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The 2018 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Sacrifices

 

Lent is coming up fast (in one week actually) so if you haven’t given any thought to your Lenten sacrifices for the upcoming season, now’s the time to start thinking. Since 2013 we have been doing several “Handy Dandy Lists” for Lent. Our 2013 list was super popular and included a ton of things from personal sacrifices to things you can add into your day to resources and books. In 2014 we used the same list and just made some edits (so if you look at the 2013 list many of the links were updated in 2014).

Not wanting to keep rehashing the same list each year, I made a new list in 2015 called Your {Second} Handy Dandy List to Lenten Sacrifices and tried to add some new things, including helpful phone apps, more books, meatless meal links, etc. In 2016 fellow writer Misty updated the previous year’s list with more resources to get The 2016 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Sacrifices.

Here we are one week away from Lent 2018 and I have yet another new list. Again, I don’t want to rehash what was on the old lists, you all are more than capable of following the links to see what is there. And please do!! So many good suggestions on those links. If you want to see the best versions, check out the 2013 list (the original) and the 2016 list. They complement each other well and have the best of all four lists in them.

So now what?? What more could I possibly add to this bounty of Lenten sacrifices and resources?

Well, for this year I decided to focus on family or group activities. Some of these suggestions are best used in a family, others would work well for a group (think a Moms group, Bible study, small prayer group, any group of friends, etc.), and some could be incorporated in either. I’ll let you be the judge. And I’m not promising that there won’t be any repeats from previous lists.

Simplify Meals

Obviously, meatless Fridays are a must during Lent. But what else can you do as a family to stress the simplicity of Lent? Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  • Soup every night. Yes, every night. Doesn’t have to be fancy, can just be from a can. Or a combination of canned and homemade.
  • Abstain from meat on both Wednesdays and Fridays. I believe this is still the tradition in many other Catholic Rites, but not typically practiced among the Western Rites. Lent would be a great time to try this out.
  • In addition to your meatless Fridays, pick another day to focus on a simple meal. Soup is one good suggestion, but I bet you could come up with others too. A couple I thought of in addition to soup are rice and beans or sandwiches with raw veggies on the side.
  • Try giving up one food item for the entire family. A good suggestion might be dairy (again, one of those things that used to be traditional and still is in some cultures) or meat.
  • For some meatless meal ideas (not necessarily simple), check out our Pinterest meatless recipe board

Daily Mass

This one often comes up on our lists for Lent. But what about making it a family thing? Moms of young kids are rolling your eyes at me right now! Yes, yes, I know. I have little ones too and the thought of bringing them to Mass every single day is overwhelming. But if you can swing it, what a great way to drive home the message of a sacrificial Lent with our kids, especially if Mass is at 6:30 in the morning!

Tracking Sacrifices Visually

Kids often need a visual, and really, don’t we all appreciate visual reminders? Make sacrifices more meaningful for your kids and for you by using some sort of visual reminder. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A bean jar for each person in the family (or mini craft pom poms or whatever other small things you want to put in a jar). You could also do one jar for the whole family. Each time you perform a good deed or make a sacrifice you put a bean in the jar. This is very flexible, so you can make it work however you want for your family. My family did this one year and the beans in the jar (we used some dry kidney beans) became jelly beans on Easter morning.
  • A friend shared with me that her family does an Easter tree during Lent. She makes a big tree with branches out of construction paper and puts it up on a wall. Then they use construction paper leaves to write down any sacrifices, habits they want to start, and/or a project, etc. Over the rest of Lent, they add more leaves for prayer requests and people or causes they want to support or encourage. They also invite anyone who enters their home to add a leaf to the tree with their prayer intentions or sacrifices. Then they use some time each day to pray for everything on the tree. By the end of Lent, they have a fully blossomed tree and they leave it up for the whole Easter season. I love this idea!!

Spiritual Reading

There are lots and lots and lots of books about Lent or books that help you pray through Lent or books for kids to get the most out of Lent. We have featured several in our past lists, check those out if you have time, plus I’m sure there are many more coming out every year (check websites for TAN Books, Magnificat, Ignatius, Ave Maria Press, and others). But what I want to encourage is any sort of spiritual reading. Here’s one idea I had:

As a Benedictine Oblate, I read a section of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. In it, St. Benedict discusses how the monks should observe Lent. One particular aspect has always intrigued me, and I remember one of the monks at my monastery talking about this as well. Each monk is given a spiritual book to read for Lent (Rule ch. 48:15-16). They don’t get to choose it, it is given to them. I like this idea for a group of people or a family with older kids (probably teenagers).

Have each person bring a book they own to the group, make sure it is a spiritual book and that each person appropriately labels their book with their name and number. Use some sort of blind exchange of the books. Pair people up by drawing names, or have all the books placed in a box so people can reach in and take one without looking, or maybe have the books wrapped. Whatever you decide, just make sure that people don’t walk away with the book they brought or one they have already read. I like the idea of a book being chosen for me for Lent, trust in the Holy Spirit to put the book in front of me I need to read. Maybe it’ll be something I wouldn’t have thought to read.

If you do this, I would encourage a group meeting again shortly after Easter. Let people return the books to the owners and discuss what benefits this exercise produced for everyone or share something you learned. Especially if it was a book you might not have otherwise read.

Another idea for spiritual reading as a family is to pick a Lenten read the whole family can enjoy together and read it out loud each day. Or, make it a practice that every family member has to spend 20 minutes (or whatever you decide) reading a spiritual book each day. [See yesterday’s post for great Lenten reading ideas.] 

Service Projects

This is a great idea for a family, group of families, or any large or small group. This is a great way to teach our children acts of charity during the Lenten season.

  • Organize a meal service at a local homeless shelter
  • Go shopping as a family for your church’s food pantry or St. Vincent de Paul group
  • Collect needed items for a charity in your city or town. Contact the organization first to see what their needs are. Suggested groups to look for: pregnancy help centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, Ronald McDonald House, nursing/assisted living homes, etc.
  • If there is a Habitat for Humanity build currently taking place in your area, see if your family can get involved. Even if you have little kids, it might be something older kids and one parent can do while the younger kids and the other parent put together lunch or other food for the workers that day.
  • Put together small care packages for the homeless to hand out. Things like small personal items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.), a bottle of water, McDonald’s gift card, are some of the things you could include.
  • Get creative, there are lots of organizations out there that are happy to have volunteers or who need things you might be able to provide.

Grow New Family (or Group) Habits

I often look at Lent the way many people think of the New Year. It’s a great time to start something new! Why not use this time to start a new family habit that can carry over past Lent.

  • Don’t have a family prayer time yet? Make it a Lenten resolution to start. It can be something small like sharing intentions and then saying an Our Father together or doing a family rosary.
  • Review all activities of every family member and see if there are activities that can be cut. Don’t ever see your spouse or kids? Feeling like you are running a taxi service for your kids? Maybe this is a good time to re-evaluate and cut some things so that more of your family’s time can be spent as a family.
  • Start a family game night. Families should spend time together. Praying as a family is of primary importance, but if you’re already doing that and want to increase family quality time, how about a game night. Doesn’t sound very Lent-worthy, but if you are lacking family time, why can’t this be part of your Lent? Make sure everyone puts phones and other electronics away (see, sacrifice) and once a week get out some old-fashioned games or just a deck of cards.
  • Many parishes will have family events during Lent. Things like Fish Fries, soup nights, Family Stations of the Cross, etc. Why not make use of these activities to help start some family spiritual practices. Check with your parish (or surrounding parishes) to see what is available.
  • Related to the above, the Stations of the Cross can be done at home too. You can search online for coloring sheets of the stations to help keep little ones interested. Or have older kids color pictures of the stations to hang around the house. Find prayers online as well or buy a small booklet to use with your family or look for an app for the Stations. If you are a military family check out this Military Way of the Cross written specifically for military families. Please take a look and share with others you know in the military.

I hope this list inspires you to try something new with your family, or possibly resurrect an old practice. I hope everyone has a spiritually fulfilling Lent. Below are the links to our past lists as well as other Lenten links at Catholic Sistas. And please, if you have a family tradition you’d like to tell us about, leave a comment!! We’d love to hear from you.

Past lists and other CS Lent posts:

The original list from 2013, with updates in 2014: http://www.catholicsistas.com/2013/02/your-handy-dandy-list-to-lenten-sacrifices/

The {Second} Handy Dandy List of 2015: http://www.catholicsistas.com/2015/02/second-handy-dandy-list-lenten-sacrifices/

The updated 2016 list of Lenten resources: http://www.catholicsistas.com/2016/01/your-handy-dandy-list-of-lenten-resources/

All our Lent posts from our Archives: http://www.catholicsistas.com/category/liturgical-year/lent/

And finally, don’t forget our Annual Lenten Photo Challenge. More info coming soon!

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About Kerri Baunach

Kerri Baunach is a Catholic wife and mother of three boys (plus three in heaven). She and her family live in beautiful central Kentucky where she is active in her church, a member of Cursillo, and a Benedictine Oblate. Kerri often writes on her Catholic faith, pregnancy loss, her kids, and pro-life issues. Kerri is a former music librarian (16 years) now stay-at-home mom, was a musician for over 20 years, loves taking her kids to the library (and loves that they love it), is passionately pro-life, can’t cook, and has lived in six states. In additional to writing at Catholic Sistas you can also find Kerri on her own blog at Journal of a Nobody.

  • Roberta - As someone who is battling kidney failure and needs a new kidney, donating a healthy kidney to someone in need would be quite the Lenten sacrifice–you get to save a life! As of today, there are 115,040 people who need an organ transplant. In 2017, there were 16,467 donors. The need is much greater than organs donated. In 2016, more than 7,000 people died while on the transplant waitlist. That’s about 20 people a day. The average wait time for a new organ is 5-7 years, unless I personally have a donor who is willing to donate to me. If someone can’t donate a kidney, donating plasma or blood can also be a great Lenten sacrifice and life-saving as well!February 8, 2018 – 2:10 amReplyCancel

    • Kerri - What an amazing Lenten sacrifice that would be for someone!! Prayers for you, Roberta, in your trials with kidney failure. I will keep you in my prayers!February 12, 2018 – 12:22 amReplyCancel

      • Roberta - Thanks Kerri! I need all the prayers I could get!February 12, 2018 – 2:50 amReplyCancel

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