SummaryGive up more than sweets with these 5 Lenten family projects and see how much lasting fruit you get in return. #5 may be hardest but could yield the most!!
Lent is a time to renew and deepen our faith, however, we often see it simply as a time to do without our favorite treat.
Even though self-control and sacrifice are important virtues for all Catholics, what if you could do more than just spend 40 days waiting to eat a basketful of chocolate on Easter Sunday?
What if, as a family, you could give up in a different way and be amazed at the lasting fruit you receive?
Beyond giving up chocolate and chips, here are some ideas to do as a family for a more fruitful Lent.
1. Lenten Prayer bouquets.
The call of Lent is to pray, fast, and give alms. Getting in extra prayer can be a challenge with a busy family. Also, it can difficult to show children the fruit that comes from prayer.
Since prayer is invisible, it is nice to give children a visual so they can see their efforts grow. That is the purpose of the prayer bouquets.
We have made these for various intentions in the past and are working on one for the Nineveh 90. A prayer bouquet is like a spiritual bouquet but is more visual. We take a large sheet of paper or posterboard, then draw a vase on the bottom middle. Out of the vase, we draw green stems. Then we cut out paper flower petals.
Each time someone says an extra prayer for an intention, he gets to glue a flower petal onto the board. Over the days, flowers develop, and soon you have a beautiful bouquet that was built by your family’s prayers.
You can all pray for the same intention, or each have your own. The important part is to get the family to pray more and see how beauty comes from prayer.
2. Jesus Tree
Every year, our family decorates a Jesse Tree for Advent. Did you know there is a similar devotion for Lent?
Instead of tracing the genealogy of Christ, it traces salvation history by showing the prophecies foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament as a way of preparing for the celebration of His resurrection.
Homegrown Catholics offers a free download of color your own ornaments. There is also a download of full-color ornaments available for only $5. Alternatively, you could just design your own.
Find some branches in your backyard and build this unique and fruitful Lenten decoration with your family.
3. Extra Mass or Holy Hour each week
While I was in college, I studied in Europe for three semesters. One of my favorite parts of being there was the old cathedrals that still had Mass said throughout the day, as well as beautiful adoration chapels available almost around the clock.
Having access to the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass so readily furthered my faith journey by leaps and bounds. I still miss having those opportunities, living out in a semi-rural small town where our parish is almost a half hour away.
Lent is a time to not only go without but to go deeper. The sacrifice of an extra hour (or half hour) each week will be multiplied in fruitfulness. Find a weekday Mass and/or time for adoration that works well for your family and make it a point to be there each week.
4. Giving to a charity from your sacrifices as a family
Giving up your morning latte? Eating dinner at home every night? Staying out of stores to give up shopping? Whatever sacrifices you are making, big or small, can add up to a big blessing for a charity of your choice.
Four years ago, our parish showed the movie Child 31 just before Lent. We were instantly changed and considered every purchase in terms of the meals it could buy. That year, our sacrifices took on new meaning. When we chose not to buy bagels on Tuesday mornings, we donated the money would have spent to Mary’s Meals and fed 80 children.
We skipped buying a snack while out, which was another 60 meals. We packed a lunch for a field trip, forwent shopping that great sale, borrowed that book from the library instead, got a drink of water from the fountain instead of juice from the vending machine, and emptied an online shopping cart–it all added up!
Best of all, we could see it because we had set out a jar to collect our donations. Suddenly our alms were coming truly from our sacrifice, and from our hearts.
Do you have a favorite charity? Make it a family project to go without this Lent so you can give more. You will be amazed at how little sacrifices can lead to big donations.
5. Pick a virtue to hone for Lent
It’s not all giving up, letting go, and doing without. One best practice to increase your fruitfulness this Lent is to increase virtues. Where are you struggling with the most in your faith journey? There’s a virtue for that.
Are you having trouble with sloth? Pursue industriousness. Do you have a hard time not losing your temper? Practice patience and kindness. Your whole family could work on one virtue, or each member could choose a different one.
This is by far the hardest project, but it is also one that will yield lasting and abundant fruit.
What are your plans for this Lent? How will you pray, fast, and give alms as a family?