This is the time when I begin planning. I look back at old Lenten posts on this blog for reminders of what has worked and not worked for our family.
It is time to think about the traditional ways we sacrifice during Lent:
more prayers, more alms-giving, and more fasting.
To expand on that easy catch phrase to remember, a priest (who chooses anonymity) has written the following summary of how we can achieve our goals during Lent.
1. VOLUNTARY AMENDMENT OF LIFE: Give up those things that you need to give up sooner or later, namely bad habits. Your goal here is to break a bad habit for ever and Lent is a good time to do it. Love your soul more than your body!
2. ACTS OF PENANCE: Perform some kind of penance. Your goal here is to train yourself to say "no" in little things so that you can say "NO" to big temptations later. You may resume doing the things you have given up here once Lent is over. Love your soul more than your body!
3. WORKS OF CHARITY: Perform some good and holy action(s). Your goal here is to strengthen your relationship with Christ and His Beloved Church. Ideally what you start here would continue in some way even after Lent is over. Love God more than yourself!
During this salutary season, one might choose a holy book to read over the course of Lent, such as "Introduction to the Devout Life," or any number of others. One might give up time listening to music or watching TV in order to listen to homilies online. A parent might increase the holy books read to the children, such as books about Lent, saint stories, the Bible, or books of virtue, such as "Angel Food for Girls and Boys."
Traditionally a family would pray the Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent. For families with older children, that might be done at the parish in community, sometimes even followed by an old-fashioned "fish fry." For those of us in the Early Years, we're more likely to pray the Stations at home due to little children's early bedtimes!
My children greatly appreciate a salt dough crown of thorns as a physical manifestation of their sacrifices for Jesus. Of all the gimmicks I've tried, the physical creations I've made to help the children understand Lent, this one has remained the absolute best.
This season is time to get back to Confession, especially if one is not in the regular habit of going. (In fact, Canon Law requires us to go once per year.) And are we all remembering to take our children of sacramental age? (It's easy to forget them!)
For my local parishioner friends . . . the parish is going to launch a really wonderful, mortifying program which your family may want to join for Lent! Watch for an announcement in next week's bulletin!
Lastly, keep in mind that you may prepare for Lent in a neat and orderly fashion, all your self-selected sacrifices carefully chosen by yourself . . . but God may chose to give you some sacrifices and suffering of His own choosing (like ours in 2012)! The Church has shown through the lives of the saints again and again that accepting a suffering from God is more worthwhile even than choosing our own voluntary suffering, so be on the lookout simply to accept God's providential will. (I say this to myself most of all, as I have almost no spiritual 'muscle' strength in this area!)
I'd like to highlight a beautiful Lenten Pocket Calendar by Mancipia Press (Saint Benedict Center). I believe that one still has time to sign up free to receive one by Ash Wednesday.
The inspiring text is not available to copy and paste from online, so, for those who aren't going to receive this calendar by mail in time for Lent, I typed out the text from the 2012 calendar here, in purple:
Your 2012 Lenten Calendar
This pocket-size Lenten Calendar is to help you make a profitable forty-day period of prayer, penance, and spiritual exercises in preparation for the proper celebration of Easter.
The Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts:
1. Corporal or External Fast, including abstinence from certain foods, drinks, and amusements, i.e., music, and parties during Lent. These points of fast should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society.
2. Spiritual or Internal Fast which consists of abstinence from "all evil"--sin. Saint John Chrysostom taught that the "value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices." Saint Basil the Great explains: "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying, and swearing. To abstain from these things--herein lies the true value of fast!"
3. Spiritual Change achieved by the practice of virtues and good works must be the main objective of our fasting. The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the faithful attend the Lenten church services and daily Mass.
In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes. Today, unfortunately, the observance of Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress on one's spiritual growth or amending of one's life style. [bolding mine]
It is urgent that we return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world.
You may use this calendar to mark your progress in spiritual and corporal practices.
Listed below are suggested practices that may be used along with your usual Lenten family traditions of sacrifices and penances.
Corporal or External Practices
a. Take less of what you like and more of what you dislike at meals today.
b. Take nothing to drink between meals.
c. do not use seasoning on your food today.
d. Do not use any sweeteners with your food or drinks today.
e. Avoid listening to the radio at all today.
f. Take nothing to eat between meals today.
g. Avoid any T.V. or videos; instead read the Passion of Christ in your Bible or missal.
h. Take only one helping of each item at meals today.
i. Say an extra Rosary.
Spiritual or Internal Fast Practices
a. Don't do any unnecessary talking; instead, say little ejaculations throughout the day.
b. Exercise your patience today in all things.
c. Don't make any complaints today.
d. Restrain any anger, and go out of your way to be kind to the person who caused your anger.
e. Don't be distracted with someone else's business.
f. Avoid any gossip today; instead say an extra Rosary to overcome this great fault.
g. When asked to do something extra, do so with a joyful and pleasant attitude today.
h. Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone today.
i. Avoid using the phone today.
j. Tell the truth in all your dealings today.
k. Avoid any vanity or self-seeking today.
Spiritual Practices (virtues and good works)
a. Practice humility today in all your actions.
b. Be generous today; help someone in need.
c. Look for ways to be helpful throughout the day.
d. Do a job that needs to be done without being asked.
e. Be courageous; walk away from any impure situations today.
f. Don't be idle at all today. Always be doing something for others or for your spiritual growth.
g. Go out of your way today to help or talk to someone who is usually difficult.
h. Volunteer for an extra job today.
i. Say an extra Rosary today for the conversion of a sinner.
j. Visit someone who is sick or lonesome today. Offer to say the Rosary with them.