Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Living Lent Inside and Out

Lent is upon us.

Once again, we have a chance as parents not only to teach our children but show our children what our faith means. While in it’s methods, Little Flowers (and all Behold the Child programs) want to teach our children the beauty of the truths of our faith, we also want to show them.

Lent is a wonderful time to show our children how to prepare themselves for Easter by our own actions. Unlike Advent, when the preparations for the feast have an inherent joy to them and the family gathers around the Advent wreath and manger on the mantle, Lent is often ‘done alone’ and we might not think about making it a family event.

We can take the verse of Matthew 6:6 to heart: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

It is from Matthew 6, in fact, that we get our Lenten admonitions to pray, sacrifice and tithe. And these admonitions even come with the familiar caveat: "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

This can make us feel that what we do for Lent we should do without anyone knowing - including our own family and children. However, we must keep this verse in proper context; while we do not want to announce in the streets what we are doing, we are required as parents to teach our children what Lent means. Teach them and show them. Let them see you pray, see you sacrifice and see you tithe. Let them see you doing all of this with a spirit of joy and happiness throughout Lent. Continuing with Matthew 6 we have "do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”

Some suggestions:

*Make plans to take your group to the Stations of the Cross together.

*Show them the Liturgy of the Hours and teach them ‘how to pray’ it.

*Do a fundraising event or canned food drive for your church’s food pantry.

*Decide as a group to forgo TV or another child-appropriate sacrifice in unity with each other; perhaps gathering for a book club discussion (might we suggest one of “Glory of America” books) instead.

*Have a pizza party (cheese only) one Friday at a local senior citizens’ center or home and stay to play games or watch a movie with them.

The goal of these suggestions being to make Lent not so much what you are doing ‘in secret’ but what you are doing to bring Christ to all people.

If you have older children (over 12 yrs.), Lent might be a great time to introduce them to the Honor Guard. This program was developed with an apostolic zeal helping our children take their faith to the streets. Not in a manner to gain public acknowledgement but rather to help them in fulfilling the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. The Honor Guard can be done by both boys and girls, you can even have them working together.

For these older children, Lent needs to become more than giving up candy and the computer. Helping them see that their faith requires action is vital not only for them but for the world. As you read Matthew 6 to your children to prepare them for Lent, be sure to read James 2 where they will be reminded, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Be assured of our prayers this Lent, may you and your families grow in love and in holiness.

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