It’s that time of year again. Lent is a time where we become more intentional, less concerned about ourselves, and more willing to reach out to others. It may involve stepping out of our comfort zones, but that’s not usually a bad thing. Forty days is the perfect amount of time to form good habits that may stick with you for the rest of your life.
So why not make this Lent a time to bring your family closer together? Whether you’ve got toddlers, teenagers, grandchildren, or everyone in between, it’s never too late to start something new. Here are a few simple things that you can do with your family to make this Lent more meaningful, and bring you a little closer together.
1. Read the daily Mass readings during breakfast
Going through the readings of the day are a great way to reflect on Scripture, and there's no better time than early in the morning. If you haven't gotten a prayer time in that morning, why not read the Gospel out loud while your kids are finishing their cereal and buttering their toast? Give them something to reflect on before they go off to school.
We also highly recommend listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz Bible in a Year Podcast. Take this opportunity during this Lenten season to dive deeper into the story of Salvation. You can sign up here.
2. Cut down on your grocery bill
We all know how quickly all those food items add up at the till. If you find yourself spending $300 during a usual grocery shop, take out a few things and try to keep it under $200. You can donate the money you saved to a local charity. Choosing to eat simpler meals is a great way to relate with the poor.
3. Pray together in the evening
Taking the time to pray as a family is one of the best gifts you can give to your children. It might be difficult at first, but find a time that works for you and stick with it. Don't get discouraged if you miss a few nights. Lent is a great time to try, fail, and try again. Don't be afraid to start small, even if it's just an Our Father and a prayer for grandma and grandpa. Let your kids take turns leading the prayer times and see if they could do a little faith sharing on something they read, or heard or learned that day.
If you want additional practical ideas to pray together with your family check out 6 Simple Tips for Teaching Kids How to Pray during Lent.
4. Go to daily mass at least once a week
Most parishes have Mass not just on Sundays, but everyday. Find out where daily Mass is in your community, and pick a time that works best for you. Don't worry about your kids making noise or their hair not being combed. Just being there is a beautiful thing.
5. Write each other little notes of encouragement
If you've never never placed a little note on your child's pillow or stuffed one in their lunch box, then this is a good time to start. Tell them how proud you are of them, that you love them, that you're praying for them...
6. Clean out your closets and donate the clothes
We all have clothes that never make the morning cut. They've probably been hanging in the back of the closet for years without making it out the front door. Instead of having them collect dust, give them away to someone who really needs them.
Here's a challenge for those of you who really want to go the extra mile: Whenever someone compliments you on something you have, either a purse, clothes, toys, movie, tools, whatever.... surprise them on the spot or in the mail and gift them with the same item.
7. Make a pilgrimage to a nearby Cathedral or shrine
You'd be surprised how many little shrines and chapels are within a 100 mile radius of your community. Do a google search, or ask the people in your parish community if they know of any holy sites in your area. Choose a day to take your kids on a mini pilgrimage. You don't have to spend the whole day. Just take an hour to walk around, pray, learn about the history of the shrine, why it was built, and who it's dedicated to. Your kids will learn a lot more by going to an actual place.
8. Get to know one of your neighbors
Sometimes the people who live closest to us are the ones we know the least. Host a block party or simply invite them over for tea. Be intentional and tell them you'd like to get to know them.
It's so easy to take our full stomachs and beautiful homes for granted. Getting a sponsor child opens our eyes to the many children in the world who go without basic necessities. Cat.Chat has partnered with an awesome Catholic organization called Chalice who offer sponsorship programs for kids all over the world.
10. Learn and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The Chaplet is a beautiful reflection on God's loving mercy. It takes less than 10 minutes, and it can be done while driving your kids to a hockey game, or as soon as they come home from school. It's best when you pray it between 3pm and 4pm, which is known as the hour of mercy.
11. Go to confession
As Catholics, we're supposed to go to confession at least once during Lent. But why go only once? We have this beautiful sacrament of mercy available to us, so why not make use of it?
12. Tune into the Christian radio station
Maybe give the pop hits a break for a few weeks. Most people have a local Christian radio station they can tune into (unless you live out in the fields of Saskatchewan, in which case silence is also a good option).
13. Learn about a saint
Whether your kids know a hundred saints or one, there's always someone new to be inspired by. Take turns picking a patron saint of the week, and learn about their story.
Lent is a great time to Introduce Kids to their Heavenly Friends.
14. Invite your parish priest over for supper
He'd love it.
15. Start a change jar for charity
Although it's great to empty the spare change that's been weighing down our pockets for weeks, we should also remember to give more then just our little bits of extra. Challenge yourself to put more bills in it than nickels, and find ways to get your kids involved. Be sure to choose the charity that you'd like to support at the beginning of Lent so that your giving has more of a purpose.
16. Set up a prayer spot in your home
It can be a little table in your livingroom or a corner under the stairs, but make sure your home has a place where your kids can take a few minutes to look at a picture of Jesus and say a prayer. Having a prayer spot in your home is a gentle reminder for everybody to take some time for the Lord.
17. Make a prayer poster and add one person to the list every day
Intercessory prayer is a great way to reach out to others. Every night before bed, ask God who you should pray for the next day, or have your kids take turns choosing someone to put on the list. Offer any little sacrifices made throughout the day for that specific person. By the end of Lent you'll have prayed for 40 different people.
18. Totally unplug
Whether it's once a week or for the whole forty days, commit to no TV, iPads, iPods or social media. It's amazing how much more time you'll end up spending as a family.
19. Spend time at a nursing home
Take your children to spend some time with the elderly in your community. It'll bless them so much to see a few young smiling faces, and it'll be great for your kids to recognize the beauty of life in all its stages.
20. Eat meals together
This may seem obvious, but if you find you're never sitting down at the table for a meal together, then it's time to make a change. I know schedules get busy as everyone gets older, but it's important. And make sure there's no TV on, no music playing... just you and your family, no distractions.
Hopefully a few of these ideas inspired you. During Lent we're called to pray, fast, and give alms. Whether it's praying daily, eating simpler meals, going to confession, or befriending the neighbor down the street, Lent is a great time to make some positive changes. So choose a few things that may have inspired you and integrate it into your family life. Who knows all the incredible things it might start.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any other Lenten ideas, or maybe things that have worked with your family in the past. We can't wait to hear your thoughts.