Skip to comments.Lent for Newbies
Posted on 02/06/2008 7:03:53 PM PST by Salvation
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|Lent for Newbies|
Not long ago, a nice lady wrote me saying
We are both Protestants but are searching out Catholicism, just to give you a quick back ground. There is not much out there for us on practical implications of these different Church Seasons. So my question is this: how do we bring this time to life for our kids?
I can empathize. Christmas is easy to celebrate in ways that are fun, spiritually nourishing, and downright tasty for kids. It's a holiday chockablock with song, sugar, and games. But it's tough to say, "Gather round, everybody! It's time to fast and contemplate our mortality!" Still, there's lots of stuff out there on ways to observe the different sorts of sacred time, including Lent.
During the Lenten season, the best guide is probably to focus on the normal activities at a healthy Catholic parish. Just as Christmas recalls the birth of Christ, so Lent recalls His time in the desert, fasting and preparing for His mission of death and resurrection. In the same way, we are to enter into a time of preparation for the Easter mysteries through the three great means of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The idea is greater detachment from the world, the flesh, and the devil and greater attachment to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. God, being generous, is pleased by the smallest movements of the will in His direction and will honor whatever you do toward that. For the newbie, there are a number of traditional things that can be done with the family.
For instance, in the prayer department, many parishes do a simple communal meal on Fridays and listen to a Lenten reading or meditation. If you are exploring the Rosary, Lent is a good time to give that a shot. Try Amy Welborn's book Praying the Rosary (OSV) or The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries (Charis) by Edward P. Sri. In addition, you can explore things like the Stations of the Cross (don't forget the new 15th Station: the Resurrection!) or, if you like, something more creative. One man I know set up an anonymous blog devoted entirely to praying for political candidates to repent of their support of abortion. Parents might want to give a shot at, for instance, getting some roses in a vase and, when somebody in the family prays, does a good work or repents a sin, removing a thorn and throwing it away till the roses are all thornless.
To get the hang of fasting, stick with the (very easy) guidelines of the American bishops, which are as follows:
1) Abstinence on all the Fridays of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No meat may be eaten on days of abstinence.
Catholics 14 years and older are bound to abstain from meat. Invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.
2) Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Fasting means having only one full meal to maintain one's strength. Two smaller, meatless and penitential meals are permitted according to one's needs, but they should not together equal the one full meal. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
Catholics from 18 through 59 are bound to fast. Again, invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.
The idea behind fasting is not punishment but sacrifice (as in "Offer your body a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship"). This, along with virtually the whole Lenten program, is laid out in the opening verses of Romans 12: an offering of body, mind, and spirit. If you want to offer spiritual worship, says Paul, offer your body and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. When we offer our bodies (and what is more bodily than our appetite?) we are offering ourselves, including our spirits, to God.
Finally, when it comes to almsgiving, there are things like "rice bowls" where you throw your change through Lent and then send it off to the poor. Lent is a good time to talk with your kids about tithing. Of course, there are other forms of almsgiving than money, such as time and talent. One common Catholic custom is "giving up" something for Lent. Our family has basically given up sugar for Lent, which is both a sacrifice and something we've been needing to do. But here again, creativity is encouraged. Some families fast from TV, others "give up" their normal Sundays to go work in a soup kitchen.
That is probably enough to get your toes wet. Lent is a spare time, but not a barren one. It is tonic, not sad. Indeed, right in the middle of Lent, on Laetare Sunday, the priest is bidden to wear rose vestments to remind us that Lent is a joyful time, because the whole point is Easter.
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hmm, by the time Good Friday rolls around, I’ll be 60. I think I’ll fast anyway. They keep making it easier. Actually, I’m on a Slim 4 Life diet so pretty much every day is a fast day. But, I do love Lent. It’s my favorite part of the liturgical year.
Excellent, and much appreciated as always.
So much to know....
Thanks for the tips. I’ve been searching for ways to get my teenage son more involved, these will definitely help.
For example, if you say a Pater + Ave while you wash your hands and a Gloria while you dry them, you have washed for the recommended amount of time AND (if you aim your prayers at "the poor souls in Purgatory") committed (heh heh) a spiritual work of mercy! Is that a deal or what?
But the connection with Lent is this. Fasting is good not only for the health and the clothing budget and all, but, at least in my case, when, as happened last night, the smell of pizza wafts through the air and my mouth begins to water (do you think I have enough commas in this sentence?), you can remember to say a Pater + Ave + Gloria or anything else you might want to say to God. And you can add a prayer for the hungry and for guidance about what YOU should DO about hunger in the world.
And if you are sitting around chewing on your injuries like a dog chewing on a bone and committing major sins of anger, you can calm yourself down by sending up a P + A + G and then follow them with a prayer for the person you're angry at AND an act of contrition for being so unwilling to rejoice in the Love God has for that person.
God is gracious and out of the sow's ear of our distracted prayers He makes a silk purse of holiness.
What good ideas!
I thought abstaining from meat on Fridays was cast aside during Vatican II. I was quite surprised to see it mentioned in Lenten context! However, since fish and chips meant Friday to me all during my yout, I am happy to return thereto.
My nutritionist (that I went to in a vain effort to stave off blood pressure medicine) recommends a diet similar to that which is called fasting, above. She would rather I eat a large breakfast than a large dinner. Does it matter? I am serious as I know most of the time the large meal is to be eaten at sundown.
There is no rule regarding what time one eats the full meal on a fast day. I usually eat mine at lunchtime, or I’m in hypoglycemic meltdown and have to go to bed by 4:00. If eating a full meal in the morning is what’s best for your health, there’s no religious reason to do something different.
As you point out, the present regulation for “fasting” isn’t far off from general healthy eating for many people. I don’t have any trouble with it, and I’m always either pregnant, nursing, or both.
So do you say,"No thanks, I'm fasting for three ..."
LOL! Right now we have two in our family who are “required” to abstain - my husband and the 16-year-old - and only my husband is “required” to fast.
However, the whole family abstains on Friday - like the little ones don’t want to eat cereal at every meal anyway! - and everyone over 10 observes the fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, while the younger children don’t get snacks or seconds.
Glad to help. There is much information out there. These just happen to be FR links that got posted about Lent.
I haven’t ever heard that combination before. Good suggestion, sir!
I have taken to just taking to saying a Hail Mary for any person who might cross my path with whom I have might be having a difficult time, or while driving and being stopped by a train, I say a decade of the Rosary.
Another thing, whenever I hear a siren, I completely stop what I am doing, even if it is a conversation, and say a silent Hail Mary for the people the siren is going to.
Actually abstaining from meat on Firdays in commeration of Christ’s death and sacrifice on the Cross for us, was never obliterated by Vatican II. It has always been there.
It was the American Bishops who were waylayed into thinking that the easy road was the best road. We can pray for them that they will keep coming to their senses. As the bishops retire and new ones are put in place by Pope Benedict, things are changing.........................slowly.
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I pray the Rosary on the train every morning; the trip, if it is on time or near it, takes exactly the right time. I pray the Fatima Prayer for those in my car who are most need of His mercy, especially the mothers of young, vigorus men who remain glued to their seats pretending to be asleep while the elderly and the women stand.... On days when I do not take the train I pray with Mother Angelica.
I gave up television except for EWTN and on Sundays something educational.