Lent is here. Restaurants and grocery stores are running seafood specials left and right. Meal-planning is slightly easier now, as I will be serving fish sticks every Friday evening for the next 6 weeks. But, I know there’s more to this special Liturgical season than the consumption of crispy battered hunks of cod. I want it to be more than that.
As a parent, I want to make this Lent meaningful for not only myself, but my whole family. Even just moments ago, I found myself sitting here attempting to devise the perfect plan for our Lenten journey. But thinking more about it, nothing and no one on Earth is perfect…that’s kind of the whole point. With that understanding, we will embark on the journey keeping the three token Lenten landmarks in mind– prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but will leave our hearts open for God to lead us to and through each one.
There is no doubt that prayer is powerful and should be key in our everyday faith life. Our family always prays before we eat; but do we really pause during that time to be truly thankful for what we have and ask God to bless those without? The truth is, our mealtime prayer is often rushed, spoken through mouths full of food because we’ve been distracted or impatient, as I am wiping up the glass of milk that my two year old has already managed to dump over his head.
Our bedtime prayer also seems to have become something we just rattle off almost mindlessly with whichever child we are in charge of tucking in that night. I want us all to become more engaged and make the effort to take the time out of the chaotic events of life to gather as a whole family unit to pray. While I believe it is important to know and utilize the more formal and traditional prayers of the Catholic Church, I also want my children to understand that they can simply chat with God at anytime, anywhere.
Our two older children are at just the right ages (6 and 2) to effectively drive each other nuts! I spend the majority of their wakeful hours putting out the emotional fires of the “he did/she did” and “they started it first” phenomenon. Tempers flare and pouting, foot stomping and/or door slamming typically ensues. As parents, we stress the importance of apologizing, as well as forgiving others as we lecture our kids. Moments after apologizing, they can be back playing together as if nothing even happened. Children seem to be relatively good at letting bygones be bygones. I remember many accounts with my best friend (who was also our neighbor) in which we would get into some sort of squabble over a toy or game and she would storm off yelling “I’m never going to play with you again!” Usually no more than a half an hour later, our doorbell would ring and there she was asking if I could come out and play with her. I want to release lingering grudges in my life and forgive.
A few weeks ago, my daughter climbed into our van after school with her head hung low. I asked her how her day was and she replied sadly that she did not want to talk about it. She said that she couldn’t tell me because she was scared I would be mad. After assuring her that no matter what she ever did, I would never love her any less, she opened up to tell me about an instance during school where she got in trouble for not cleaning up when she was supposed to. I thanked her for being honest with me and told her how much I love her. Almost instantaneously, the distraught and scared little girl morphed into a smiling and happy person. As Catholics, we have the amazing opportunity to free ourselves from the weight of our wrongdoings through Reconciliation. I will admit, I have not taken advantage of this wonderful sacrament as often as I should, perhaps out of fear, but I want that to change. God will not love us any less because of our sins, but will give us the graces to heal our hearts. I’d say that is pretty awesome.
My Lenten journey can all boil down to one simple question. As we stand on Palm Sunday, listening to the powerful reading of the Passion, will I still be living my life as one of the crowd yelling “Crucify Him!” or will I be on the path to Paradise?