My kids always just give up their favorite candy or soda, but what are some things kids or teens can do to get the most out of Lent that goes deeper than just giving up their favorite thing for 40 days?
“So, what are you giving up for Lent?” This is a question I hear asked most often right before Lent begins, and, quite honestly, it’s the question I ask my own kids. If we really look at the question, it is only inviting the person to whom the question is being asked to do one thing, and that is to give something up. What if we tweaked the question just a little: “How are you planning to experience Lent?” Now we have opened the door to multiple possibilities that can include sacrifice, incorporating a spiritual activity, such as prayer and service, and experience.
Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for us, and it is important for us to physically, mentally and emotionally understand what sacrifice means. But I wonder if sometimes people see their Lenten sacrifice as more of a challenge, like “The 40-Day Soda Challenge,” than a sacrifice. Sacrifice is not about depriving ourselves of something just for the sake of it. Sacrifice is about creating a void of something that we hold on to and filling it with Christ. For me, I hold on to the soda at two in the afternoon. But what if I gave up the soda, and prayed a rosary instead? It has been said that it takes seven days to create a habit If I stuck with this for 40 days, I would have created a habit of prayer out of sacrifice. This is the time not only to remember that God came to earth and suffered for us, but to seal that knowledge in our minds and in our souls so, that when we go through our own suffering, we link it to Christ’s suffering for us. Thus we learn how to experience suffering in a spiritual sense.
Our experience shapes our lives. The Catholic Church offers opportunities to experience Lent more deeply. Maybe there is a Lenten Bible study, or weekly prayer service, Stations of the Cross, reconciliation, daily Mass, etc. Take hold of the opportunities that are presented so that Lent is an experience that shapes us for the rest of the year and beyond. While we are at it, maybe we can help someone else have a great Lenten experience. Imagine if every parishioner spent 40 days understanding sacrifice, prayed more, experienced the sacraments more and invited one other person to join them in their Lenten experience. What would the Catholic Church look like after only 40 days? What would your Catholic life look like after 40 days?
How will you experience Lent?
Chris Rogers, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry