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Living Lent As A Family

Author: Birgitte Carlsson

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Living Lent As A Family

Creatively finding more space for God during Lent in families can help form good habits for Eastertide and beyond, says Birgitte Carlsson.

Each liturgical season carries with it a special grace, something I have become even more aware of during the many years I spent training to be a catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
 
For us as a family, Lent is a time when we try to make more space for God in different ways. We make our Lenten promises, which remain within the family.
 
The reason we share them is to be accountable to each other.  It also helps to know what people have given up, so that you don't serve it to them!
 

Forming Good Habits

It's a good season to start a habit that will hopefully carry on during Eastertide. So we have decided not to be on the screen every evening for an hour, as well as all of Sunday, except when we watch something together as a family.

Instead we try to do something together in the sitting-room, like playing boardgames. And if we are not doing something together, at least we are in the same room: drawing, reading, building LEGO or playing puzzles.

Throughout the year we try to pray together as a family every evening, more or less straight after dinner. We usually pray a decade of the rosary, interceding for someone we know, who has asked for, or needs, prayer.
 
We have not yet found a Lenten theme for our family prayer, but it could be that we focus on interceding for persecuted Christians around the world, using the Aid to the Church in Need newsletter as inspiration.
 
We also try to include a prayer for the tremendous work of Mary's Meals, when we pray grace before family meals. We have a collection box for Mary's Meals in the kitchen, in which we all put tithe money.
 

"It Must Be God!"

During Lent, we try to focus on Scripture. On our kitchen door hangs a homemade Lenten calendar, with space each day for a card with a Scripture verse from one of the readings of the day-also homemade by some of the older children, back in the days when we used to home-school.

Our youngest enjoys getting out the appropriate card every morning, and putting it on the calendar with some blue-tack. It's an unfinished project, so I'm hoping that some of the children will write the missing cards when we need them-but it may end up being me!
 
On our dinner table stands a little box full of Ann Voskamp's Lenten 'People of the Cross' cards, beautifully designed with religious paintings adorning each daily card.
 
Instead of going through them methodically day by day, we each pick one out of the box at random, when we feel prompted. One of my daughters is often surprised and shocked by the appropriateness of the card she has picked, exclaiming: 'It must be God!'
 

Films and Tapping Into Lenten Graces

My husband Niklas and I try to find more time to listen to Bible in One Year, with Nicky Gumbel, during the week, and as a family we watch various biblical films, saving the passion scenes for Holy Week.

Last year, I watched the Easter film The Passion of the Christ  early on Good Friday morning as dawn broke. I have a feeling I may have company this year, as it was quite an experience. 
 
You may, by now, have noticed the recurring word 'try'. Having spent years being overambitious in accomplishing Lenten activities, we have now become slightly more realistic.
 
As a mother, I find it my duty to ensure that things do not become so relaxed as to risk Lent passing by, without tapping into the graces. However, there are some things which can be difficult for families to accomplish with young children, or children with special needs, like The Stations of the Cross, and the whole Triduum.
 
After all, the important thing is what happens in the heart, ensuring we do not end up like Pharisees, feeling proud of all our achievements.
  • Birgitte is married to Niklas and they have six children, aged 9 to 23. They have been members of Cor et Lumen Christi Community for over 20 years, and live in an old convent in Wigton, Cumbria.

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