Living Our Lent: Adjusting to Different Seasons of Life

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 25, 2020 | In The Liturgical Year

With the signing of ash on our foreheads, our Lenten journey of preparation begins.

As soon as the topic of Lent is mentioned, the big question of “What shall I give up this Lent?” arises. Conversations both at home and school have been directed on answering this question.

Truly, the question should lead to deeper questions, such as:

  • Do I want to grow spiritually this Lent and deepen my relationship with Christ?
  • Am I ready to identify and uproot some bad habits?
  • Am I willing to start building up new spiritual habits?
  • Am I ready to die to myself?

I can simply do what I did last year, or really try to take a deeper look at myself. Of course, self-reflection can be a little itchy and uncomfortable.

I had a look back on my previous Lenten posts (listed at the end of this post). I still take similar approaches, but I’m looking at what’s different now. First of all, after four months of recovery from foot surgery, I’m trying to ease back into normal life. I have to make sure I pace myself since I’m not physically back full force. Lentitude Adjustment means I don’t make excuses, but embrace what God sends me now.

Secondly, our sons are both teenagers, so we have entered a different season of life in living our faith in the home.

When our sons were younger I had many more visual reminders to help keep up the spirit of Lent (Lenten Mnemonics: Keeping our Focus in Lent, Preparing for Lent, Making Our Lenten Plans give some examples). As parents, my husband and I still give direction and have Lenten acts and penances we do as a family, but we provide more quiet and less busy-ness and freedom for them to choose. That gives room for their personal growth to come from within, instead from without.

This is a little harder as parents to let go of some control. It’s like trying to balance walking on a thin line. Our boys aren’t grown-ups, so we still help guide them, but to do it in a gentle fashion to give them a little more freedom of choice. Sometimes, due to their age, there is resistance, so approaching can be tricky in deciding where to draw the line as parents.

Communication is key. On Monday I had a wonderful chat with two of my fifth grade students. They wanted to talk about what to do for Lent. We started talking about the Gospel of Ash Wednesday how it has our program for Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving:

...When you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret....

...When you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret....

...When you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden....(Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Then we discussed what ways these categories could be applied in their lives. One of the girls decided to draw a table, and then fill it in with what they planned on doing. The girls were very practical, choosing things that would be challenging, but they knew they could if they put in some effort. Our conversation was cut short, but the notes on the page were for them to understand the categories in case they thought of other things they could do.

This is also the approach we are doing at home, helping guide our sons to embark on a personal program of Lent. But the emphasis on the word is “personal.” We are no longer going to have a chart for them to keep track of how many sacrifices they made. They have a personal relationship with Christ and we are merely helping nourish and protect it. In our conversations we will find out what aspects from previous Lents they want to keep, such as how we pray the Stations of the Cross, how many extra Masses to attend during the week, how to decorate for Lent, what kind of Lenten activities to do at home, etc. I have found that the last few years our sons are choosing and putting up the visual displays of the liturgical seasons, which again illustrates the shift of it becoming their work and a reflection of their interior and not only from the parents. Our bookshelves are full of good spiritual reading, but it will be in discussing with our sons what book titles we can suggest that will be a good fit. In some areas we give suggestions, others we give choices, but through it all we try to communicate.

This season of family life with mainly teenagers definitely feels and looks different from previous years. It’s quieter and less glamorous when looking from the outside. As parents we might feel like Lent isn’t happening because it’s not as tangible as it was in previous years when we did all the planning and implementation. But this is the adjustment we need to do, recognizing our different seasons of life. We are accepting God’s will in our lives and respecting His growth in our own children.

For further reading, see my previous posts on the Lenten season:

Lent:

Roman Stations:

Feasts and Special Days of Lent:

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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