Wednesday, February 17, 2010

~ And Lent Begins ~

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I wanted to get all my thoughts down on our plans for this beautiful yet somber season, so here are some of our plans...

~ Preparations ~

First, we prepared for Lent by getting a few things ready around the house. I got out our children's Lent books for Caroline and Cecilia (listed in the lefthand sidebar) and the Stations of the Cross Box. I also made a Lenten calendar for us, which I will explain further below.

On Sunday, Caroline and I made a crown of thorns to be a centerpiece for our dinner table.

Caroline counted out 20 toothpicks and then broke them in half - 40 "thorns" for the crown, one for each day of Lent (it spans a total of 46 days, but technically Sundays aren't considered a part of Lent since they are always joyous days in the Church).

I made a basic salt dough recipe: 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 1/2 cups water (we used coffee, hoping it would make the dough brown... but I guess I should have brewed it stronger!), and then we made three ropes and braided it to form the crown. Caroline stuck the toothpicks in it to make the thorns. I originally heard of this idea from another Catholic mom.

We baked it for almost an hour and a half at 350 degrees, and once it was cool, I noted that it merely looked slightly tan and not brown enough. So we mixed up some paint on Monday and painted it.

Here is the finished product. I also sprayed it with varnish after the paint had dried. The idea for this is that each day, Caroline or Cecilia can pull out a toothpick "thorn" to represent some sort of sacrifice made that day. Some of the thorns come out easily and some are pretty stuck and may have to be broken off... next year, I will try jiggling the toothpicks around in the holes just a bit before baking and see if that helps them to be more easily removed once the crown has been baked.

Here is the aerial shot, which I share because my husband walked in and saw it and said, "That looks just like... never mind." Dog poop is what he was thinking. Yeah, I guess the brown might be a little too much. So, maybe it will stay faintly tan next year! Or maybe he's just saying that and nobody else thinks it looks like dog poop? Go ahead and tell me, it won't hurt my feelings... I think that's what it looks like now, too!

Anyway, on easter morning, any remaining thorns will have been removed (by God's grace... it fills in the gaps where we fall short of sacrificing) and the crown will be covered in flowers. That is the plan, at least. We have not done this activity before, so we'll see how it plays out.

~ Mardi Gras ~

On Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day... whatever you choose to call it!), we painted this plaque with the words "Alleluia! He is Risen!" I did the words and Caroline did the edge using gold paint. During Lent, we do not sing the Alleluia in Mass, not even at Sunday Mass. Alleluia is a celebratory word, so we stop using it until Easter Sunday. It actually makes the anticipation build and brings the realization of how beautiful it sounds since you've been deprived of it for six weeks! It is especially beautiful at the Vigil Mass, where the lights are dim until the Alleluia is sung, and which time the lights are brought up to full brightness, signifying that now, Jesus has risen!

So, we are "hiding" the Alleluia until Easter Sunday. We put it in a violet bag, that being the liturgical color of Lent, and it is waiting in the top of the craft closet.

Before hiding it, we got out all our Alleluias, which Caroline thought was great fun. We shouted, yelled, and sang "Alleluia!" in the den over and over. Cecilia sang out, "Allelula," as if there weren't already enough Ls in the word. Then we pulled up some videos of various Alleluias on Youtube. Tim, you will be especially proud that this was Caroline's favorite:

She wanted to watch it over and over... four or five times, I think we watched it. We saw a few less traditional Alleluias, and Caroline kept wanting to return to the one shown above. Cecilia loved it since it had the Pope in it, and she learned the word "miter."

For dinner:

Pancakes, of course!

It used to be that people would give up not only meat during Lent, but any animal products, including eggs, butter, and milk. Therefore, Fat Tuesday was a day in which to use up all of these items before the season of abstinence began. Pancakes are one good way to do this... our recipe, which was specifically a banana pecan pancake recipe, called for 2 cups of milk and three eggs. We also enjoyed omelets made with seven eggs in all. As for using up all our eggs... that's kinda hard to do when you have chickens laying them in your backyard! ;)

~ Ash Wednesday ~

This is Cecilia, looking up at the ashes on my forehead. She did this all throughout Mass once we'd gone up for ashes, and I just had to take a photo of it once we were at home! She was good about not touching them, though! We went to Mass at the parish school, which is actually located a few minutes away from the church... so they hold school Masses in the gym. As Caroline put it, "A church shouldn't have a Coca-cola sign on the wall!" While I'd prefer going to Mass in the actual church building, the kids at the school Masses are extremely reverent... very quiet, very serious even though we are in a gym! The school Mass fell at the best time for us (not a lunchtime and not just prior to dinnertime, that is!).

Caroline received ashes from Father and then, as I stepped forward, he quickly asked, "Do you want them for her, too?" as he looked at Cecilia in my arms. I wasn't expecting that - I figured he'd just ignore her or put them on her forehead - so I answered, "Uh, it doesn't really matter..." I didn't know if she'd freak out over it, or if she'd even care, or if she'd feel jealous. Father said, "I'll give her just a dab," and he basically put a thumbprint on her forehead, hee hee. It turned out that Cecilia was glad she had ashes too. And it was nice that she didn't have such a big mark that she rubbed it and made a mess! Later in the day, after they'd worn off, she said, "My Holy Spirit rubbed off." Not sure why... maybe because she knows you touch your forehead when making the Sign of the Cross, which includes the words "Holy Spirit?"

No, I promise you that Caroline did not take this baby doll to Mass with us, nor did Father put ashes on its forehead! Caroline, as usual, likes to replay things later (we already had our first "Lent Play" today), and so she put "ashes" on this plastic baby doll. Prior to Mass, she was saying that if Cecilia didn't get ashes, she could draw some on her forehead with a marker. I told her that it would be better if she used some black chalk dust, and only if Cecilia wanted to play "Ash Wednesday Mass" with her! Then I said, "But we don't have black chalk." Caroline said, "Yes, we do!" Well, there is such a thing as black chalk - who knew it? We have a piece that came with their easel they got for Christmas. So baby doll Gianna got ashes as well!

~ Our Lenten Calendar ~

I saw this idea first at Shower of Roses, and then I saw another form of calendar at Waltzing Matilda. I liked both ideas and couldn't decide which one to use, so I combined both of them. This is the result! There was some assistance from Caroline, as you can see.

The calendar emphasizes that Lent is a time in which we especially focus on praying, fasting, and giving alms. The Gospel reading today was about just that. It also lists special feast days and the days of the Triduum. There is an empty cross for Good Friday onto which we will attach a picture of Jesus on the cross. We have another image of him being laid in the tomb, which we will attach inside the tomb I have drawn on the calendar, and then we will place a drawing of a rock over it. On Easter Sunday, a risen Jesus image will be emerging from the tomb with the stone rolled aside!

~ Pray ~

Our Lenten focus on prayer will be to continue the habits we have already established of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on weekday afternoons and a decade of the Rosary as a family each evening just before the children go to bed. In addition, we will offer these prayers for specific intentions each day. The intentions are listed in the previous photo... you can read them if you click on the photo. We will also be praying the Stations of the Cross as a family each Friday evening during Lent. The first time is this Friday! I love the Stations of the Cross, and every week they do a different one... through Mary's eyes one week, for children another week, done by the youth group another... and each week, it is preceded by a meatless dinner in the parish hall.

~ Fast ~

We abstain from meat on Fridays and also on Ash Wednesday. We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which means eating only one larger meal along with two smaller ones which together do not equal the large meal, and no snacks. Children are exempt from this. We are also encouraged to give up some sort of vice - to try to improve. For children, this often comes in the form of just giving up something they like that isn't necessarily bad, but that they can do without as a sacrifice. We will not be having any desserts during Lent unless we have a special occasion, such as Caroline's birthday or a special saint feast day.

A few things I am going to do personally:
* I am going to give up staying up late... doesn't that sound funny? I have been staying up past midnight lately, and I should really be trying to get more sleep.
* I am also wanting to work on a toy purge and some kind of system where we don't have all our toys out at once. This post on the subject was very interesting to me, and would be especially good with larger families and older children.
* I have been slowly organizing and purging the grown-up stuff as well, and I want to focus more on this during Lent.
* I would like to get to confession more often and am aiming to try for once a month.
* Adoration: Our church has this every Friday throughout Lent, and I would like to take the girls a few times, even though we'll only stay for a few minutes most likely. For children, it is being there that counts, no matter how short a time.
* I picked up a Lenten copy of The Word Among Us at church... I will try to do the daily readings in it.

~ Give Alms ~

I thought this was such a fun idea that I put it on our calendar as well... as usual, I didn't come up with any of this on my own! Each day on the calendar has something written at the bottom... for instance, today was beds, tomorrow is chairs, other days include books in the book basket, crucifixes, stuffed animals, trees in the yard... Each day, Caroline will count the listed item and then add that number of pennies to a bowl on the dinner table. We will collect these pennies throughout Lent and donate them to the poor afterward. It is a small way to begin showing children how we should share our treasure with the less fortunate.

~ Circle Time ~

We have some Lent/Easter songs that we will sing, and we will be focusing on the song "Were You There" during February. In March, we will switch to learning the Stabat Mater, or "At the Cross Her Station Keeping." And our priest will look like this on most days:

Here are the songs and rhymes we'll use (excuse the formatting):

I Know Jesus is Alive (sung to the tune of Once I Caught a Fish Alive)
1-2-3-4-5, I know Jesus is alive.
6-7-8-9-10, He died for me, then rose again.
Why did He have to die?
So I could have eternal life.
Where does He live today?
In heav'n, but He hears me when I pray.

Jesus Died but Rose Again (sung to the tune of Mary had a Little Lamb)

Jesus died, but rose again

Rose again, rose again.

Jesus died, but rose again

On Easter Sunday morning.

Do You Know the Son of God? (sung to the tune of The Muffin Man)
Do you know the Son of God?

The Son of God?
The Son of God?
Do you know the Son of God
Who died and rose again?

Oh, yes, I know the Son of God,
The Son of God,
The Son of God.
Oh, yes, I know the Son of God
Who died and rose again.

Do you love the Son of God?
The Son of God?
The Son of God?
Do you love the Son of God
Who died and rose again.

Oh, yes, I love the Son of God,
The Son of God,
The Son of God.
Oh, yes, I love the Son of God
Who died and rose again.

Will you obey the Son of God?
The Son of God?
The Son of God?
Will you obey the Son of God
Who died and rose again.

Yes, I'll obey the Son of God,
The Son of God,
The Son of God.
Yes, I'll obey the Son of God
Who died and rose again.

Three Days fingerplay:
Day One--

Hold up one finger.
The guards watched the tomb.
Put hand above eyes. Pretend to watch something intently.
All was quiet.
Hold finger to lips.

Day Two--
Hold up one finger.
The guards watched the tomb.
Put hand above eyes. Pretend to watch something intently.
All was quiet.
Hold finger to lips.

Day Three--
Hold up one finger.
The guards watched the tomb.
Put hand above eyes. Pretend to watch something intently.
All was quiet.
Hold finger to lips.
Jump, as if in shock.
The stone rolled from the door of the tomb.
Make a rolling motion with hands.
Jesus stepped out!
Walk fingers across palm.
God's Son was alive!
Point to sky.

~ Throughout Lent ~

* We will be attending our parish mission with Father Lukefahr a few days... we'll miss the first few evenings because of travel
* We'll be following Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure... we enjoyed the Advent Adventure! They are asking for families to make their own videos to submit, too - of Lent traditions or family prayer times. Caroline is considering whether or not she wants to make one about her Stations of the Cross Box.
* We'll bake pretzels at least once during Lent, and hopefully not catch the oven on fire!!
* We will plan to make hot cross buns for Good Friday
* collecting sticks from the yard to make crosses on Good Friday

What are your plans for Lent this year?


Kim said...

Beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing your family's ceremonies for Lent.

Lisa said...

I am very impressed, Erin. What a wonderful faith foundation you are giving your children! God bless!

mel said...

Well, I thought it looked like poo, but then Maria came up behind me and said, "Hey, how'd they get theirs to look so pretty?!" lol,,,
I've never broken the toothpicks before, that's a good idea. My mom came over and said mine looks like some kind of hors d'overe platter. I know I spelled that wrong, :).

Lacy @ Catholic Icing said...

What a GREAT post! I really hope you come and link it up at my lent-link up party this Friday! :-)

PS. Love the calendar!