Rituals we take for granted may not always be completely understood by children. If we assume that they understand these rituals, we might not take the time to explain what we do and why.
Baptismal Character of Lent
From the earliest times, Lent has been a time of preparation for baptism. Eventually, it also became time for renewal of the already baptized. We must integrate the baptismal character of Lent into our daily lives.
In preparation for the renewal of baptismal promises during the Easter season, children can research their own baptism: date, place, godparents, promises made, etc. This information can be put on a collage, in a booklet, or a drawing and displayed where it will be a reminder to the children to live out their baptism every day. Also discuss with children how they are living their baptismal promises.
The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This tangible ritual is a stark reminder that we do not have a lasting place on this earth. We are disciples on a journey that ends with death.
Lent is about participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, about dying to an old identity and being born into a new identity.
To prepare, we must die now to sin and rise to new life in Christ. Being marked with ashes at the beginning of our Lenten journey is a reminder of our need for deeper conversion.
Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving
The key to renewal of spirit in the Lenten observance—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving— is to see their link to baptism.
· Lent is a good time to focus on prayer, especially the prayer of the church in the liturgy.
· Fasting should be linked to concern for the poor who are forced to fast by their poverty. Our baptism requires us to show Christ’s love to the poor.
· Almsgiving, too, is linked to our baptismal commitment. We are called to works of charity and justice.
Have children pray for the grace to live out their baptismal promises more fully. Ask them to also pray for the elect who will be baptized at Easter.
Children can be encouraged to “fast” from fast food dinners and snacks, TV, the internet, video games, movies, etc., and spend more time helping the poor in a variety of ways like donating items to a local thrift shop, food pantry, or toy drive.
Money saved from fasting from movies, and such can be donated to the Lenten Rice Bowl or other charitable causes.
Examining our lives
The church helps the Elect in their conversion process by the celebration of rites called scrutinies on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent to strengthen them to overcome the power of sin in their lives and to grow in their faith.
Explain to learners the baptismal emphasis of Lent, clarifying who in the parish are catechumens, Elect, and candidates for full communion. Explain the Rite of Election to them (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1247- 1249, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 1-8).
Have children help write notes of support to the Elect and candidates for full communion from your parish.
Also, encourage families to celebrate the Rite of Election and the Easter Vigil.
During Lent, the church calls us to metanoia, a change of mind and heart. It involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be. How do our values compare to the values that Jesus offers his followers?
The Sunday Scripture readings during Lent give us much help in this process. Spending class time breaking open the Sunday readings for Lent is a wonderful way to help children begin to understand better the values of Jesus and the meaning of discipleship. There are many excellent resources to help you to do that.
Read the Sunday readings, or at least the gospel, and reflect on one or two questions on the reading. Look in the Church Bulletin for “Reflections on the Liturgy”. Help children decide what they can do that week in order to live better as a disciple of Jesus.
Emphasizing the baptismal character of Lent will have three benefits for children and their families.
1. They will understand and appreciate better their own baptism,
2. they will renew their lives in light of their baptismal promises,
3. The baptismal symbols of the Easter season will be more meaningful.