The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe. — Pope Benedict XIV
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What is Lent
Lent is a 40 day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. It’s a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter.
For Christians, Lent is a time, 40 Days, of sacrifice, where we omit vices and recommit our lives to God. We are no different. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving are the three pillars of a spiritually fruitful Lent and we challenge ourselves to find new ways of exercising our Lenten practices in order to draw closer to God during this holy season.
What is the Significance of the Number 40?
The Bible if rife with periods of 40, in fact, any time period that consists of the number 40 is significant. They routinely begin with great acts of trial and tribulation but culminate in God’s transformation.
“For forty days and forty nights heavy rain poured down on the earth.” Genesis 7:12
“The Israelites ate the manna for forty years, until they came to settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the borders of Canaan.” Exodus 16:35
“So Moses was there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten words.” Exodus 34:28
“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” (Mt 4:1-2)
“He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days* and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3
40 Days of Lent
Many amazing transformations have happened in a span of 40 days, 40 years. The great gift we as Christians have been given in our own annual 40 day span of Lent is that we can not only transform ourselves, but the world around us, through prayers, fasting and almsgiving, as these are an important part of repentance and renewal.
Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday or commonly as Mardi Gras, is the day before Ash Wednesday and the last day of Ordinary Time before Lent begins. Fat Tuesday is a time of celebration. It is typically a day when Catholics celebrate with friends and family and eat indulgent foods before the following day, Ash Wednesday, kicks off Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics receive ashes, created from palms used during the previous year’s Palm Sunday, in the shape of a cross on their forehead. These ashes symbolize the season of penance and remind us all of our own mortality…”remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Fasting for 40 Days
Fasting is most likely the most recognized aspect of Lent. Fasting is the process of giving something up to cultivate our inner life. When we fast, say from coffee, we suffer and suffering produces the fruit of dependence on God. Typically, Catholics will take stock of their lives and look for ways to grow, and then commit ourselves to becoming better by eliminating bad habits or a crutch.
Dan has given up energy drinks in the past, something he relies on as much as we all rely on oxygen. I typically give up sugar as it’s my crutch. As for the kids, they are surprisingly good at recognizing difficult sacrifices and going all in.
Lent is much more than simply sacrificing and suffering. Lent is a time of preparation, a time to come together as a familyand prepare for the resurrection of Jesus. And as such, over the years, we’ve adopted a few family Lent Traditions…
Praying as a Family
We make a habit of praying as a family, from morning prayer to evening prayer, the rosary and more, but during Lent we make a concerted effort to pray specific intentions for loved ones, strangers and anyone we know of who needs our prayers. Some of you may have seen our St. Valentine vlog, KelloggShow Valentine Vlog, in it we talked about how we made a prayer vase in which we place pieces of paper, shaped as hearts, with names of friends, family, priests, politicians, special intentions, etc and add to it continuously throughout the month of Feb.
Well, we’ve added this tradition to our Lenten practices now. Each night we choose a heart or two and pray for the person or special intention on that paper.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross offer an opportunity to truly reflect on the walk Jesus made to Calgary.
The practice of praying the Stations of the Cross has been employed for over 1000 years and is a popular devotion for Catholics during Lent. Fourteen stations in all, each portrays an important moment during the Passion. We make a concerted effort to participate in the Stations every Friday evening throughout Lent, especially during Good Friday.
A few years ago, we made our own Resurrection Eggs.
Resurrection Eggs are a simple teaching aid that contain different religious Easter symbols inside to help kids learn the Easter story. My kids love being able to touch the eggs and open them to reveal an item and a bible verse. They can pretty much recite the verses on their own now.
The link above gives all the details, from ideas of what to put in the eggs to the corresponding bible verses. There is also a link to a fantastic book, Benjamin’s Box, The Story of The Resurrection Eggs … check it out, we love it!
And finally, there is the pretzel. The pretzel, believe it or not, has a deep spiritual meaning for Lent. Why? How can the same food served at bars have spiritual meaning? Well, it dates as far back as the 4th century!! Back in the Roman Empire, the faithful kept a very strict fast throughout all of Lent. They ate no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat and drank no milk!!
They made small breads from water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer and sacrifice.
There are many stories recanting how the pretzel was born. One story claims a monk saw children in prayer and shaped this bread in the form of crossed arms.
Regardless of it’s true origins, the pretzel still is made in the form of arms crossed in prayer, reminding us that Lent is a time of prayer. It consists only of water and flour, thus proclaiming Lent as a time of fasting.
Here is a fabulous pretzel recipe that you can make with your children and even adopt as one of your family’s Lent Traditions.
Soft Pretzel Recipe~ What you need:
- 1 package yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 4 cups flour
Mix your yeast, water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, and knead until the dough is smooth. Shape into the form of arms crossed in prayer and place it on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with salt, and bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Please share your ideas, what you do with your family, your traditions, and any special things you do to bring Lent to life for your kids. Feel free to post links to your blogs or your website in the comment section below. God Bless you all, have a very focused Lenten Season and a Glorious Easter!