The Lenten Season–
Prepare for Easter.
Lent is a 40 day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. The word Lent is from the Middle English “Lencten,” meaning spring. Its ecclesiastical name is in reference to forty days. The Latin root being Quadragesima, for ‘Fortieth’, as in 40 days that precedes Easter day.
Lent is notorious for being perceived as an unpleasant time of year. It has given many a reason to feel negatively about its arrival. Making Lent an enriching season with your family can be done and you may even find that you can grow to enjoy its arrival. Lent has always been a time to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for Easter. We have selected a few ideas to share with you for bringing Lent home in your domestic church. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover easy (and fun!) ways to have a fruitful Lenten season.
- Joseph of Nazareth: The Story of the Man Closest to Christ
- Mary of Nazareth
- Mother Teresa
- Passion of the Christ
- The Shroud of Turin
- Padre Pio: Miracle Man
- Les Misérables (Jean Valjean’s 20-year transformation from sinner to selfless giver is a great Lenten reflection.)
Family Resource Books
- Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter
- Through the Year with Jesus: Gospel Readings and Reflections for Children
- Bring Lent to Life: Activities and Reflections for Your Family
- Lent is for Children
- Welcome Risen Jesus: Lent and Easter Reflections for Families
- Celebrating a Holy Catholic Easter: A Guide to the Customs and Devotions of Lent and the Season of Christ’s Resurrection
- The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life
- Lent with Brother Francis
- O Lamb Of God, I Love You
- The Witnesses Trilogy
- Brother Francis: The Stations of the Cross
- The Prince of Egypt
- Lukas Storyteller: Saint Joseph
- Ben-Hur: Race to Glory
- Patrick: Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle
Books for older children
- Trouble with Lent
- Saint Patrick
- St. Patrick’s Summer: A Children’s Adventure Catechism
- The Thief Who Stole Heaven
Books for young children
- Listening For God: Silence Practice for Little Ones
- The Suitcase: A Story About Giving by Jane Meyer
- Mother Teresa: Seeing the Face of Jesus
- Jesus Speaks to Me about Confession
- Child’s Guide to Reconciliation
- The Monks Make Amends
- A Little Book about Confession for Children
Listen: Books and Music
Unlike Advent calendars Lent calendars are going to be very different each year. Keep this in mind when finding current year resources. There are many options for Lent calendars to use with your family. A simple count down of the days is this one to color each day: 40 days of Lent. Many families find that a countdown calendar that involves activities is a good way to keep children focused on the 3 Pillars of Lent: 40 Lenten Activities. Focusing on Scripture is another way to bring a Jesus centric season to your home. Set a Fire: The Holy Spirit Book for Kids! would be a good way to be interactive for children ages 6-12 and will work wonderfully in a home with multiple children.
Sacrifice Jar for Jesus
A simple jar and some beans is all you need for this Lenten activity. Place it on your prayer table or some place where all the children can see it and use it. When a child does a kind act or a small sacrifice or prayer, he/she can place a bean in the jar. The goal is to fill the jar for Jesus by Easter morning. On Easter morning all the beans are replaced with jellybeans as a treat for the children and their willingness to offer up kind acts/service.
This is another way to keep Jesus the focus of Lent by growing something that can become an Easter centerpiece. Growing your own miniature garden indoors during Lent is a good way to connect the lesson of spiritual blooming and Easter. Try making your own with these instructions from Ken’s Gardens. Their picture tutorial includes a list of supplies and an estimated timeline for allowing the grass to grow. Beginning this project about 3-4 weeks before Easter day for best results. Here is another Easter Garden using beautiful flowers and plants. Succulents can be used to make an easy to care for resurrection garden. If you love gardening and have plenty of space making a resurrection garden for outside can be beautiful. Many of these gardens use live plants. What if you may not have a green thumb or have the space or time to tend to a miniature garden? You can make these in single pots to fit in a windowsill or use moss instead of grass, make one in a wooden box or use craft foam and floral moss that can be reused each year or build one using some Legos. I encourage you to search for ideas that speak to you and your family. This family added little peg dolls to their garden, how adorable! As you will discover there are many options that will work for your family. Even printing out a beautiful piece of art depicting Calvary Hill would be another great option. Displaying a resurrection garden can provide a hands on way to talk about following Jesus, waiting for Jesus, then seeing and receiving Jesus through the season of Lent.
St. Joseph of Nazareth
The month of March is devoted to St. Joseph. Many communities celebrate by setting up St. Jospeh Day altars. They are a beautiful tradition from Sicily when St. Joseph brought relief to the people suffering from a terrible famine. While making a St. Jospeh’s Day (Italian Father’s day) altar at home may be a very new tradition to undertake perhaps look in your community to see if there are local parishes celebrating this tradition. Bringing Saint Joseph in to your home is a lovely way to reconnect with Jesus this Lent. Find an icon, statue, or image of Saint Joseph to display in your home. Need more ideas? Look at 12 Ways to Honor St. Joseph this March. For the little ones Be a Heart created an adorable Mary on the Mantle doll and now they have a Joseph doll to go along with her. The pair would be a welcome addition to any Catholic home.
As with the Advent wreath the Lent Cross can be an easy beautiful tradition to add to your domestic church. The tradition using your Christmas tree to make the cross is lovely but may not be possible for many of our families. Nowadays many homes have opted to use artificial trees making the traditional crafting tricky. This is where you can try the traditional route or create a special version of your own. I have seen many options that would make a meaningful display. Another option is to find a Lenten candle holder to become part of your tradition.
Way of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross devotion chronicles the last few hours of Jesus Christ’s life. This 14 step set of prayers is a way for us to walk with the Lord in a prayerful pilgrimage. Families can do this together in many ways. Catholic parishes will host Friday night Stations of the Cross events during Lent. Some will even offer a special child focused event. There are many resources to help you begin doing the Stations of the Cross with your children. Setting up a Stations of the Cross in your home or yard is another way to participate in this sacred devotion. Catholic Icing has an easy printable Stations of the Cross. There are many other ways to pray the Stations of the Cross at home.
The Lenten season is full of ideas of what to give up but what about what we should do? As Catholics we are called to give. Give our time, give our resources, give our love. Lent is the perfect time to find a family act of charity TO DO. We suggest looking for a local charity. Find one that has a mission that is near and dear to your heart. Setting up a collection jar in the home for a local charity is a good way for even the youngest children to give. If you have time offering your hands in service would be a terrific way to share your manpower. Local charities rely on volunteers to provide services giving your time is very needed in the community. Food insecure people are in every corner of the world. Starting in your own community is an excellent way to serve. A local food pantry may need help collecting food and assembling meal packs. There are women’s shelters in need of help to keep their doors open to provide a safe home for woman and their children. Animal Shelters always need help both with working with the animals and monetary donations. There are so many options. One example we will share is one that we have have been working on for the past few years. We began making Sleeping Mats for the homeless. This is a project that needs many hands which makes for a great family activity that can be worked on year round. (We linked to a group that has been providing these mats for years and includes basic instructions for making these mats. It is not affiliated with our parish.)
Following the Advent tradition of making a Jesse Tree and Jesus Tree is the Lenten version of a Bible study. As with the Jesse Tree for the Lenten Jesus Tree you use a tree, symbolic ornaments, and scripture to retell the Life of Jesus. It begins with the Nativity story and concludes with Easter. There are many variations based on how the sets are made. Now you can purchase some pre-made sets to use at home. Option from St. Brigid’s Academy, Option from Equipping Catholic Families, to make your own tree at home, Options for a kit from Catholic Sprouts or Elizabeth Clare.