Embrace Lenten Spirit with a Free Lent Calendar for Catholic Students
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 in your Catholic school community.
Download the Lenten Paper Chain Activity, a free printable resource for students in your Catholic school to use in class or at home. This resource becomes a paper chain, built as students complete simple, daily activity suggestions that help them celebrate the liturgical season of Lent with their classmates or families.
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 on 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 community to prayer with resources and opportunities. As the spiritual leader of your school, you can lead with prayer, offer daily prayer suggestions, invite faculty and staff or students and families to special prayer services, and provide support resources to help faculty and families with Lenten prayer efforts.
Though there are not specific prayers that must be prayed during Lent, there are some prayers that are not prayed during this season. For example, at Mass, Catholics do not pray the Gloria, nor the Alleluia before the Gospel. Consider sharing a favorite Lenten prayer with your community as a printed or electronic resource and inviting members of your community to share their own Lenten prayers. Here are some ways to rededicate yourself and your community to prayer during Lent.
Commit yourself to Lenten prayer. Whether you will try to pray more often with short prayers throughout the day or try a different type of prayer, personal prayer is essential to Lenten preparation. Your own prayer efforts as a spiritual leader will be a model for those in your school community.
Praying together is a wonderful way to build community and celebrate the Lenten season. Offer communal prayer opportunities in your community. Invite faculty, students, and families to join you in renewing your prayer life during Lent. You might help to set up a Lenten prayer circle or prayer group and invite faculty and families to participate. You might schedule prayer services for your entire community or groups within your school. 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. Encourage or offer resources for Bible study to teachers to support the integration of Scripture into the classroom during Lent. You might also consider including lectio divina and visio divina practices to support reflection and contemplation by staff, students, and families.
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.
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 remember or depict events along Jesus’s journey to Calvary often through art, prayer, meditations, and Scripture. Pray the Stations of the Cross during the Lenten season with members of your community.
Lent is a season of conversion. Catholics are called to consider ways that they can turn to God with full hearts. The Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence invite Catholics to sacrifice and seek balance in their lives as they prepare for Easter. Though these are personal practices, as a school leader, you can encourage the community to take part in daily activities for Lent that help them celebrate the season.
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 is 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. Lead your community in an almsgiving effort. Work with members of your community to identify an organization or an opportunity that could use your support. Coordinate with the organization to identify key needs that your community can safely help meet. Plan a community-wide effort to support this work to which you can invite families to contribute donations, time, or talents.
A Lenten Calendar
Help students and families mark each day of the season of Lent with a simple activity that supports them in their efforts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Each of the student-friendly suggestions in the printable Lenten Paper Chain Activity allows students of all ages to celebrate Lent daily. During the entire season, they can build a chain that is forty links long with daily activity suggestions or using their own, one link and activity for each day of Lent.
The free Lenten Paper Chain Activity includes instructions to assemble a Lenten paper chain. Individual classrooms or grades can complete and displayed in your community, or share with parents to use at home.
Three Lenten Paper Chain Activity Ideas for Directors
- Integrate the activity into a Lenten prayer service for your entire community. Distribute the activity to participating teachers and families. Begin a chain in an accessible, shared space in your community like a covered outdoor space or in a long hallway. Invite faculty and families to add to a shared Lenten chain in the space by attaching completed links to the shared chain throughout the season. (Have tape or a stapler near the chain.)
- Provide the activity to teachers to complete with the students in their classrooms. At the end of Lent, combine the paper chains in a final prayer service.
- Pass the activity on directly to your students and their families as a seasonal resource to support family faith formation at home during Lent. Provide some formation around Lent that builds on what students are learning at school. Invite families or older students to share photos of their Lenten paper chains to display on a virtual or physical bulletin board in your community.
Sacraments During Lent
Celebrating the sacraments as a community during Lent invites God’s grace and healing into your community. Encourage or provide opportunities for your faculty, staff, and students to 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. Offer your faculty and staff the opportunity to participate in a reconciliation service for your community if possible, and make time to celebrate the sacrament yourself.
Make Mass a Lenten priority for yourself and your community. Participate together in the Eucharist and make time to visit the Most Blessed Sacrament during Lent. Invite the students to notice the unique characteristics of Lenten Mass, like omissions of prayers and the priest’s purple vestments, symbolizing repentance. Make connections to what students are learning about 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. Encourage your community to recall and renew their baptismal promises, and if possible, engage in efforts to welcome new members of your wider Catholic community.
Begin or Build on 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 community as a spiritual leader by offering information, opportunities, and resources to faculty, staff, students, and families to enhance their celebration of the 40-day liturgical season of Lent.
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