Living Lent After Lent

It’s been nearly 20 days since Easter Sunday, and still, I feel like I’m living in the season of Lent.

Lately, life has thrown a lot of me. It’s not anything negative, but the simple busyness of life has come at me fast since Easter. I always feel like I’m running from one place to another, running on little sleep and 2-3 cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer per day. My prayer and devotional life has suffered, and some days, I think, “I haven’t prayed, or I’ve prayed very little, today.” On these days, life is unsurprisingly more difficult.

But, today I forced myself to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. When I say “forced,” I don’t mean that it’s a requirement for Catholics to pray the Rosary. Rather, it’s totally optional, but a totally optional practice I had slacked on for the past few months. In the past, I had a habit of praying a Rosary every day, and it’s no coincidence that my life was better for it. In the busyness of Lent and Easter, the practice fell away. It was more difficult to get up in the morning for 20 extra minutes.

I let hustle take over.

But, today, I calmed my mind and I prayed. As this week has been yet another busy week for the books, I felt calmer and more at peace than I have for a while. It was as if a load was lifted from my shoulders. Just 20 minutes is all it took to achieve a noticeable peace in my daily life.

So, my advice to you is this: When the season of Lent is over and you still feel like you’re in Lent, take time to pray. Say an Our Father or say something in your own words. God is not seeking perfection, He only wants to hear from us. He knows what’s on your heart, but He wants so much for us to reach out to Him through prayer.

As this week draws to a close, think of how you can spend more time with God. Maybe it’s reading from the Daily Readings or simply sitting in quiet. No matter what that time is, it will never disappoint you.

Have a happy weekend!

 

 

 

Steps to a Charitable Lent: How to Observe a Fast Without Going Nuts

Hi everyone! In case you didn’t know, Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018. This year, I will abstain from social media and blogging. This will be my last regular post before the Lenten season begins. I wanted to let you know, not because I am seeking outward affirmation, but because I connect with so many of you on social media. I don’t want you to mistake my temporary absence for ignoring your comments and messages. On Sundays, days when fasts are relaxed, I will check in to my blog and maybe even write a short post. The same goes for any social media accounts. Thank you for your support! – Sarah

I love rules. I believe rules offer us an ordered and polite society. Rules are like the high fence on the side of a cliff that keep you from falling off of the side. You can run, skip, and hop within the confines of the fence because you know you won’t topple to your death. There’s freedom in restraint.

So, when Lent rolls around, I become giddy with excitement…and dread. I like the idea of Lent on paper: abstaining from something good in order to grow in Christ. What’s not to like? I’ll tell you what: abstaining. I’m all about the rules of Lent: fasting on Monday through Saturday (Sunday, too, if you’re a hardcore Catholic) and no meat on Fridays (except Filet-O-Fish in the drive-thru). Do you know why I’m all about Lent until it’s time to actually do Lent?

Because I make up too many rules for myself.

Thanks, Mom!

Holy Mother Church isn’t a tyrannical rule creator out to micromanage every bit of your life like many believe. I’ve heard it said this way, “The Church is like our mother, in that she just wants to know what you’re doing and wants to make sure you’re well.”

That’s why the Church gives us guidelines for fasting: people ages 18-59 are required to fast during Lent, with Fridays as a day of abstinence. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we are to fast and abstain: one regular meal or two meals that do not equal a full meal. Of course, this excludes women who are pregnant and nursing, young children, the sick, and the elderly. We are all given the same guidelines with reasonable exceptions. Moms are understanding.

How to be Charitable

But, if you’re like me, you think you have to go above and beyond the guidelines set for you. In the past, I equated how severe my fasting was with the effectiveness and holiness of my Lenten season. But, through severity, I often found that I was often doing more damage than good. That’s why it’s so important to practice our Lenten fasts with charity. Here are a few ways you can practice charity and fasting during Lent without driving yourself nuts.

  1. Follow the Rules: Fast on Monday through Saturday and abstain from meat on Fridays. Anything else is a bonus. Unless you feel convicted by Our Lord to abstain on Sunday, remember that it’s not a fast day. It’s the Lord’s Day! In Matthew 9:15, Jesus asks, “How can they fast as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Rejoice in the day set aside for the worship of God.
  2. Be Reasonable: Be reasonable in your Lenten commitments. If you have to use your phone frequently for work, maybe it’s not a good idea to give up using it. Or, if you have a health condition that requires an increased protein intake, maybe you don’t need to give up meat (or maybe you can substitute with fish). Find what works for you and go from there. In my experience, when I ask what I need to abstain from, God always answers that prayer.
  3. Understand Others: Perhaps one of the best teachings I heard on Lent was years ago during my college years. This individual, a non-Catholic from a liturgical tradition, recommended that our fasts should be as private as possible as to avoid becoming like the Pharisees and hypocrites Jesus warned us about (Matthew 6:16). For example, if on Friday your non-Catholic co-worker invites you to a burger joint for dinner, it may be in your best interest to go. That interaction may open his or her eyes to the beauty of Catholicism. As the old saying goes: You may be the only Bible that person reads. I’m not saying for you to throw out your fast at every invitation or opportunity, but be understanding. It’s not necessary to say with a loud, pious voice: OH NO I CANNOT PARTAKE OF THIS BEEF AS IT IS FRIDAY AND I AM A DEVOUT ROMAN CATHOLIC WHO IS FASTING SO NO WAY PLEASE STEP ASIDE. Other tips include suggesting a seafood restaurant or choosing a vegetarian option.

I’m not a professional theologian, but I do know that our God is a merciful God. This Lent, you will probably mess it up. You’ll cave into the coffee craving or you’ll sneak a peek at your Facebook timeline. Been there, done that. Remember, learn from my experience, and don’t create extra regulations for yourself. Be charitable to everyone, even you. Listen to the Church and Our Lord, and you’ll find yourself headed in the right direction. I pray you have a very blessed Lent and I look forward to chatting with you on Sundays during Lent and after Easter!

Steps to a
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Liturgical Living for Kids: A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

I’m not a mom yet, but it’s obvious to me that it’s tough to raise your kids as faithful Catholics. It’s even more difficult in our secular society to keep them Catholic once they venture into the world. While there’s no shortage of negative media vying for your child(ren)’s attention, thankfully, there are many wholesome (and fun!) resources to introduce your child to the Catholic faith.

As we approach the middle of February, Catholics anticipate a season of penance 40 days before Easter called Lent. Lent is often a confusing time for kids: there’s ashes on foreheads, a sudden giving up of favorite treats or activities, and no meat on Fridays. For younger children, and even pre-teens, Lent may seem more like a drag than a time of spiritual growth. An online friend, Aleesa Bansmer McCarthy, is a creative soul who is dedicated to helping your child understand the ins-and-outs of our beautiful faith through interactive activities. This year, Aleesa has introduced the Lent 2018 Activity Pack, designed especially for your little ones!

A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

Calendar Countdown

The first aspect of the activity pack I love is that it stays true to the penitential and sacrificial nature of Lent, while still engaging small children. Aleesa maintains the color scheme of purple, the liturgical color for Lent, into all of the pages of the pack. This is a great way for kid to connect the colors they see at Mass to the activities in the pack.

 

Lent Countdown
A “calendar” sample

One of my favorite activities is a “calendar” with 40 boxes. In each box, depending on the day,  there is an outline of a fish (a day for fasting) or the name of the day (Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday). Throughout Lent, kids can mark off the days, and count down to Easter. Along the way, they are reminded to fast and pray for others.

Be My Lenten Valentine

valentine
Sample Valentine’s Card

Children can also start off Lent (which begins on February 14th!) by giving away custom Valentines included in the pack. Featuring an drawn image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Aleesa’s valentines are a perfect way to counter a society that has largely secularized an originally Catholic holiday. What better way to evangelize friends and family than with the Sacred Heart? The design above is one of two designs available in the Lent Pack.

A Chain of Giving

Finally, an aspect of Lent that is often overlooked is the giving of alms to the poor and needy. Too often, we focus on our own personal fasts from chocolate, technology, or gossip instead of what we can do for others. With the Alms Chain activity, kids are given strips of card stock. Each time a child completes an act of mercy for the poor, she can link her chains together, creating a ribbon of mercy. It’s a great way to show your children that little acts of kindness add up!

Worth it?

At only $5 on Aleesa’s Etsy shop, SaongJai, the 2018 Lent Pack is a highly recommended purchase. If you want your children to know why Lent is important for holy living, this pack is a great resource to help make the season “real” for your little ones. While I only reviewed three of the features of the Lent Pack, there are so many more: Lunch reminders not to eat meat, coloring pages of holy images, the Stations of the Cross worksheet, and a spot for your child to record her prayer intentions. The pack is a great way to introduce the joy of liturgical living in a fun and educational format.

To learn more about Aleesa’s creative work, visit her on Facebook and on Etsy.

saongjai
https://www.facebook.com/SaongJai/

May God bless you as you prepare for Lent!

Liturgical Living for Kids
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