreath in a visible place. This wreath easily hangs on the wall or lays flat on a tabletop.
Once the crown of thorns is prepared, it is to be used throughout the Lenten season.
 For each sacrifice, or cross, someone joyfully endures and offers to Jesus, a “thorn” is removed from the crown of thorns. Removing the thorns symbolizes an act of reparation, the sacrifice, done for the sins committed against God, as sin was responsible for our Lord’s suffering. The family or individual’s goal is to willingly accept enough sacrifices throughout Lent to remove all of the thorns. Sacrifices can be as simple as skipping a snack, cheerfully completing chores or school lessons, or smiling through a headache.

What a wonderful gift to give Our Lord during Lent—to offer Him love through sacrifice as He offered His life for love of us!

Our crown of thorns from one Lent
(Once Easter arrives our crown of thorns is transformed, but I will tell you more about that as Easter nears.)

Another Lenten practice our family uses is to "bury the Alleluia."  This tradition began during the Middle Ages as a visual reminder that we do not speak or sing Alleluia during Mass or anytime throughout the forty days of Lent.  It is not a fast to create sadness, but rather the disappearance of the Alleluia brings a sense of anticipation for its return.  Thus on Easter Sunday when it does return, it brings with it an even greater sense of joy to this most blessed day!

The day before Lent begins we take our Alleluia wooden letters, which I purchased from a craft store, and place them in a purple bag.  We then place the bag somewhere hidden from sight.  In this way the Alleluia disappears from our home, just as we no longer sing it during Mass or say it during the Lenten season.  

The next tradition of ours is the Kind Words Jar.  I simply place a canning jar on the counter or some other place the older children can reach.  Anytime a member of the family hears another family member speak kindly, a marble (or bean) is placed in the jar.  Kind words can be simply saying "please," complimenting someone, or asking to help.  It is a very simple practice, but one that I love.  

It amazes me each year how this activity help us re-focus how we speak to one another.  Simply placing that jar on the counter helps our family hear what we are saying and creates a kinder, more loving, atmosphere in our home.  On Easter Sunday the kids find their jar filled with a treat, instead of the symbolic marbles.  (I have not decided what the replacement will be this year.)

A new activity our family will be employing during Lent this year is a Prayer, Sacrifice, Alms Calendar, adapted from Jessica.  I love this idea!  Matt and I decided to alter it a little for our family.  For each square on the Lenten calendar, four things will be planned  
  • First each day of Lent will have a different intention for which we pray as a family, such as for a family member, priest, Pope Francis, or realization of the value of all human life.  This intention changes each day.
***The next three items, Prayer, Sacrifice, and Alms, remain the same for an entire week, instead of daily, so we will have 7 different ideas for these--one for each week of Lent.
  • Prayer:  A certain prayer or type of prayer will become part of our nightly family prayers for the week, such as Night Prayer or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of our Lady.
  • Sacrifice:  As a family we will practice a sacrifice for the week, such as refraining from meat or electronics (except for necessary uses, such as work).
  • Alms:  For a week we will focus on a certain way to give to the poor, such as choosing a nonperishable food item to donate, making sandwiches with the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul, or donating our own items from home.

I still need to finish making the calendar, which I hope to do this weekend.  However, I do have the individual day and weekly ideas for the four categories planned already, so finishing up should not take too much time.  (Hopefully!)
Besides these family activities, we also each choose things to give up and do extra,  For example, this year I will be reading two books:

The first book is Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers by Monsignor P. Lejeun.  This is a wonderul book.  When I first began reading Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers, it was out-of-print, but it was available as a free download as a PDF book.  I simply downloaded it, printed it out, and put it inside of a binder.  However, it is now back in print and can be found inexpensively from Amazon. It definitely worth reading!

The second book I will focus on is the Explanation of the Holy Mass by Dom Gueranger.  This book can be purchased from the FSSP bookstore.  I began reading this book awhile ago and have been slowly progressing through it.  It is such a great explanation of the Mass.

I am excited for the beginning of Lent!  I hope everyone has a blessed season!  God bless!

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