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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fat Tuesday & Lenten Activities for Families

Our celebration went very well. Although we got a little later start on frying the doughnuts, so people kept coming into the kitchen and trying to steal them out of the fryer. We had about 30 people here, one family brought chocolate cake, another brought apple pie, there was summer sausage and chips and salsa and our English friend made pancakes.

Today, the children and I made our crown of thorns. I will post pictures later. The hardest part was braiding it. We made salt dough and used strong tea as the liquid to dye it. I had Dominic break toothpicks in half and we poked those in all over, about 100 of them. This is an object lesson that we will use throughout Lent. We have talked about how our obedience and good works in honor of God help ease His suffering. So, the children will be able to take a thorn out whenever they do something that would ease Christ's suffering.

I also read about making a purple cross on poster board and giving each child a purple bead each time he does an act of charity, penance or alms. Each week during Lent, you let the children glue their beads onto the cross to show how by doing what God asks us we help Him carry the cross.

Another thing I read about was reading through the Stations of the Cross either daily or weekly as a family. I don't think we could manage it daily, but Friday nights this would be a wonderful devotion for our family. If you want, you can put out blue or purple votives and light them for each of the stations, blowing one when the reading is finished.

Today's fast has gone well for the two people in our family who are participating. I actually missed doing it today. I have eaten lightly, and of course meatless, but it was something that made it easier for me to focus on prayer. Rich has such a great attitude about the fast. A friend of his called yesterday to see if he was interested in playing raquetball this morning (they occasionally play early before work or on Saturdays) before he reserved the court. Rich asked me if I had a problem with it, and I said no, but was worried about him exerting himself so much while fasting. He told me that it didn't matter to him, he wasn't going to be someone who didn't do things because he was fasting and use it as an excuse to make his day easier. Alexander has fasted from one meal today. I suggested that he take lunch, as I thought that would be easier for him on his first year trying to do it. Dominic became interested in trying when he heard that Alexander was going to fast just one meal, but once he smelled the lunch I was making for his little brothers and sister, he decided he wasn't having anything to do with it. I don't think that Amira even noticed any discussion at all, but Elijah had no desire at all in participating. When Dominic was talking about it to me, I made sure he knew that he wasn't required to fast, and Elijah declared that he did not want to do it at all. I assured him that nobody would make him.

I am so proud of Alexander, though. He didn't even act like he wished he was eating, and didn't waver at all. We had some salt dough left over, so he made an empty tomb with the stone rolled away, the tablets with the 10 commandments on them, a host and helped Dominic make a crucifix. We talked about what kind of fast is pleasing to the Lord this morning, as that was what our scripture passages dealt with predominately, and talked about Ash Wednesday and the service we would be going to tonight, and he really just soaked it in. He has truly taken to heart that we are to be praying for God to show us our transgressions and helping us to overcome them, he has focused his mind on those symbols of the crucifixion and resurrection that he knows, and has talked to me about standing with the poor as we fast.

When I first suggested to Alexander that he try to fast this year, it was with the intention of introducing him to the spiritual practice and concept of the fast, and to give him practice at it, letting him ease into it, since he was getting older and would be expected to do so as a matter of course in a few years. I had no idea of how fertile his heart was for this seed of discipline. I am impressed with his devotion and sense of purpose. It is rewarding to see my boy take to this like a grown man.

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Here's a website that might help you with your Lenten activities. You might even recognize the Stations of the Cross pictures (Jonathan used them as a starting point for the ones he's turning into embroidery designs. Which are still not finished.)

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