Lent can be a wonderful time of year in a Catholic family. All the members can grow in faith and charity, in self-sacrifice, in obedience, in service of each other. They can learn to practice the virtues of patience and temperance. It can be the most beautiful six weeks of the entire year.
Or, it can be a complete and utter disaster. I think it all depends on the attitude of the adults.
The parents can grumble or become cranky when fasting or they can smile and remain calm and pleasant. They can grudgingly fulfill their obligations and treat them as such or they can fulfill them in a spirit of love and willingness. A sense of drudgery can set in or the renewal that is at the heart of Lent can take hold. On the worst days, it can go something like this: Mommy gives up coffee because she “has to” and then is cranky because of the caffeine withdrawal. She then snaps at children who are arguing over who gets to use the TV because one child gave up the Wii so he thinks he should be allowed to watch a cartoon while the other child gave up cartoons so, of course, he should be able to play the Wii. The bickering and the snapping finally becomes the pervasive mood associated with Lent in everyone’s minds, and sooner or later, no one anticipates it. Instead, everyone dreads the coming of Ash Wednesday and the days that follow it. It’s a vicious cycle.
The question is, how do we break it?
My answer: The Divine Mercy. All you need are the prayers and a set or Rosary beads. I mean, you can get fancy, by buying an actual Divine Mercy Chaplet, but there’s no need. (You can find an excellent explanation of and instruction for it here if you don’t already know it.)
This simple and yet amazingly deep prayer has helped my family immensely, in that it has helped me immensely. Saying the short, repetitive prayers allows my mind a little break in the middle of a hectic day, where I can focus simply on God and His love for me. After contemplating this, even briefly, any sacrifice seems easy and worthy.
This five minute devotion has brought such peace to my own Lenten routine that I’ve decided to share it with my children this year. I wasn’t sure it would go over too well, but so far it has. Being as it invokes God’s mercy for the sins of all mankind, it could be pretty heavy stuff for the under 10 set (as all of my children are). And yet, they seem to “get” it. When I explained the point of the chaplet to them, they understood, and they embraced it. It calms them and reminds them, too, that we should “offer it up” out of love for God, not out of a sense of wretched obligation.
So, if you’re looking for a simple, powerful, meaningful devotion to add to your family Lenten prayer regime, try the Divine Mercy. Your family will thank you (or at least they’ll be relatively quiet for the five minutes it takes to pray it; sometimes, I take whatever peace I can get).
Is there a special devotion you use with your children during Lent?
Do you say the Divine Mercy daily? Do you say it during the Hour of Mercy (3 o’clock PM) or whenever you have the time?
How do you get your kids (or maybe even yourself) to participate in the Lenten acts or prayers, fasting, and alms giving without the grumbling?