A very special time in the Church calendar is approaching, as the beginning of Lent draws near, with Ash Wednesday on March 2. It is a time to prepare the heart for Easter as individuals and as a community. The colors that drape the altar will soon change to purple, fish fry signs will grace front yards, and rice boxes will be handed out; but how will the young faithful of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend prepare their minds, bodies and spirits for this most important celebration?
The second-grade class at Queen of Angels School in Fort Wayne has been learning about this liturgical season since the beginning of the year, according to Michelle Meyer, the Catholic identity teacher. Alongside the second-grade teacher, Katlyn Brown, Meyer likens the Lenten preparations to preparing for a party. They compare giving birthday gifts with giving the heart as a gift to the Lord, who is the guest of honor.
One way that Meyer has tried to help her students experience the prayerful time of Lent is by giving them small stones or rocks that represent something in their lives that prevent them from giving their whole hearts to God. For some students, the stone may represent a specific sin or feeling. She instructs them to keep the rock close while praying; asking Jesus to remove whatever their “stone” or obstacle may be that is preventing Jesus’ love from entering their hearts.
In class, they discuss the tomb that held Jesus and how only Jesus had the strength to roll away the stone. At the end of Lent, the students turn in their stone in exchange for flowers to offer thanks to God for His gift of our salvation.
For parents wondering how they can help their student bring Christ’s passion to life, Brown and Meyer suggest that since children are always watching to see how their parents act, Lenten sacrifice should be made a family event. Meyer made the following suggestions for families looking to grow closer to God this Lenten season: “Read from the Bible to your children and then talk to them about what you read – you are beginning to help them pray with Scriptures. Give up family game night and make it family rosary night – you are helping them prioritize prayer – or attend Stations of the Cross at your parish on Fridays with your children – you are sharing in Christ’s own suffering alongside them. Go and celebrate the sacrament of penance at least twice during the season of Lent. Show your children the joy that we experience when we give the Lord our sins and are absolved and given to begin anew.”
The Light is On for You will take place March 8, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with confession at every parish here in the diocese. It is a great opportunity to receive the sacrament of penance as a family. Beginning in March during Lent, many parishes will begin to host fish frys on Fridays, making it easier for families to partake in the tradition of meatless Fridays. Parish bulletins and websites list Stations of the Cross dates and times. Meyer suggests making it a family evening after a fish fry.
The Catholic Company website highly recommends two books for parents who would like to increase their Lenten experience: “Stations of the Cross for Kids” by Regina Doman and “Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter” by Laura Alary.
Many students have already considered how they will prepare themselves and their families during this Lenten season. Some of the second-grade students at Queen of Angels have said they would like to give up candy or donate toys.
Sacrifice is not the only way to prepare during Lent. Queen of Angels siblings Makayla and Ares Arnold talked about how they enjoy going to the Stations of the Cross as a family to remind them of Christ’s passion. Makayla suggested that she would like to add more time to her prayer life this coming season as well. Denny, a second grader at the school, said he wanted to add more prayer as well, being intentional of the poor.
Roman Kimes, a first-grader at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, plans to donate toys and money to those in need and is looking forward to his family tradition of spending time at the Oratory of St. Mary Magdelene, the adoration chapel on school campus, with his rosary.
Mikey Paul, a second-grader at Our Lady School in Fort Wayne is thankful that he made his first reconciliation and gets to go to daily Mass at school. Mikey says he would like to try to fast every day. Fasting has many biblical ways of drawing one closer to God, and during Lent, it is a wonderful time to use this art for preparing oneself to celebrate the Savior. Parents can ask themselves: in what ways will the family prepare for Lent with the children?
Approaching Ash Wednesday, all of the faithful are reminded of their own mortality, but should not forget God’s redeeming grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This Lenten season, all can continue to help the Catholic youth grow in their faith and in turn grow from their examples as well.
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