By Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano
Lent begins this year on Feb. 17, Ash Wednesday. Last year at this time, the pandemic was gathering steam and restrictions to our daily life caught us by surprise. Sadly, this year, we know that road all too well. We’re sharing ideas here to bring Lent to life at home. Of course, we encourage everyone to attend Mass, as always, either in person outdoors or virtually.
- Create a place in your home for prayer. Use symbols of the season: a Bible, a wooden cross, rosary, prayer books, sand, rocks, ashes, desert plants, signs that say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.” (Make sure this spot is out of reach of small children and don’t leave lighted candles unattended.)
- Share photos of this prayer space electronically with others.
- Place a wooden cross in your garden that is visible. During Lent you can drape a purple cloth on it, during Holy Week a red one, and a white one at Easter.
- Create a space in your home or garden that is your “desert,” that is, a place that you can be alone with God.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
- Learn to pray daily the Liturgy of the Hours. Download free apps such as “ibreviary” or “Divine Office.”
- Pray the rosary individually or as a family.
- Read a spiritual book. Among the classics for this season are “Confessions of St. Augustine,” “The Imitation of Christ,” “Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux,” among others.
- Launch or participate in a virtual Bible study group. Read and reflect on the Gospel every Sunday.
- Register to receive a daily Lenten reflection from sites such as dynamiccatholic.com, formed.com, among others.
- Learn about the principles of fasting and abstinence, particularly on Fridays during Lent.
- Even though during this season we eat many of our favorite dishes, only eat soup or bread once a week.
- Decide what sacrifice you’re going to make individually (for example, give up chocolate, soda, video games, etc.), and as a family (complaining, cursing, clutter, etc.).
- Find an online calendar for Lent and make the effort to practice each day’s suggestion.
- Participate in Operation Rice Bowl from Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
- Find out how you can help to distribute food to the poor (such as Catholic Charities’ Emergency Food Distribution Network), support the homeless or help pregnant women in crisis.
- Organize spring cleaning as a family activity, and donate unused items in good condition to a charitable organization, like Father Joe’s Villages.
- Protect the environment. Use less water or power, step up your recycling, plant a vegetable garden if you’re able to, etc.
- Develop the habit of doing an examination of conscience before going to sleep. Thank God for His mercy.
- Go to confession (all parishes offer opportunities to do so).
Holy Week: Add and take away items from your prayer space.
Palm Sunday: Add palms or other greenery, red cloth, an image of Jesus entering Jerusalem.
Holy Thursday: Add thorns, grapes, bread, wine, water vessel, white cloth.
- Read as a family about the rite of the washing of the feet.
- Wash feet as a family. For example, the father washes the mother’s feet, the oldest sibling washes the feet of his or her younger sibling, and so on, with the youngest sibling washing the dad’s feet.
Good Friday: Add a cross, thorns, nails, an image of Jesus of Nazareth, image of the Sorrowful Mother, red or black cloth.
- Mark 14 spots in your house or garden and pray together the Stations of the Cross.
- Read and reflect on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.
- Read and reflect on the seven last words from Jesus on the cross.
Holy Saturday: Do your day’s activities in silence to the extent possible. Avoid watching television, listening to music or using other media.
Easter Sunday: Drape white cloth on the cross, and add holy water and flowers.
- As a family, decorate a large candle to represent your Paschal candle.
- Celebrate as a family with a special meal, table games, a fun movie, or go for a walk together.
The Easter Season is a great opportunity to rejoice and be glad. Individually or as a family, continue to practice virtuous habits. Remember, a family that prays together stays together. May the hope of new life through the Resurrected Christ fill your homes with peace, joy and serenity knowing that all things are made new.
And may you receive blessings, particularly of good health, during this special season in our faith.