It is so easy to fall into predictable patterns during Lent. We eat fish fries on Fridays, give up a little chocolate or gum, maybe utter an extra Hail Mary during our day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, however, that during Lent the Church, “Unites herself to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (C.C.C. 540) By doing this we are learning to strengthen ourselves against the same temptations that Jesus resisted during that time.
The observance of Lent is a gift to us. A time to build up our spiritual minds and muscles. A time to repent of sin. A time to imitate Christ. Further study of the Catechism (1438) reveals the things we can do to improve our spiritual life. As teachers of the faith we can then help our students to strengthen themselves against the temptations of the world and grow in holiness. We can teach this to our students as a type of Lenten Math.
Spiritual Exercises- Focusing on our prayer lives is a positive way to celebrate this time of year. Encourage students to add a Rosary to daily or weekly prayer practice, or teach the class a simple morning offering prayer.
Pilgrimages as a sign of Penance- A pilgrimage can be as simple as a visit to a local church or grotto, or as involved as a class retreat to a monastery or abbey. The focus of this trip should be to show the Lord our love in a physical way, offering the effort up for the reparation of sin.
Almsgiving and Fraternal Sharing - Have the class raise money for the poor, volunteer to help out a family who is going through a rough time, send cards to the lonely or visit the elderly. Forming a charitable heart in ourselves and in our students is a gift we give to the Lord through the community. “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, that you do for me.”
Voluntary Self-Denial: Giving up a treat we really enjoy teaches us restraint, self-control and denial. These are all necessary in the practice of true humility and Christian faith. By giving up things we like we are also made aware of the pain of others who don’t have enough to fill their everyday needs.
Confession: While the sacrament should be added, the sin will be washed (subtracted) away. There is no better way to experience the mercy and love of God then through this beautiful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Assisting our students in having access to the sacrament and helping them develop a habit of going to Confession will be invaluable as they grow in grace. Consider asking the church’s pastor to offer the sacrament during a religious education class time.
If we use the teachings of the Church as a guideline to our practice of the observance of Lent, we will find ourselves more closely united to Christ in the desert and to our faith.
--Mary Lou Rosien eats fish fries on Fridays from her home in N. Chili, NY where she is a wife, mother to seven children, and is the author of Managing Stress with the Help of Your Catholic Faith (OSV Publishing, 2006).
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs