Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent Plans and Activities

I've spent the last few weeks mulling over what my family would be doing for Lent this year.  I tend to over-plan these things, and try to do too much!  So hopefully I can keep it simple this year and keep the focus where it needs to be...

Lenten Spiral
Before Advent, I purchased the "Advent to Lent" spiral from Ann Voskamp's son Caleb. It is such a beautiful piece!  My daughter and son really enjoyed using it, so we will take it out again and replace the wooden Mary (on the donkey) with the Jesus (carrying the cross) figure and add the extra pieces to make it a 40-day path.   I am really looking forward to continuing this new tradition that we began last Advent!  I especially like the way that using the spiral ties in the two "preparation" seasons in the liturgical year.

Friday Soup and Stations/Taize Prayer
Creative Commons licensed image
When my son switched Catholic schools last fall, we also switched parishes.  It's been fun discovering the traditions and customs of our new parish!  I discovered that every Friday, our new parish has a "Soup and Prayer Event."  They serve a simple meatless soup and bread dinner beginning at 5:45 p.m., then invite the parishioners to stay for Stations of the Cross or Taize prayer.  (They alternate; one week they pray the stations, the next week they do a Taize prayer.)  I hope to participate in this every week.  I'm especially excited about the Taize prayer nights; I've wanted to try that for many years.

Spiritual Reading
During school time, my daughter and I will be reading Amon's Adventure: A Family Story for Easter by Arnold Ytreeide.  During past Advent seasons, we read and enjoyed two of Ytreeide's other books:  Bartholomew's Passage and Jotham's Journey. 

I love the way these books mix history, geography and the story of Jesus' life from the eyes of a adolescent living during that time.  It almost feels like you are there, sharing the experiences.

As a family, we will be reading A Family Journey with Jesus through Lent: Prayers and Activities for Each Day by Angela M. Burrin.  This book is somewhat similar as fictional children from Nazareth, Capernaum, Cana and Jerusalem describe their lives and tell what it was like to live during Jesus' time.  Each daily reading is about four pages long and includes a child's narrative story (based on an actual Bible passage), a scripture memory verse, a prayer, and a section where Jesus "speaks" to the reader about that day's reading. Each reading is built around a theme, which is indexed in the back of the book.  (The themes could be a wonderful way to add even more meaning to Lent!)

The back of the book also includes suggestions for possible Lent activities like having a "family Saturday service day" or being a "secret Simon of Cyrene" and offering a kind gesture to another family member. 

This looks like a great book that we will be re-using every year!

Stations of the Cross
For those Fridays when we aren't able to attend our parish's Soup/Stations event, I plan to use our "Stations of the Cross" prayer gems which I created last year. 

I also plan to occasionally use the "Stations of the Cross" app on my Kindle Fire, just to try something new!

Operation Rice Bowl
Catholic Relief Services offers a wonderful family project for Lent called "Operation Rice Bowl."  If you aren't familiar with it, it's a great way to mix a bit of geography with Catholic social teaching while following the three goals of Lent (prayer, fasting and almsgiving).

Every year they focus on six different countries they serve.  This year, the focus is on Madagascar, Vietnam, El Salvador, Zambia, India and the U.S. Diocese of Arlington.  Each week, your family can read a story about a family in one of the countries, then make a simple themed meatless meal from that country.  There are also a variety of activities that can be done at home like making Lenten Prayer Eggs or watching an online slide show about the designated country.  Families can also use CRS' Lenten calendar to inspire daily prayers or set Lenten goals for your family.

I know that one of the reasons my son loves studying geography is because we participated in Operation Rice Bowl when he was younger.  I'm glad our new parish is involved with the program and look forward to doing country projects and lenten activities designed around this year's featured countries. 

Making a Prayer Space
We had a designated "prayer corner" in our home when my son was younger, but it was a corner with a tiny shelf that we outgrew and eventually re-purposed for something else. I want to take some time this Lent to create an inviting new prayer space in our home.  I've been eyeing a corner in our carpeted basement family room that would be perfect because we don't have a TV or any electronic devices downstairs.  Now I just need to do some thrift store shopping for a comfy chair and a small table to hold our Bible, crucifix and an electronic candle.  I'm looking forward to having a quiet place to read because one of my own personal Lenten goals is to relax with an inspirational/religious book instead of the TV each night!

During our morning prayer time, I hope to teach my daughter some of the Lenten songs I learned as a kid, like O Sacred Head Surrounded, Were You There?, All Glory Laud and Honor, and the Stabat Mater Dolorosa in English.  My personal goal will be to learn the Stabat Mater Dolorosa in Latin.  (Or more realistically, at least one verse of it in Latin!)

Hope your Lent is filled with prayer!

Would you like more ideas on how to observe Lent?  Check out these Link-ups, which are filled with inspiring ideas! 

Catholic Icing's Lenten Link-up

Explore and Express' Celebrating Lent Link-up

 Equipping Catholic Families  Festival of Lent Links


  1. Hi Cheryl, The Advent to Lent spiral is breathtaking! Also, your prayer gems are so creative. If I have time, I will do those for Easter Club this year. Thanks so much for linking up to Celebrating Lent!

  2. Cheryl, you've got great Lenten plans. I love those prayer gems!! thanks for the reading resources. :)

  3. I just love your Station gems, Cheryl! Here's a fun award for you. Wishing you a peaceful and Holy Lent!

  4. Thanks for joining our Lenten link-up! I really like your idea of a Lenten-initiated prayer space at home *and* the devotional reading instead of tv.