Lent speedily approaches with Ash Wednesday eagerly waiting just for tomorrow. For any non-Catholics, you probably simply acknowledge today as Mardi Gras and then wait the next 40+ days for Easter enjoying all of the federal holidays and St. Patrick's Day in between. For us Catholics, however, today symbolizes the last day before entering a season of penance and preparation. The Lenten season is a period of time for a more earnest bettering of oneself as well as offering up suffering for the sake of others. For most children, Lent means giving up sweets or tv. For adults, the sacrifices vary quite widely, especially based on how ignorant they are or choose to be. In my case, I have discovered that Lent is a beautiful time to strive for things which you should already do on a regular basis. Give up something to which you are addicted such as coffee or pop. Focus on developing your spiritual life through Scripture and prayer. Reach out more to your fellow human beings. For myself, furthering the spiritual aspect of my life offers the most difficulty; therefore, I have determined to spend a greater amount of time in prayer and spiritual reflection each day.
But what does all this have to do with children? Lent is a terrific time to teach your children the true art of sacrifice. By guiding them through their Lenten sacrifices, you can show them both how to suffer and how to offer up that suffering for the souls of others. A young child will most likely hate losing their sweets or computer time, but you can help them understand how their discomfort and annoyance can be turned to graces from Heaven. Furthermore, you can focus on how greatly and intensely Our Lord suffered for us when He died on the cross. Tell your children how their offered up suffering helps ease the suffering of Christ. By relating their Lenten sacrifices to Christ's sufferings, you may draw a greater attention to the true reason for the Easter celebration. The fact that Christ offered up His life for our sins and thereby redeemed our souls for eternity is the greatest gift of self-sacrifice ever known or ever shall be known. If you can spend the next 40 days in penance and preparation, the true joy of Easter will appear ever more present. It will no longer be simply a secularized holiday filled with chocolate, bunnies and hunting eggs. Take back the true reason for Easter and celebrate all its glory and wonder.