Lent is upon us, and we’ve got ideas for making a Pray-Fast-Give Lenten Plan for your family; plus, 11 things your kids can give up for Lent, celebrating Shrove Tuesday with pancake races, and ways to observe Ash Wednesday.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
Sunday, February 8
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
Wednesday, February 18
Friday, February 20
Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto, along with their cousin Lúcia Santos, were children who witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary while tending their sheep near Fatima, Portugal. At the time of the first apparition of the figure later known as Our Lady of Fatima, Francisco was 9 years old, and Jacinta was 7. During the first apparition, Mary is said to have asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The lady continued to appear to them for six months, culminating in “the miracle of the sun,” witnessed by a crowd of thousands. When the pair were beatified in 2000, Jacinta, who died at the age of 10, became the youngest person ever declared blessed by the Church.
Saturday, February 21
Saint Peter Damian (1007-c. 1072) was a monk and, later, a cardinal-bishop known for his generosity toward the poor, his piety, and his many writings, including seven lives of saints. He was later declared a Doctor of the Church.
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on Sunday’s reading [ages 3+]
In this Sunday’s readings, we hear an excerpt from the law of Moses declaring lepers unclean and prohibiting them from living with the rest of the community. Then, in the Gospel, we hear a story about Jesus healing a leper, who is then inspired to spread the news about Jesus far and wide.
With younger kids
Paraphrase or act out the Gospel with younger kids. Be sure to explain or show how lepers were considered unclean (tainted by sin) and therefore not allowed to participate in community life. Talk about how lonely and scared the leper would have been.
Questions to consider
Use some of these questions to spark a discussion about this Sunday’s readings:
- What links the reading from the Book of Leviticus and the Gospel? (In the Old Testament reading, we hear that lepers are impure, and therefore excluded from society; Jesus heals a leper, restoring his place in society and announcing his mission to make whole what is broken.)
- What did the leper say to Jesus? (If you wish, you can make me clean.”) What does this teach us about how we might approach Jesus in prayer?
- What did Jesus do to heal the leper? (He reached out and touched him. Point out what a radical move this would have been, considering that leprosy is spread by touch and lepers were forbidden from getting anywhere near healthy people.)
- What do you think the leper said as he spread the word about Jesus? What would the “good news” sound like from his perspective?
- Who is considered “unclean” in our society or community? Who is forced to live on the margins? What can we do to reach out to them?
God’s Word for the Week
- Post this line from the second reading somewhere prominent in your home this week (e.g., on a dry erase board, in your home oratory, or on the refrigerator): “Do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
2. Make a “Pray, Fast, Give” Plan for Lent
Set aside fifteen minutes to make a Pray-Fast-Give plan for Lent. This can be as simple or involved as you like . . . the point is to be intentional, which is why you’re going to write it down. Here’s what to do:
Grab a piece of scratch paper. Brainstorm your plan on a piece of scratch paper before you draw up the final version to post in your home.
Start with the basics. Make three columns with these headings: PRAY | FAST | GIVE. These are the three basic elements of Lent.
Brainstorm ideas. Brainstorm ways that your family can do each of these things. Further down in this edition of The Bread we’ll suggest a few ideas for praying, fasting, and giving (see #5, 6, and 7), and we’ll touch base on these three points with more ideas every week throughout Lent. In addition, check out these links for a wealth of ideas:
- The USCCB Lent page is loaded with more resources and ideas than you can shake a stick at. These are basic, boots-on-the-ground, spiritually focused ideas.
- The Lenten Season in Our Catholic Home from Shower of Roses contains dozens of ideas for doing Lent, especially with young children. Check out ideas for a crown of thorns, a Jesus tree, coloring pages, and more.
- Lenten Activities for Children, a compilation of ideas and resources from CatholicMom.com.
These three resources contain dozens of ideas . . . if you start to get overwhelmed, remember to focus on picking just a few in the three basic categories, or just rely on the simple ideas listed below.
Discuss the ideas with your family and make commitments. During family catechesis (or family prayer), talk about your list of ideas with your family, and ask for their suggestions. Cull the list until you have a handful of ideas in each category. People tend to be most successful with Lenten practices that stretch them, but aren’t too challenging.
Turn your plan into a chart or poster. Make a colorful chart or poster to display your final set of Lenten commitments; get the kids involved in decorating it with Lenten symbols. Post it prominently in your home.
Bonus: Make a calendar. The USCCB offers a cool Lenten calendar with a different idea for each day. You can print it out, or adapt the idea by writing down your own “agenda” for each day of Lent. This is a bonus activity for the extra-motivated–remember, keep your focus on the four basics!
Following through. To help you follow through, tie a ritual to your commitments. For example, every evening (or every Sunday), you can review your commitments and record how you’ve followed through by marking the chart with crosses or stickers. Alternatively, decorate your prayer space with a large, bare branch; as your kids follow through with their commitments, invite them to attach a green leaf (made of paper or fabric) to the branch. By the end of Lent, you should have a beautiful tree representing the new life of Easter.
3. Celebrate Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday comes from an old English word meaning “to confess,” since it was customary to go to confession before the beginning of Lent. It was also customary to use up meats, fats, and dairy products before entering the Lenten period of fasting; this led to the day’s nicknames: Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) or Pancake Tuesday.
Here are some ideas for celebrating Shrove Tuesday:
- Go to confession. You’ll probably want to do this on this Saturday, unless you can find confession locally on Tuesday.
- Eat lots of good, fatty food. Catholic Cuisine offers a host of traditional recipes for Shrove Tuesday, including a “quick and easy” King Cake, Shrove Tuesday pancakes, Mardi Gras beignets, and what is billed as a “pre-Ash Wednesday Dust Cake,” actually a variation of a dirt cake that you can tie into Ash Wednesday ashes.
- Hold a pancake race with your kids. According to the Fish Eaters website, this tradition supposedly began when a harried homemaker ran to confession on Shrove Tuesday while still flipping her pancakes. In any case, pancake races are still popular in many parts of Europe today. You can read all about the tradition at the Fish Eaters website.
- Fish Eaters also features a recipe for Polish Paczkis, a sort of donut that is traditionally made on Shrove Tuesday in Poland.
4. Observe Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and although it is not one of the Church’s holy days of obligation, it might as well be, given its popularity. You can read up on traditional Ash Wednesday customs and traditions at Fish Eaters, Wikipedia, or American Catholic. Other ways to observe the day:
- Fast. Ash Wednesday is a day for fasting and abstinence from meat. Young kids are exempt, but you can still keep meals and snacks simple to help them get into the spirit of the season. You can find out all the ins and outs of who must fast and abstain, and what that looks like, at the USCCB Fast & Abstinence page.
- Burn your old palm branches. If you kept your palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service, Ash Wednesday is a traditional day to burn and bury them, a ritual accompanied by a simple prayer service.
- Get your purple on. If you keep a prayer corner or home oratory, now is the time to change things up. Put a purple cloth on your prayer table, set out appropriate symbols of the season, and put out Lenten prayer resources. Get your kids to help with the decorating, and it will become a way to teach them about the meaning of Lent.
5. Pray: The Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant
Check out the USCCB website for both audio and text versions of the Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant, and incorporate these into your family prayer time. “During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms,” says the USCCB website. “The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.”
6. Fast: Help your kids decide what to “give up” for Lent
If there is a “fun” side to Lent that even little kids seem to get into, it’s deciding what to give up for Lent. This year, check out the novel ideas in this article: Fasting for Lent: 11 Ideas for What Teens and Kids Can Give Up. It also includes talking points about why we fast, as well as a rundown of the norms for fasting and abstinence in the United States.
7.Give: Connect with the Church in Central and Eastern Europe
Almsgiving rounds out the three basic penitential practices of Lent. Get started on the right foot by giving to the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe (follow the link to the USCCB web page explaining the collection). Have your kids put the money in the collection basket, explaining to them what it will go for.
Alternatively, your family can raise money to help sponsor the adoption of a child with disabilities or special needs from an orphanage in Eastern Europe; check out the Reece’s Rainbow website for details.
WHAT THE CHURCH IS SAYING…
When we hear that people have meetings about how to preserve creation, we can say: ‘No, they are the greens!’ No, they are not the greens! This is the Christian! This is ‘our response to the’ first creation ‘of God. And’ our responsibility. A Christian who does not protect Creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God, that work that was born from the love of God for us. And this is the first response to the first creation: protect creation, make it grow.
Pope Francis, during a homily on February 8
Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). Jesus himself said: “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27).
With lively faith let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of “quality of life” that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!
Pope Francis’s message on the World Day of the Sick, Feb 11, 2015
A child is loved because it is one’s child: not because it is beautiful, or because it is like this or like that; no, because it is a child! Not because it thinks as I do, or embodies my dreams. A child is a child: a life generated by us but intended for him/her, for his/her good, for the good of the family, of society, of mankind as a whole.
Pope Francis, from the Feb 10th general audience on children in one’s family
It is sad when in a family, brothers do not speak because of something stupid. Because the devil takes stupidity and makes a world. Then these enmities continue and multiply for years. It destroys the family….
Pope Francis, during a visit to San Michele Arcangelo parish in Rome