Ash Wednesday is just around the corner. If you’re Catholic, you’re probably looking for Lenten sacrifice ideas. If you’re not a Catholic, I’ll give you a quick run down: Lent is a season of spiritual introspection that takes place between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. During this time we take a look at our daily lives and identify where we are in our relationship to God. We look at what we can do to improve our relationship with God. Ideally, this relationship comes about through the spirit of Almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.
What are you giving up for Lent? This question floats around my family every February as much as “What do you want for Christmas” does in December.
In the beginning of Lent, we hold a family meeting around the table and discuss the season of penance and reconciliation leading up to Easter. Once we work out our Lenten Sacrifice, we write them down, then post them on the board as a reminder. I bless each of us (and our intentions) with Holy Water.
Lenten Sacrifice Ideas for the Whole Family:
A good place for younger kids to start their Lenten Sacrifice journey:
- No complaining about going to Church.
- Give up asking what time Church will be over.
- No pretending that it’s not Sunday morning or that Church is closed.
Older kids should examine themselves and attempt thinking of appropriate Lenten Sacrifice Ideas:
Once “I give up doing chores and homework” is ruled out, kids may come up with their own ideas.
- Finding and donating change found around the house.
- Doing an extra chore for money to donate to church, or doing an extra act of kindness for free.
- Reading an age-appropriate devotional book. My sister has a subscription to MagnifiKid (a kid’s version of the incredible Magnificat magazine) that I’m interested in trying out this year.
Ideas for Teens to Consider:
- Replacing secular music with a Christian (Christian Rock, etc.) playlist.
- Donating personal funds to church, or donating personal time to church or other community services.
- Getting more involved in teen events and classes in church.
- Cutting social media activity down (setting an alarm for a certain amount of time or only browsing on weekends).
- Reading an age-appropriate devotional book.
Contemplating your barrier to a deeper relationship with God
This is difficult and extremely personal quest. It requires a look inside to see what we’ve been filling ourselves up with. We’ve heard the phrases, “You are what you eat”, “Guilty by association”, and/or “You’re only as successful as your five closest friends”. The uncomfortable truth is: Even if I consider myself holy, if I’m taking in more sinful activities and thoughts than Godly ones, then I have strayed off the path to holiness. Lent is a good time to make a path back to the holy.
Even as adults, we have a hard time looking at our lives objectively. Here’s a helpful list of things to counteract as offered in Mark (7:14-23):
<Evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly>
We all harbor every one of these imperfections to some degree; pick one, and find a way to lessen it’s hold on you.
Offer a prayer for reparation of sin. For example: When you, those around you, and/or your shows use God’s name in vain, offer up this prayer to His Sacred Name, or simply say “Blessed be His Holy Name”.
Add a new prayer to your morning or evening routine. A Prayer for Daily Neglects is powerful because it forces you to examine yourself, and allows you to forgive yourself for shortcomings.
Take 10 minutes to yourself. Tell the family Goodbye (if they think you left, they might not look for you for 10 minutes). It sounds impossible, but it can work. It takes 1 minute to say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. I usually say them twice, just in case I wasn’t paying attention the first time. That leaves 8 minutes to meditate, or to just allow my body to let go of some tension.
Say the Daily Readings with your partner. A few Lents ago, we downloaded an App, Catholic Mass Times Church Directory. Among the many services it offers is the Daily Readings and Saint of the Day. My husband and I take a few minutes to read each night before bed. Sometimes we have interesting discussions about the readings. Every now and again we take the time to Google a definition, or a historical reference. Sometimes we look at each other and shrug, “I don’t get it.”
Read a devotional book. My personal favorites for this season are The Lamb’s Supper (The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn), and The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (one of the books The Passion of the Christ Movie was based off of). If reading a book cover to cover is intimidating, pick up a Lenten companion or journal (like Magnificat) for powerful daily insights.
As a mother of eight… sorry Husband, I keep forgetting not to count you… as a mother of SEVEN, I sometimes feel as if I am already doing more than I can do and stay sane. I get a little huffy when I think about adding something to my plate or giving up a comfort. For those of us that are at the point where we can’t give anything else: Do what you are doing with an extra dose of love in your heart (and attitude).
You may wonder why my Lenten sacrifice ideas don’t include giving up chocolate… Ideally, the small spiritual changes that we get into the habit of doing these 40 days of Lent can become lifetime habits. They become a new way of life for us that isn’t forced upon us, and no longer considered a sacrifice. This new life, the symbolism of Easter, is a gift more precious than even the largest basket of chocolate on Easter morning.