After all the great family things for Advent (the wreath, Jesse Tree, calendar, etc), Lent can seem like a bit of a let down. Plus, you are suppose to be doing penance and fasting. But seeing as we are only two weeks from Lent it is time to start getting ready!
Over the course of our marriage, we have come up with two things that we really like for keeping us focused on Lent as a family: a Lent “wreath” and following the Stational Churches of Rome on a map.
This “wreath” was inspired by the Tenebrae (meaning “darkness”) service of the last three days of Holy Week. The prayers at the service are Matins and Lauds for those days, but it also includes a ritual extinguishing of candles. After each set of prayers one candle is extinguished so that the prayer ends in darkness and silence. The first time I ever went to a Tenebrae service I was struck by the beauty of the prayers and the symbolism of the lights being put out as Christ is placed in the tomb.
I wanted to imitate Tenebrae in our home throughout Lent, so I decided to make a Lenten centerpiece with six candles, one for each Sunday of Lent. We pray prayers from Tenebrae each Sunday and extinguish a candle each week. The rest of the week we just light the appropriate amount of candles for that week. Leaving none lit during Holy Week.
The main part of the Lent wreath is the cross trivet. I purchased ours from here. The cross holds six tea candles perfectly to mark the six Sundays of Lent. I have a PDF of the prayers for each Sunday for your use here. Really you can use whatever for your centerpiece. The main idea is the six candles.
Lenten Stational Churches
Normally, when one thinks of “stations” during Lent, one thinks of the Stations of the Cross. These are wonderful for praying with during Lent. We decided to include another type of station into our observation of Lent: the Stational churches of Rome. The Pope used to celebrate Mass in a different Roman church everyday for all of Lent; there are also stations for other liturgical seasons. The Pontifical North American College still follows the tradition of attending Mass at each of the stational churches. There is a more detailed history of the tradition on their site. Since we are not in Rome (though maybe we will be blessed with a Rome semester at some point), we mark the stations on a map.
We use this map in the St. Andrew Missal to find the location of each church and then stuck them to the map with sticky tack.
It is neat to “travel” around Rome during Lent, especially knowing that the NAC seminarians and priests were actually celebrating Mass at the stational church each day. The kids loved gazing at the map, looking at the pictures of churches, and discussing how the martyr saints died.
I hope these ideas help you and your family observe Lent more fully! Let me know if you have any questions. I would love to help!
Also, I am thinking of adding an activity for the kids when they make a sacrifice or do a kind deed, but I have not looked for any yet.