Lent one week at a time

girl ashesUnlike the church, which drapes itself in purple, bans “Alleluia,” and takes on a somber personality for 40 days, many families have difficulty carrying Lent’s theme of repentance for six weeks. Here is one Lent idea for each week:

Week 1: Help the poor. Go beyond simply mailing a check or dropping your canned goods in the back of church. Find an organization you support and drive there with your children and your family’s donation. Ask if the organization’s director can give you a tour and explain how the organization works.

Week 2: A rice and beans meal. Giving up meat on Friday isn’t a sacrifice if you have shrimp fettuccini. One evening, use a simple meal of rice and beans to teach your children that one in seven people in the world does not get enough to eat. Show your children photographs of poverty so they can build empathy. Continue reading

Walk this way

Asian girl holding mom's legAs Mass begins, a new crop of Christians-in-training processes into Our Lady of Mercy Church in what has to be one of the most moving ceremonies of the church year. They stand in the center aisle, facing their sponsors, who begin by tracing the sign of the cross on their foreheads as the priest prays, “It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of his love. Learn to know and follow him.” We pray as the sponsor crosses the catechumen’s ears, eyes, lips, shoulders, heart, and hands, ending with: “Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.”

A blessing of such beauty and power makes me wish that all Catholics could get one like it every year or two, to strengthen and focus our faith. Consider for a moment just the blessing of the feet. Let’s be concrete: Where might the way of Christ take my feet during the months ahead? To what places are our family’s calendar commitments actually bringing us? Continue reading

Try for a Lenten moment

girl ashesIf you’re feeling discouraged because your effort to give up chocolate was thwarted by the coworker who brought the birthday cake to work, don’t lose heart. Lent is not a pass/fail class. Rather, it is a journey of becoming closer to God through prayer, sacrifice, and generosity. Seeing Lent only as a 40-day block can prevent us from taking advantage of Lenten moments—opportunities that arise each day for us to deepen our relationship with God. Here are a few:

• Prayer. Between now and Easter, look for five minutes alone with your spouse. Face each other, hold hands, and ask your spouse what he or she is most worried about. Then together pray an Our Father, slowly, for that worry. Then do the same for your worry, followed by a prayer of gratitude from each of you.

• Generosity. Almsgiving is the traditional way to be generous during Lent, but generosity can be practiced in small moments throughout the day—flowers for a teacher, a plate of cookies for an elderly neighbor, a thank-you note to a priest who inspired you with a recent homily.

• Sacrifice. The strong among us are able to sustain a 40-day fast from sweets, chips, or alcohol during Lent, but the rest of us need to start small with our sacrifice. Try a focused, one- to three-day fast from something you truly enjoy, but for a purpose. Give up your afternoon Diet Coke for three days straight and pray for your oldest child. Skip sweets for a day and make a point to learn more about those areas of the world affected by hunger.

—by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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The Way of the Cross: A trip worth taking

Chevy Chase dragged his fictional family everywhere in the 1980s and 1990s, from European Vacation to Vegas Vacation. The hapless Griswold gang never made it to the Holy Land, but don’t worry—thanks to the Franciscans, they can still get a glimpse of it in spirit. The Stations of the Cross were devised by Franciscan priests to be snapshots featuring the Holy Land sites of Christ’s Passion. Also known as the Way of the Cross, the devotion conveys key Christian concepts pertaining to love and sacrifice. Among them:

1. Jesus and the way of perseverance. Jesus is unjustly condemned. How many times have we had that experience—as a mom or dad, a child, or a sibling? Because we see the value of certain limits, we as parents may be branded by our kids as “too strict” or “no fun” or “mean.” Perhaps friends misunderstand our parenting style, unfairly judging us. Continue reading

I can’t get no satisfaction

Behind my piano you will find a huge plastic tub housing approximately 82 Batman action figures; the Dark Knight and his villains all bristle with assorted weapons. Nearby waits a squad of 47 Star Wars figures and oh, half a million Lego pieces. The latter are assembled into complex dwellings, spaceships, and monsters, each with impossibly detailed instructions, also somewhere around the house. I didn’t mention the plastic World War II soldiers, nor the cowboys and politically incorrect Indians, all of whom deploy with the comic book and space heroes for occasional combat on the living room floor. Continue reading

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