Lent is fast approaching and I am prayerfully discerning how to observe it this year. Most years I am guilty of trying to do ALL the things, this year it is really on my heart to keep it simple. I really want to focus this Lent on creating practices in our home that can be fruitful for Lent, but can also become family rituals that continue to draw us closer to each other and Christ through out the year. Many years I have adopted a practice that I quickly dropped on Easter morning, or fasted from something to draw closer to Christ only to return to it hot and heavy the second lent wraps up. This year I would love to use the season of Lent to establish some habits that I plan to continue for myself, as well as one or two for my family.
Here are a few ideas that I think could make wonderful Lenten commitments that could also be continued in different ways throughout the year. If you are looking to cultivate some new family faith rituals and traditions there might be one that would be a great fit for your family. Before you read on, REPEAT AFTER ME: This list is a menu, not a checklist! They are all good practices, but that does not mean that they are all good practices for you, right now, in this current season. Remember the goal is to draw closer to Christ during this time.
- Consistent Family Prayer– This is the main Lenten commitment for our family this year. We do really well during Advent with the Jesse Tree, but do not have a good evening prayer ritual that we do consistently. It has been on my heart for while to become more disciplined in this area.
- Go on a Family Pilgrimage– I know this might sound a little out there, but a pilgrimage is simply, a journey to sacred place. I think it would be a wonderful tradition to make a pilgrimage each Lent, or even several times a year. You could take a pilgrimage to your diocesan cathedral, a historic church in your area, a shrine of Saint or even just a parish in the area that you have never visited. Devote a day to spending time together as a family to explore an unknown holy place. It doesn’t have to be a long trip to count.
- Family Adoration– Pick a time weekly and commit to visiting an adoration chapel as a family. If you have littles, start small, just 5 or 10 minutes to practice sitting quietly. Explain ahead of time what they may see and your expectations. I have friends who start with a family prayer and then have religious books or coloring pages for their children to work on quietly. If your parish has assigned holy hours consider visiting during a time that someone you know is making an hour to help ease your own worries about disturbing others.
- Set Sunday Apart– Consider how you can keep holy the sabbath as a family. Maybe you want to institute “Screen-free Sundays” and fast from electronics as a family. Use the extra time to play games or visit a park. You could avoid shopping or doing household work/chores. You might want to plan a special Sunday supper to signify the importance of the day and gathering as a family. I love the idea of cooking a nicer meal and decorating the table, you could even light some candles
- Decorate for the Lent– Decorating for the liturgical season can help keep you drawn into the season. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You could place a candle that coordinates with the liturgical season out to light during evening prayer, or set out prints or banners that remind you of the season.
- Play lent inspired music– Music can really set the tone of a home. If you already listen to Christian music create a playlist of your favorites to play as you cook dinner or in the car. If you are new to the genre try listening to a Christian radio station to find some favorites. Check out Spotify for playlists that are specific to the liturgical season. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the feel you are looking for.
- Cultivate Community- Make an intentional effort to cultivate relationships with others. Invite friends or neighbors over for happy hour or dinner. Think about people that you might like to get to know better, or who may be in need of companionship. Start a rosary club and invite families or other mom’s over to pray. Consider starting a book study or walking club with the focus on sharing life and growing in faith.
- Weekly Family Rosary (or Decade)– Dedicate one evening a night to praying the rosary together as a family. Again, if you have littles, start small with just one decade, and don’t get to hung up on how still or holy they act.
- Christian Read-Alouds– Choose a chapter book, or a handful of picture books to read during Lent that are faith based. My kids enjoy The Chime Travelers, The Imagination Station and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Series. They also enjoyed this beautifully illustrated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. We haven’t read the Narnia series yet, but I am hoping to when they are a little older.
- Prayer Walks- Start a habit of taking an evening stroll together and incorporate prayer into the outing. Practice gratitude and take turns praising God for all the blessings around you and from the day. Pray a prayer of blessing over your neighborhood or community, or pray a decade of the rosary as you walk.
- Practice Small Sacrifices– We are all accustom to giving up something for Lent, but the habit of denying ourselves can be a good one to practice year round. Using sacrifice beads are a great way to track small sacrifices that you are choosing to offer up. Offer up the dishes that you get up and do instead of scrolling like you want to, or pass on another cup of coffee and offer it up. I plan to use sacrifice beads to help me track little day to day sacrifices. Here’s a tutorial for making sacrifice beads. Another way to do this with children is to use a jar of “sacrifice beans”. Set out a jar of dry beans and encourage family members to move a bean to another jar every time they willing make a sacrifice. You can then turn the sacrificed beans into jelly beans on Easter morning! You could also use the Lent Bingo Board I created to challenge your family to black out the board by the end of Lent. I’m including one version with prompts and one that is blank so you can tailor it to fit your family.
- Try a new form of prayer– There are so many forms of prayer you could commit to trying a new form of prayer for Lent. Try saying a Divine Mercy Chaplet or Novena, if you never have. You could also try some form of journaling or written prayer. I’ve found myself really drawn to breath prayers, I want to pick one to practice throughout Lent. A breath prayer is simply a phrase or scripture that you say part of with an inhale and then the rest with an exhale. Such as: breath in- Jesus, breath out- I trust in you. I think this simple centering form of prayer could be very powerful.
Here are some downloads that you might find handy this Lenten season:
Lent Planning Page
Lent Prayer Cards
A printable Lent banner
No matter how you choose to observe Lent in your home, I pray it is fruitful!