Celebrating Lent as a Catholic Family: 40 Days of Activities Link You to Lent
The season of Lent is a penitential season, celebrated in the forty days leading up to Easter. This article reviews the significance of Lent and highlights opportunities for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for Catholic families.
Download the Lenten Paper Chain Activity, a free printable daily Lent resource to complete with children of all ages at home. This resource becomes a paper chain, built as your family completes simple, daily activity suggestions that help you celebrate the liturgical season of Lent together.
What is Lent?
Each liturgical year celebrates the life and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. Lent is a liturgical season that lasts for forty days (excluding Sundays), echoing the forty days Jesus spent in the desert during his trial (Mark 1:12–15) and other biblical events of the same duration. These days between Ash Wednesday and sundown on Holy Thursday are a time for Catholics to pray, fast, and give alms. Like Advent, Lent is a penitential season of expectation for Catholics, preceding the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Triduum and Easter.
Catholics are called to pray always. Prayer—a conversation with God—can take many forms, both personal and communal. Lent is a great time to rededicate yourself and your family to daily prayer. Parents can lead with prayer and thereby guide their children, incorporating forms of prayer and opportunities to pray throughout the day. Here are some ways to rededicate yourself and your family to prayer during Lent.
Personal Prayer as a Parent
Commit yourself as a parent to daily Lenten prayer. Whether you will try to pray more often with short prayers throughout the day or try a different type of prayer, your own prayer efforts as a parent in your family will be a model for your children.
Praying together as a family is a wonderful way to build your family relationship and celebrate the Lenten season. Make time throughout the day to pray together, including morning, mealtimes, and evenings. Join with other families to pray or invite extended family members to pray with you. Provide a variety of opportunities and include many forms of prayer.
Reading from and reflecting on Scripture is a way to seek the Lord during Lent. The Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah are traditionally used for meditation and prayer during Lent. Spend time as a family with Sacred Scripture and Bible study. You might also consider including lectio divina and visio divina practices to support reflection and contemplation with your family.
The Rosary is a Scripture-based prayer. Praying the Rosary creates a peaceful rhythm of prayer in which traditional prayers, represented by beads on the Rosary, are prayed and repeated. As the Rosary is prayed, we reflect on the events in the life of Mary and Jesus Christ, organized into Mysteries of the Rosary. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous. In Lent, Catholics often focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries, which include the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion. Pray the Rosary together as a family as you reflect on these Sorrowful Mysteries.
Stations of the Cross
This popular devotional Lenten practice commemorates Jesus’s passion and death on the cross. Though this practice began as a pilgrimage, it is now offered in most churches and can be prayed by individuals. It includes fourteen stations that recall or depict events along Jesus’ journey to Calvary often through art, prayer, meditations, and Scripture. Pray the Stations of the Cross during the Lenten season as a family, at your parish church, or at home.
Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence invite Catholic families to consider ways that they can turn to God with full hearts. Fasting and abstinence are both penitential practices, but they are different. During Lent, families can take part in these practices as they complete daily activities that remind them of Jesus’s sacrifice.
Fasting and Abstinence
Both fasting and abstinence are self-discipline practices with a penitential focus. Fasting means limiting the amount of food consumed. Abstinence means giving something up completely for a period. Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays, and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition to fasting, it is also a custom for Catholics to “give up” something during Lent. Giving something up for Lent is not a requirement of the Church but done by individual conscience. The purpose of fasting and abstinence is to make a personal sacrifice.
During Lent, Catholics are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, or donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. Choose a local organization or an opportunity that could use your family’s support. Coordinate with the organization to identify key needs that your family can safely help meet. Plan to contribute donations, time, or talents.
A Lenten Calendar
Mark each day of the season of Lent with a simple activity that supports you in your efforts to pray, fast, and give alms. Each of the child-friendly suggestions in the printable Lenten Paper Chain Activity allows children and their families to celebrate Lent daily. Build a chain that is forty links long, one link for each day of Lent, or add additional links with activities of your choosing. The final page of the printable includes blank links for your family’s own activity ideas.
Download and print the free Lenten Paper Chain Activity with instructions to assemble a Lenten paper chain in your home as you celebrate the season with Lenten prayers and practices. This paper chain can be completed at home with kids of any age.
Sacraments During Lent
In addition to prayers and practices, the Lenten season offers families a time for conversion and forgiveness. Celebrating the sacraments during Lent allows families to seek God’s grace and healing. Families can celebrate the sacraments together during Lent.
Lent is also a season to both seek and offer forgiveness. During Lent, Catholics are encouraged to perform an examination of conscience, go to confession, and experience God’s healing through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Through Lent, we are called to conversion, to turn to God as we faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Make time for all those in your family who have celebrated first Penance to attend a reconciliation service.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. When you attend Mass as a family during Lent, you’ll notice that the Gloria and the Alleluia before the Gospel are left out and the priest’s vestments are purple, symbolizing repentance. Many churches will offer daily Masses as well as Eucharistic Adoration. Make Mass a family Lenten priority. Participate in the Eucharist and visit the Most Blessed Sacrament together during Lent.
Lent is a time to renew our baptismal promises and welcome new members who will join the Catholic Church through the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults each year on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil. Recall and renew your baptismal promises as a family. Remember the Baptismal celebrations of your family members and what the sacrament means to each of you. If possible, engage in efforts to welcome new members of your Catholic community.
Begin or Build on Family Lenten Traditions Today
Lent is a season of expectation and an opportunity for Catholics to pray, fast, and give alms. In addition to your personal Lenten prayers and practices, support your family by learning about the liturgical season of Lent and celebrating together with family resources to enhance the celebration of the 40-day liturgical season of Lent.
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