“Given the many layers of meaning in Lent, we won’t grasp all of them in a single year. But imagine if we were to observe Lent every year for the rest of our life — imagine how much we would grow and mature.”
This quote is from my priest, Fr. Wayne McNamara. What a thought to keep us from being overwhelmed by options. Lord willing, we have many Lents ahead of us. What does He want us to focus on this year in 2019? The Lenten “triad” of Fasting, Prayer, and Acts of Compassion concentrates our efforts into what really matters as we prepare for Easter. And we can pray for guidance:
“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgement, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Family Lenten Plans
Family Lenten Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer
If you are looking for a simple daily Lenten liturgy for your family, we are going to be using this Lenten Family Prayer Booklet. It is nothing new. It merely takes the Book of Common Prayer’s Family Prayer section and formats it to make it easier to find the collects (It also includes a reading plan for going through the Gospel of Mark, since the lectionary readings can be rather long with a young family). I plan to also make a booklet like this for Holy Week and Eastertide.
Here is our Family Lenten Prayer Booklet.
(And here it is formatted to print as a booklet , with the pages out of normal reading order).
Path to Pascha
When I read about the “Path to Pascha” in Tending the Garden of our Hearts, I knew that would fit well into my family. My girls already associated a bed of sand with the desert because of Godly Play (i.e. “Fiona, what did you do for Godly Play?” “Oh, I played in the desert again.”)
It’s simple. Find a shallow tray of sorts (we used a clear plastic flower tray thing I found at Walmart for $3). Fill it with sand and a taper candle for the middle. Add a rock a day (finally, a way to use that rock collection in my daughter’s drawer!) I bought some purple decorative stones from the craft store as a way to make Sundays special. Light the center candle for Easter! We will let our kids take turns adding the stone each time we pray our Lenten Family Prayer (one will get to place the stone and one will get to blow out the prayer candles — the essential ingredient for family prayer to go with reasonable smoothness).
We will read Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent throughout the season and incorporate some of the activities in the book. It is such a great aid for discussing fasting, prayer, and acts of compassion with our children.
I’m doing something new for me: I’m not doing anything new! I think I need to spend time learning what I already know. That primarily looks like not buying any new books. This is a big deal for me. I buy books like I buy vegetables — the more, the better. And, while I read the books I buy, all the new ideas sometimes adds to the frenzy of my soul. So, I’m going to be rereading A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction with my church. I’m going through English Spirituality by Martin Thornton again, as I hope to share more with you in the days ahead.
I’m going to keep strengthening the habit of praying the daily office. Thornton shows how the Prayer Book enables us to follow the Threefold Rule of St Benedict: Eucharist, Daily Office, and Private Devotion. I have always seen the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer) as optional, too burdensome for your ordinary layperson. It’s been an epiphany for me that reading Morning or Evening Prayer only takes around 15 minutes.
I’m growing to see the priority and genius of Morning and Evening Prayer, book-ending our days and ordering our prayer and reading of Scripture. It’s been incredibly clarifying to me. When I have 15 spare minutes and I didn’t wake up before my kids, I don’t need to worry anymore — “Do I pray extemporaneously? Do I read my Bible? Do I read the church fathers? Do I spend time in silence?” No, the answer is pray the office (albeit with many inevitable interruptions).
And, though I’m still deciding exactly what I will do, I’m heeding Fr. Wayne’s exhortations to fast. While he appreciates the intentions behind giving up this or that non-food thing for Lent, he still says, “You need to do something with food and fasting. Food is important. Don’t neglect fasting.”
(Edited to add: Did you read Greg Goebel’s article from Anglican Pastor: Tailored vs. Traditional: Why Not Do Your Own Thing for Lent? I wish I had read it before I posted this on “doing nothing new” for Lent; it was very clarifying. I realized that my desire to “do nothing new” this year springs out of “tailoring-my-own-Lent” fatigue:
A Few Favorite Resources:
I’ve been reading so many wonderful Lenten resources posts. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Lenten Companions — Sarah Clarkson
- Choosing Lenten Devotionals — Like Mother, Like Daughter
- Our Favorite Lenten Devotionals and Online Resources – A Sacramental Life
Tamara of A Sacramental Life shared this quote from Dorothy Sayers. I copied it at the beginning of the Lenten Family Prayer booklet because I pray that it characterizes our Lenten intentions.
“Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him—in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph—we find our truest joy. ” Dorothy Sayers
What are your Lenten plans?