Even small Lenten sacrifices can build family faith

Asparagus sandwiches. My family jokingly gave up asparagus sandwiches every Lent growing up, as it was something we had no problem doing. We DID NOT LIKE asparagus sandwiches.

Sacrifice? I think not.

As of late – with a house full of children (four children ages 8 and under) – I’ve found that sleep seems to be the sacrifice, although I don’t remember willingly choosing that. My best-laid plans for sacrifice or additional prayers, which I promised to do each 40-day stretch, seemed to get thwarted, much like my New Year’s resolutions. Somebody gets sick, I get too tired, etc., etc., etc. Oh, woe is me!

It’s the same song most of us have sung, I’m sure. Why don’t our resolutions or sacrifices work? We do them alone. Yet, we are not alone. God has blessed us with community, in my case, a family of little ones to keep me going.

And they do.

A few years ago,  we decided to begin making our sacrifices together, like we do all things (even grocery runs), as a team. We begin with our bowl of Lenten fortunes set upon our prayer table. I began typing up a list of 40 small tasks (many are duplicates to keep it simple) that we could do as a family each day. Tasks for kids include “no ketchup today” (very difficult for my picky eaters!). For grownups, it’s “no sugar in coffee” or “take a trip to the adoration chapel today, even for just 5 min.”

Each day, a different kiddo chooses our daily “Lenten fortune,” and we keep each other accountable. Boy do they! This has kept me on my toes more than any one 40-day sacrifice I’ve made. Not every day seems like the “best” day for the sacrifice chosen, but that’s the point. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, not always convenient, but do-able. So was the cross. That gives us perspective.

Placed around our bowl is a salt dough crown of thorns covered in toothpick thorns to represent our sins. As someone is caught in the act of “good-doing,” they remove a thorn in reparation of sins, relieving sweet Jesus of his pain. Easter morning, the empty crown is decorated with jewels and flowers! The kids can’t wait to get rid of those pokey thorns, and I can’t wait to see them doing random acts of kindness. (Directions for making the crown are on catholicicing.com.)

As we arrive at Holy Week, the toy room is locked on Good Friday, just like the tomb, and covered with a cross. The room is opened wide with decorations and Easter baskets inside on Easter morning. “Resurrection rolls” are made on Holy Saturday, and each family member helps to retell the story of the passion, all part of creating this magical treats for Easter morning. (Recipe and story found on dltk-kids.com.)

I’m a mother of four, and I get overwhelmed easily. I get bogged down by what everyone else is doing – and I’m not. These Lenten traditions are simple, and I can do them. Now, I am sticking to my Lenten sacrifices each year. Why? Because I’m not sacrificing alone. It’s not in spite of my family that I sacrifice, unwillingly.  Rather, thanks to them and with them and for them I am able to sacrifice and grow closer to Christ. I look forward now to Lent and to sharing in the passion of Jesus with my family.

Elise Angelette is assistant director of the Faith and Marriage Ministry at the Willwoods Community. 

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