I feel like Lent has really snuck up on me this year. I've been waiting for it, but I'm just not ready for it. For the past two weeks I've been meaning to put a Lent post together and this is evidence that I clearly didn't get the job done as quickly as I would have liked.
Read on to see how we will be celebrating Lent this year.
To start, the girls will be participating in Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure. It was a hit last year and we're looking forward to doing it again. I can't say enough good things about the amazing program they put out. Best of all it's free! You can't argue with that. I highly recommend signing up for the Lenten Adventure. Not only will your kids learn a lot, you might learn a few things, too.
We will have a bean jar for the kids in the kitchen. Anytime they perform a good deed they will place a bean in the jar. On Easter morning the beans will be replaced with a colorful jar of yummy jelly beans. This is a Lenten practice that motivates the girls to perform as many good deeds as they can so they can earn as many jelly beans as possible.
The Merciful Cross is a great idea that I got from Kimberlee at Pondered in My Heart last year. We tried it out last year and it was a great way for the children to learn the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. You can see pictures of our merciful cross from last year here.
We also will be doing another sacrifice garland. For this craft/decoration everyone in the family traces his or her hand on brown paper and cuts it out. Then, we glue a heart cut out of red construction paper to the palm of the hand print and write our Lenten sacrifice on it. To make a garland, I simply cut two slits in each hand cut out and string it on to a ribbon. The above referenced post from last year also includes this craft.
To further encourage our girls to make sacrifices and to perform good deeds, we make strings of good deed beads. These good deed beads also double as a one decade rosary. We like to use these when we do a decade a day during the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure. My tutorial on making your own string of good deed beads can be found here.
Lacy at Catholic Icing created a great Lenten calendar that my girls will use again this year. I give them the option of either coloring it all at once or coloring one day at a time. I just make sure that they color each day the proper liturgical color. The girls get excited when they discover a solemnity on a space that they thought was going to be purple. In the case of solemnities, we try to do something fun on those days (usually a special treat).
This year we're adding a new Lenten practice, a Jesus Tree. I was inspired by the posts about this neat tradition that I found on Jessica's blog Shower of Roses. In the past week, I have acquired the felt kit to make the Jesus Tree and a children's bible that contains most, if not all of the readings for each of the 47 symbols. The kit is a lot of work, but I think it will be worth the effort. If anyone would like me to send them the file with the patterns for the ornaments just drop me an email. I was quite surprised when I opened the kit and saw that they ask you to copy the pattern for your reference and also to share with others. It's not often you see something like that these days!
So how about Lenten reading? I have a few books that are on my reading list for Lent. Once again I will be reading Fr. Longenecker's Gargoyle Code. It's written in the tradition of the Screwtape Letters and has an entry for every day of Lent starting with Shrove Tuesday. It's a great read. I'll also be delving into Magnificat's Lenten Companion. I thoroughly enjoyed last year's version and I'm looking forward to this year's. I recently had the opportunity to review Wondrous Encounters and The Little Way of Lent. Both have great reflections for Lent based on the Mass readings. Of the two, The Little Way of Lent is the one that speaks to me. And let's be honest, there's only so much Lenten reading I can do. I will likely rotate through the three books which reflect on the Mass readings for the day.
I'm a big fan of Busted Halo's website and their Lenten calendar. As if their calendar alone isn't enough, you can even win prizes. If I recall correctly, there's a daily prize, a weekly prize and a grand prize.
We also will have one of Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl collection containers sitting in our kitchen. By following their informative Lenten calendar, you can learn about those who are living in impoverished countries. Most days on their calendar have interesting factoids and there are several prompts for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You can even sign up for weekly reflections on their website (referenced above). My girls, who simply adore putting money in collection containers, really like gathering up coins to pop in the rice bowl container.
As Lent progresses, I'll be posting some of the crafts I'll be doing with my children and the students in my religious education classes. I simply love to do all sorts of fun crafts during Lent. Something about Lent just inspires me to be crafty.