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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:

The {Second} Handy Dandy List of 2015:

The updated 2016 list of Lenten resources:

All our Lent posts from our Archives:

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

Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer Reviews

Praying the Angelus: A Book Review

I grew up in a Catholic family but never heard of the Angelus prayer until well into adulthood. Even after hearing it mentioned in passing here and there, I was still not familiar with the actual prayer. It wasn’t until a year ago, when my youngest and I joined a homeschool co-op that I had the opportunity to pray it myself. Our little group of homeschooling families would pray it together just before lunch (followed immediately by the Grace before Meals prayer).

It was cute to see my 3 year old slowly learn it over the course of the year. Since his older brothers were attending a different school they did not have the opportunity to learn it themselves. In our house it became known as the prayer from Silas’ school. We’d occasionally hear it recited on Catholic radio and my kids would all take notice and Silas would exclaim, “We say that at my school!”

As you might imagine, the older boys eventually started learning it, too.

If you are not familiar with this prayer, then I suggest looking it up and learning more about it. And I have the perfect book to help with that! Jared Dees from Ave Maria Press has written a little book to introduce you to the Angelus (and the Regia Caeli, more on that in a bit).

In Praying the Angelus, Jared explains his own discovery of this prayer (a similar story to my own), he gives some history of the prayer, explains why we should include it in our daily prayer lives, and offers reflections and meditations on each phrase of the prayer. He also sprinkles in lots of his own personal experiences to help bring it all to life. In addition, he explains why we replace the Angelus with the Regina Caeli during the Easter Season, and he offers reflections and meditations for it, as well.

His reflections are short and easy to read through in just a couple minutes. The meditation after each reflection section usually has questions for you to ponder or something to think about during the day. This would be a handy book to include in your morning prayer time, especially if you just take one reflection at a time and then ponder the thoughts and questions further throughout your day. None of the reflections and meditations are much longer than a page or two. So it really can be something easy to incorporate into your day.

I enjoyed reading through all the reflections and meditations for each line of the prayer. Since I was reading the book in order to write this review, and I felt the need to get it read in a timely manner, I didn’t spend as much time with them as the author probably intended of his readers. However I hope to go back to this book and take advantage of the thoughtful questions the author poses to his readers.

I will say that, as someone who has always enjoyed history, the first few chapters of the book were fascinating to me and I really enjoyed them. I feel like I know a lot more of the history of the Angelus, the background of the three Hail Marys, and why this is a good prayer to incorporate into your day. I won’t give it away, go get the book to find out more!

The takeaway for me was to download one of the many Angelus apps available and set up the alarm (with church bells!) to go off three times a day. Now when my kids hear the bells they immediately say, “Angelus time!” I wish I could say that we say it every time, but we are still working on the habit. And it’s a good habit to get into!!

If you want to learn more and become more familiar with the Angelus (and the Regina Caeli), I highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read, chock full of information, and something that can be used again and again. I enjoyed it and learned a lot and can see myself taking more time with it. It certainly inspired me to make the attempt to add the praying of the Angelus into my day.

You can find Praying the Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life by Jared Dees from Ave Maria Press. It is currently priced at $13.95. (And get on Ave Maria’s mailing list while you’re there so you can hear about the sales they have during the year, maybe you can catch this item on sale some time).

Books Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Kerri Matrimony Reviews Sacraments Vocations

Marry Her and Die for Her: A Book Review

Doing book reviews is always interesting. You never know what you’re going to get! I was definitely curious when, last fall, I was asked to review a book titled Marry Him and Be Submissive. What a title!! Controversial for sure, but a great read. Then more recently I was asked to review the companion volume Marry Her and Die for Her. I didn’t even realize there was a companion volume but was thrilled to hear it.

In her first book, author Costanza Miriano tackled what it means to truly be a woman. Go back and read my review (and get the book) to get an idea of the topics she tackles. In this second book she is focusing on men. I will admit that the title of this one tricked me a bit. I assumed the audience was male-focused and thought this might be the kind of thing that could make a good Father’s Day gift (it’s just under a month away). Boy was I wrong!! Sort of. While I think men should still read this book (and I’ll be sharing it with my husband), this is also a great book for us ladies to read.

In this book, Costanza challenges women to be of service to their husbands (continuing the challenge from the previous book) with a focus on helping them to be real men who want to protect us, our children, and be willing to die for us. She discusses standing by your man in his decision making (even if you would have made a different decision), keeping him as a priority over children and other commitments, giving him the benefit of the doubt, and much more. She does this with the same humor, tangential discussions, and bluntness as the previous volume.

The chapter set up this time is a bit different, and for me it was easier to get into the rhythm of the book. Although I liked the last book and understand why she set it up as she did, I preferred the organization of this one. These chapters are broken into two parts. The majority of the chapter is a discussion of the topic punctuated throughout with her same blunt opinions, humor, and supporting Church teaching. At the end of each chapter she offers a short letter, often a suggested letter for the female subject of the chapter to write to her husband or boyfriend.

I really enjoyed this particular book. I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning (maybe I was also already used to her writing style) and really did laugh out loud at many parts. I found myself reading selections to my husband at times and I even did a lot more underlining and took a few notes in my copy. A few times I felt convicted by her thoughts and will take that away as food for thought in my own marriage. My favorite chapter was the last one. In the last chapter she looks more at herself as she considers how she might have turned out. She does this by addressing the chapter to a single male friend of hers, focusing on men growing up to be real men rather than overgrown adolescents (not an uncommon occurrence in our highly secular world). She talks about suffering and how our personal crosses help us grow in maturity, she discusses the value of work and how work means different things to men versus women, and she focuses on how family and/or religion make us better people.

Throughout the book there are these discussions. I love how she brings in stories from the Gospels, from St. Paul’s letters, quotes saints and other Christian writers to support her objective that men should be the decisive, strong presence in the family and women should be the supporting, nurturing presence that builds up the man and gives him that desire to keep his inherent role at the top of his game. This is all very contradictory to what the secular world teaches us. Costanza acknowledges that the feminization of men is growing rapidly around us. As Catholics, we should be living lives contrary to this secular world. And in the end, we find greater happiness and greater freedom in this life.

Something about this book made me want to get to know the author herself a bit more. In the first book, I walked away kind of glad I was not friends with her. Oh, what would she have to say to me?! But with this one I started feeling warmed up to her. She seems like someone I would enjoy talking to and discussing the state of our modern world with. And her bluntness is actually refreshing. I would actually even recommend reading the Acknowledgements section (a section of most books I usually overlook but happened to read this time) at the end of the book. She obviously has a real love for all her many friendships and an authentic love of the Church and God.

I highly recommend this book (and it’s companion volume if you haven’t already read it). Read it and then give it to your husband/boyfriend/father/uncle/adult son to read as well. If you are interested in buying this book it is currently available at Tan Books for $24.95. As like the previous book, this one is also a translation. Originally published in Italian, Tan Books is now making it available in English.

Go grab a copy. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Kerri Series

Unexpectedly Homeschooling: Our Journey

Over the years I have known many homeschooling families but I never thought our family would be one of them. My husband and I planned for our kids to attend the school at our parish. We even bought a house within the boundaries of the parish to be sure we had the best chance for getting in. Despite having three little ones, I worked full-time because we knew we needed both our incomes to afford our parish school. But you know how these things go … we make plans and God laughs.

And He had a great big laugh!

Shortly after we moved into that house I started having doubts. Not about the school itself, I knew my kids would get a good education there and we have friends who send their kids to school there and love it. No, it wasn’t that. I had doubts about continuing to work full time. I loved my job, or more accurately, I loved aspects of my job. But the parts I loved were getting buried under a bunch of other things that I really didn’t love. And my desire to spend more time at home with my children was growing larger by the day.

How were we going to afford the Catholic school if I was home? It didn’t seem possible. One thing my husband felt strongly about was that we couldn’t really afford the house long-term if I was home. After much deliberation and lots of research, and plenty of prayer of course, we decided that we’d work toward making it possible for me to stay home full-time and we’d look at selling the house in a couple years. Plus, the schooling decision was now open.

The funny thing was that we looked around our neighborhood and realized that houses were selling pretty fast. We saw a for sale sign go up on a house just down the street and within a few weeks it was gone. Instead of waiting a couple more years, we called our Realtor. Boy, was she shocked to hear from us!!

We sold the house in one weekend and began scrambling to find a new house. Which we did. So now, what about schooling??

A regular guest on a local radio program both my husband and I listened to was a big promoter of classical education models. One day we both happened to hear him mention that he was going to be speaking at a local, classical school one night on this topic. So we decided to attend. It turns out it was also an open house for the school. We had heard of the school before but hadn’t really looked into it. It was a hybrid school, that is, part-time school paired with part-time homeschooling.

Remember, I said I never expected to homeschool.

But we looked around, talked to some teachers, looked at some curricula (I had no idea what I was supposed to be evaluating, but I looked), went to the talk, and walked away sold.

Say what? Yes, SOLD!!

I was shocked that I was seriously considering this. But in all honesty, the idea of homeschooling in conjunction with a part-time school, was easier to consider than tackling homeschooling all at once. The more we looked into the program and talked to others who had experience with the school, the more this seemed like a very real possibility.

So last summer, I left my job and began a new journey. My twins started Kindergarten in September and it has been a great experience. I plan to do a post on hybrid homeschooling itself and why we like it, but that is not this post (look for that later this year). This post is for sharing our journey (done!) and how our first year went.

And the first year has been great! We have a few weeks left in the year and I’m beyond pleased with how well my boys have done and how easy the transition was.

The transition from working full-time with kids in daycare to being home full time took almost no time to get used to. My boys loved being home more and going on more outings with mom. I miss aspects of working, but overall I was ready for this next step (I worked for 16 years, had tenure, blah, blah, blah, that chapter was ready to be over).

Once school started the boys adjusted to the new schedule fairly quickly. They attend school two days (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and we do their assignments plus any supplementing I want to do at home the other days. And they end up with plenty of time to play, do art projects, etc. We even try to make daily Mass once a week.

The hardest part of the transition was keeping the 2 year old (now 3 year old) occupied during school time. He did a lot of coloring or just sitting on my lap listening or even helping to hold the sight word flashcards. After the first 4 months (about the time he turned 3) he started realizing that he could have all the toys to himself, no sharing, while we did school work. Score!! Now he’s mostly in the playroom when the twins are working.

We did fall behind in our religion lesson plans. The school is a Christian school, so they have been memorizing Bible verses and learning Bible stories in school, but I knew we needed a Catholic curriculum at home. We’ve done about a third of the book I chose. Kindergarten has been a good time to find what works for us and what doesn’t. I’m still determined to do this aspect of their formation at home, but I need to make some adjustments for next year. In the meantime, I’ve learned that as a homeschooler, summer is a great time to catch up in a casual, no-pressure way. Truthfully, though, they are not lacking in religious formation. We try to attend Mass at least once during the week, we talk about our Catholic faith often, we pray as a family, they ask questions, and we have learned some new prayers this year. So regardless of whether we finish the book or not, I feel like they have still learned a lot.

Overall, this has been a great year for us and I’m so happy this is the direction God led us. It was a scary path to take at first, but I believe it was the right one for us. We are definitely taking it year by year, trying to leave it open to what God intends for us. For now, we’re happy with the hybrid school approach and are committed again for next year. At the same time, I’m going to devote some time next year to homeschooling preschool with my youngest.

So, if you are on the fence, like I once was, research your options, pray about it a lot, and then go ahead and jump in if God is calling you. Nothing has to be forever, you can always try something different the next year.

Easter Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Liturgical Year Prayer Vocations

Lectio Divina: Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday-Year A)

I have a small group of women that I try to get together with once a month to pray using lectio divina and the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. We have actually not been able to meet for the last few months so I have not been doing this as regularly as I should. They help keep me accountable! So it’s really nice to be able to do it on occasion here on the blog.

I hope you’ll join me today and spend some time in preparation for this coming Sunday. Lectio divina is a perfect way to enter into the Gospels and spend some time in prayer with them, not just reading the passage, but really praying with it and listening to what God wants you to hear.

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter. The Gospel passage can be found on the USCCB website. Be sure to have it in front of you as you follow along through the rest of this post. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.


  • By name
  • I am the gate
  • Have life

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

A few months ago I was assisting in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class and the lesson was on this passage from the Gospel of John. The kids we have in the class are between the ages of 3 and 6, but we only have 6 kids total. When I read this passage I was taken back to that lesson and watching the kids playing with the mini sheep, shepherd, and sheepfold that were on the table. The teacher also asked them all to be sheep and picked one person to be the shepherd. The shepherd was asked to call the sheep by name and the kids responded appropriately. They mostly enjoyed the opportunity to run around a little bit and take turns being “in charge.” But one thing I took away from watching these little people quickly respond to the “shepherd” calling their name was how they responded immediately and joyfully. The joy and the quickness of their trust is inspiring for us adults who often are jaded by life and are more cautious with our trust in others. To watch these littles ones respond to hearing their names got me thinking and those thoughts came back when I opened to this passage on Monday night.

The idea that Jesus calls me by name is mind-blowing. I may be one little sheep out of literally billions, but he will still call me by name. How do I or will I respond? Do I follow with the trust and joy of those small children in our CGS class? In John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that the sheep follow “because they recognize his voice.” I want to follow Jesus but the only way to do so is by regular prayer and listening for his will. I won’t recognize his voice unless I’m already used to hearing it.

One other note, Good Shepherd Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Please pray this Sunday (and every day, for that matter) for more vocations in your diocese and the Church overall, specifically vocations to the priesthood and religious life. There are prayers available on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations website and from the USCCB.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Dear Jesus, I pray that I will hear your voice and recognize it so as to properly discern your will for me and my family. May my prayer always be fruitful so as to always recognize your voice. I pray, too, for those sheep who have lost their way that they may open themselves up to hearing your voice so they may once again follow you.

O Lord, I pray that more young men will listen for your voice and recognize and respond to the call to help lead your flocks. May many young men and women also respond to your call to enter religious life.


Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.


What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.