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Catholic Activity: Lenten Practices for Children

To what extent should children observe Lent? Mary Reed Newland discusses the practical application of Lent in your children's lives, focusing on the three areas of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.


Lenten resolutions should include the "giveups" of course (for they are hard and they do exercise us), and also a number of positive things. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are the three serious obligations of Lent, with growth in charity their aim. We should always try to tie this in with every one of our Lenten activities; it is a good measure. The sums we save by forgoing the movies or other pastimes can be given to the poor and the missions — and while we put up with little hunger pangs from not eating between meals we could offer a prayer for our brothers in Christ's Mystical Body who are forced to spend their whole lifetimes in hunger.

The obligation of prayer includes reading, studying, and growing in our understanding of the Christ-life. And since the oldest and most important days of Lent are the Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the family might make its study of these Masses their guide for Lenten reading and discussion: For example, the Gospel for the first Sunday tells of Our Lord's temptation in the desert. Here our own forty days of trial and temptation are foreshadowed by His.

The number forty is used throughout scripture to represent a period of preparation — as in the stores of the Deluge (Genesis 6:9-22; 7; 8), of Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12-18; Deuteronomy 9:7-21), the Israelites and their forty years in the desert (Numbers 13; 14); the prophet Elias's journey to Mount Horeb (3 Kings 19), and Jona''s adventure with the Ninivites (book of Jona). These and other stories can be read aloud at family prayers and discussed.

One of the creative daytime projects for children might be crayon drawings, colored paper cut-outs, or shadow boxes illustrating these tales.

Activity Source: Homemade Christians by Mary Reed Newland, George A. Pflaum, Dayton, Ohio, 1964

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