Liturgical Living: A Minimalist Guide to Lent For Busy Moms
Q: I had a goal of doing more liturgical living with my family this year, but so far, it really hasn’t happened. I know Lent is coming up soon and I want to do SOMETHING, because I know it’s important, but I’ve got three kids under four and most days I feel like I’m barely managing regular life. Do you have any small, easy ideas for Lent in the home with kids?
A: I do! Because I’ve been there. It’s important to remember that part of the beauty of the liturgical year is that it’s always going to come around next year. Some weeks or months or years a pregnancy, or new baby, or illness, or tragedy, or upheaval of some sort is going to derail our best laid plans. And that’s okay. We can only do our best in the circumstances we have.
But I like your approach here, for a year you anticipate is going to be hard, to try to find SOME way to observe this important season, however small. It’s always easier to build little by little rather than to give up on the whole thing one year, and then try to start something big the next.
What’s officially required of Catholics for Lent is to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on Fridays.
Something to Do
In addition to the Lent requirements above, it’s customary to “give up something” for Lent. Many Catholics choose to “take up something” as well. (I’ve got a post about that here.) Some years might be right to really challenge oneself during Lent, other years are NOT going to be right for that. Our family has eventually been able to manage no sweets, snacks, tv, or video games during Lent, and reciting the Stations of the Cross as a family on Fridays. But it took a few years of false starts to get there.
A great starter sacrifice, that we have done in our home for over ten years now, is counting to forty after we say Grace, and before we eat. It doesn’t require any preparation, supplies, or special skills, and it’s something the whole family can do together.
At Easter, we switch over to one person saying, “He is risen!” And everyone else replying, “He is risen indeed!”
Something to See
After realizing how much my kids notice and remember Christmas decorations, I decided to try implementing decorations for other seasons of the liturgical year. After all, when we’re in the land of two naps a day, we end up around the house quite a bit. A purple tablecloth, some burlap cloth, a few rocks, a potted cactus or succulent, three BIG nails from the hardware store, are all simple, inexpensive ways to decorate a mantle or dining table for the season. And then every time I or my kids walk by, we get a quick reminder that it’s Lent.
At Easter, we switch it all out for some Easter lilies, and eggs and bunnies.
We also like to have a Lent countdown calendar up someplace so the kids can see how much longer it is until Easter, and maybe not pester me quite so much. You can use just about anything. Write the numbers one through forty on a piece of paper, and cross one off each day of Lent—Sundays not included. (Or grab this one I made.) You can make a slightly craftier version with clipart images taped to a door or wall, and remove one each day. You can even just use sticky notes! (But I’ve got one you can print and cut out here.)
Even if you think you’ve planned a bare minimum Lent, you might still have days when you fail. Then only thing to do is ask God’s pardon, dust yourself off, and try again. And remember the words of St. Francis de Sales: “Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.”