Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Mass Meatless Fridays Prayer Resources Spiritual Growth Your Handy-Dandy List

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!

Easter Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year

The Final Days of Lent: Questions to Facilitate Lenten Reflection

Lenten reflectionToday is the 5th Friday of Lent and in just two days we’ll be celebrating Palm Sunday and ushering in Holy Week. Can you believe we’re already at the end of Lent? I feel like it has gone by really quickly this time around. But I’m glad I caught that we were near the end before we actually got to the end.

With just a few days left, I think it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned this Lent before entering into the Sacred Triduum. It’s the best time to reflect on how I fulfilled (or not fulfilled) my Lenten promises and ask myself, “Did I take on too much or not enough and did this Lent truly prepared me for the upcoming Easter season?”

I’d like to invite you to reflect on your own Lent as well. I came up with a list of questions for myself, and I hope to spend some time reflecting on each of these this weekend. I hope these questions can help all of us to reflect more deeply on our Lenten experiences.


On days when I broke my Lenten promises, was it due to forgetfulness, laziness, or weakness?

If forgetfulness, how can I help myself in the future to better remember my promised sacrifices each day?

If laziness, I should take some serious time to reflect on the root causes of my laziness. Is it due to ignorance or selfishness? Maybe it’s the result of bad habits that go back years (laziness begets laziness). Reflect on the crucifix and the wounds of Christ and pray for inspiration to help forge ahead and out of this state.

If weakness, is it because I took on too much for Lent? Lent should be hard, in a challenging way, not an impossible way. Or is it due to a lack of spiritual maturity?

Did I grow closer to Jesus Christ this Lent?

What have I done to grow my relationship with my Lord?

What could I have done better to deepen that relationship?

How might I do things differently in the future to help that relationship deepen?

id Lent adequately prepare my heart with a sense of anticipation for the upcoming Easter celebration?

Although I know the ultimate outcome of the Crucifixion is the Resurrection (something the Apostles did not know would happen), do I have a sense of the hopelessness and fear the Apostles had when Jesus was arrested and subsequently crucified?

Did my sacrifices this Lent draw me to a point where the celebration of Easter will be truly joyous and filled with the same kind of wonderment that the Apostles must have experienced when they discovered the empty tomb?


What have I learned about my faith, myself, and suffering over this Lent?

Is my faith life stronger?

Have I progressed in my spiritual life since Ash Wednesday?

Do I have a greater appreciation for suffering and the benefits suffering can bear?

What lessons from Lent do I plan to carry forward into the Easter season and beyond?

I hope you will join me this weekend in reflecting on your Lenten experiences, whether you use my questions or come up with your own. This is a perfect time to do this as we make our final preparations for Holy Week and Easter.

Are there questions you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to see them!

I wish all our dear readers a beautiful Holy Week and a joyous Easter celebration!!

Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year

Uniting Our Lenten Sacrifices with Christ Crucified

jesus-pictures-crucifixion-2This Lent I find myself contemplating the nature of sacrifice more than I ever have before. While I have often given something up for Lent, most of the time I view that something more as a challenge to myself than as a sacrifice that is supposed to help me unite my struggles or sufferings with the crucified Christ. But a convergence of events has given me greater pause this year.

Shortly after Lent began this year I returned to work after a nice, long maternity leave. About that same time I also started praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. My days are now very long, starting much earlier than I am used to and going until fairly late in the day. I am NOT a morning person and every bone in my body dreads the early hour at which I now get up.

I started Lent this year with the idea that I was going to give up chocolate. Again, it was one of those challenges to myself. As the season began and I had to get into a new rhythm in my life, I found that I was contemplating the Passion of our Lord in those wee hours of the morning when I had to drag myself out of bed to feed the baby before the rest of the household woke up. As I thought about what Christ sacrificed for us I realized how small and insignificant my “sacrifices” were. I also came to realize that my real sacrifices were being made for my baby. I was getting up for him when I would have much rather stayed in bed. I was breastfeeding him and thus giving of my body for him.

It is a greater struggle for me personally to get up early each morning and I have found breastfeeding challenging and very much a sacrifice as well. In this area, right now, at this time in my life, I do find myself looking to the cross more than I have in past Lents. Or really at any time. I dropped the idea of giving up chocolate for Lent. It was a simple challenge and not a struggle that was going to force me to look to Christ and unite those struggles with His ultimate sacrifice. No, chocolate was definitely not going to do it this year.

But as I struggle to face each morning, as I deal with the occasional pain of breastfeeding, as I struggle with latching, as I face the boredom of pumping during my workday, I find strength to carry on by looking to the cross. My sacrifices are still nothing compared to Christ’s, but they are definite struggles for me. I look to the cross and I know I can do these earthly things. The spiritual benefits seem much clearer to me now than in previous years.

My Lent has become focused on sticking to my new morning routine, which includes praying the morning office and getting up much earlier than my body wants so I can put it to work caring for and feeding my baby. And as I do these things each morning I think about Christ dying on the cross for my sins. I find that contemplating the crucifixion helps me get out of bed when I’d rather try to grab a few more minutes of sleep. Thinking about the torture Christ endured for us completely minimizes any physical difficulties I am experiencing as I continue breastfeeding. And  praying the morning office reminds me to not just contemplate the crucifixion, but to rejoice in the Lord and all He has blessed me with.

In the end, this is what Lent is about. We spend this season participating in some small way in the sacrifice of the crucifixion so that we may rejoice at the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Maybe giving up something like chocolate or TV or coffee is a true sacrifice for someone that helps them to experience the sufferings of Christ. I’m realizing that those kinds of things, while still hard, aren’t bringing me to a place that I need to be to fully experience Lent. Instead, my struggle to start my day an hour or more earlier than normal and spend time in prayer helps me to feel united to Christ.

I hope you are having a fruitful Lent and are finding ways to be united with the crucified Christ in preparation for the joy and praise we will experience on Easter. I pray that whatever your sacrifices are, that you can stay strong and persevere through the rest of this Lenten season.

Allison Ink Slingers Lent Spiritual Growth

Lent ~ The Last Great Race

iditarod1These early March days find us, along with many Alaskans, daily checking standings for the mushers running the 1100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race- the “last great race.” My dog-loving twelve year old daughter checks multiple times a day and moves colored pins standing for her four favorites along a map (she’s a hard-core fan!). Since it is also Lent, I see Lent everywhere around me and the Iditarod is no exception.

Initially called the Great Race of Mercy  (Hello, Lent), the race commemorates the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome by way of the Iditarod trail, a mining transport route through the now-ghost-town of the same name. Those mushers were smart and strong, risking their lives and the lives of their working dogs to get that medicine to stricken iditarod2Nome. The Iditarod is still a dangerous run, “Not safe,” according to musher Dee Dee Jonrowe, “Challenging conditions are true every year. It’s the Iditarod Trail. The race must go on.” says Iditarod Trail Committee Executive Director Stan Hooley.* As is Lent. Each year has its own spiritual dangers and challenges. We have our Hell’s Gates and Dalzell Gorges. We also have our rest stops available in Friday evening soup and stations. Extra reconciliation services are our health checks. And the Lenten race will go on as well, ending with the Easter celebration year after year until the Great Banquet in the Father’s House.

iditarod5We may need to drop out, or “scratch,” in order to get our dogs or ourselves (or both) tended back to health for next year’s run. This is OK. If we desire betterment and do not allow bitterness to creep in, we will learn what we should and become closer to Jesus His way. “Let it be unto me according to what you have said,” said our Blessed Mother. Two years ago, my baby was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in the beginning of Lent. That year, fasting for me took the form of mentally wrangling fear and anger to the ground and lifting my eyes to Jesus to embrace love and redemptive suffering. It was exhausting. I scratched my planned sacrifice, fired the computer back up and made needed connections. With the Iditarod, many times the mushers have their decisions made for them. Regarding the Yukon River deciding things for racers, says musher Martin Buser, “The Yukon always is a decider if it’s punchy or slow.”* Indeed. Likewise, sometimes Lent is decided for us, whether punchy or slow.

Physically running the Iditarod and spiritually running Lent begins with preparation: take stock, figure goals, decide risks, and gather materials. While there is a general pattern in Lent (pray, fast, give) and a general pattern in mushing (food, gear, map), everyone’s plan is their own (Musher Jeff King is known for his inventions like boxed sled seating and heated handlebars!). Then jump in and participate. Just do it and see what happens! There are physicians and public servants at checkpoints on the way (priests and angels) and those watching on the periphery for culture and entertainment may be inspired to get in the race themselves. God be praised.

The last great race before Easter truly is a great race of mercy. May we find opportunities every day to enrich Lent with mercy accepted and given. May we actively look for burning bushes, even in Iditarod stories. Go mushers! Go us!


*March 7, 2014 Frontiersman and Anchorage Daily News headlines


Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Resources Spiritual Growth Your Handy-Dandy List

Your Handy-Dandy List to Lenten Sacrifices

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and most of us have already been asked (or have asked) the question of the season: What are you giving up? Many of us may have been caught off guard by the question.

Lent? Already? It’s still January!

February just started!

Um … when is Lent this year?

Yep, it’s definitely coming around a tad early this year!

But you don’t have to only “give something up” for Lent. It’s certainly a good idea to do that, but you can offer up other sacrifices instead of or in addition to giving something up. What we need to remember is that the whole point of Lent is to remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. It’s a time of sacrifice and penance, a time to unite our sufferings with the crucified Christ, and a time to deepen our relationship with Christ. When we give something up for Lent it should be something that truly feels like a sacrifice. For some people, giving up something may not truly be a sacrifice, but adding something to their day, especially something spiritual, is what they need to grow deeper in their faith. That sacrifice of time can be a biggy for many of us.

In the spirit of growing deeper in our faith and our relationship with Christ, I asked friends on Facebook, checked out some blog posts, and came up with a list of Lenten sacrifices to give us all some ideas for this Lenten season. This list still contains the traditional “giving something up” items, but goes a step further as well with things you can add to your daily routine and other types of sacrifices you can make individually or as a family.

If you’re like me and haven’t yet made a commitment to something yet, I hope this list helps you out. Just remember, whatever you do, it should be something that brings you closer to Jesus Christ.

Things to give up

  • No TV and/or video games
  • Do a computer fast or replace a certain amount of time on the computer with time playing with the kids
  • Give up Facebook
  • Give up all drinks except water or give up a particular drink (coffee, soda, wine, etc.)
  • Forego sugar in your coffee or tea, or better yet, give up the coffee entirely. Another option, give up the drive-thru for coffee on your way to work each day and make and take your own.
  • Give up whining and/or complaining, raising your voice, laziness, impatience, etc.
  • Give up some sort of “convenience” item like prepared foods, the dishwasher, or paper towels/napkins
  • Forego hair products, make-up, nail polish, etc. Basically no primping during Lent.
  • Give up eating out and doing take out and donate the money saved to charity
  • Forego listening to music in the car
  • Give up chocolate, desserts, and/or candy
  • No hot showers
  • Give up the “snooze” button on the alarm clock
  • Give up lights in the evening after the kids are in bed, use only candlelight
  • For more ideas on what to give up for Lent this year check out the links here and here and here.

Things you can add

  • Prayer: Add in an extra block of time in your day for prayer. Doesn’t have to be long, 15 minutes is good, longer if you can do it.
  • Add in a daily Rosary if it’s not something you already do or the Divine Mercy Chaplet or a novena (or two or three)
  • Lent is often a good time to add in doing the Way of the Cross devotion.
  • Replace one snack a day with a prayer instead
  • Read the Bible and/or memorize a Bible verse each week
  • Add in extra reading for you or the whole family (reading aloud as a family is a great idea!)
  • Listen to some good Catholic podcasts. Fr. Z even has some podcasts geared specifically toward Lent and Holy Week over on his blog. Find more podcasts over at SQPN.
  • Add in some extra days of fasting from food beyond those that are already required. You could also consider this a “giving up” item as well.
  • Go to Daily Mass each week, even just one extra Mass a week can make a difference in your relationship with Our Lord. Try for all 40 days of Lent if you can.
  • Make a list of 40 people who have touched your life in some way and write each one of them a letter during Lent letting them know why they are special in your life. Take some time that day to pray for them as well. You can also get the whole family involved in this project, check out how this family does this each lent.
  • Read the daily Mass readings
  • Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. If you already go to Adoration, add in an extra time slot for it during the week.
  • Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly
  • Do a random act of kindness every day
  • Participate in the Sistas’ 2014 Lenten photo challenge
  • A lenten journal put together by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
  • Rent movies through this new Catholic “netflix” type service!
  • Lenten reflections with Father Barron

Other Types of Sacrifices

  • Instead of buying bread, make all your own bread at home. Or, in this same vein, are there other ways you can provide for your family at home instead of buying something at the store?
  • Instead of pants, try wearing skirts for all of Lent. Here’s a site that may give you some inspiration or help along the way.
  • You know that sin (or sins) that you seem to have to confess over and over again? How about working to not have to confess that sin during Lent?
  • How about sleeping on the floor during Lent instead of your bed. There’s a convenience that’s a big sacrifice! Or, if you’re not ready to give up your bed entirely, how about giving up your pillow for all of Lent?
  • A friend of mine once told me that he put a pebble in his shoe for several days while a friend of his was on a retreat. It as a constant reminder to him to pray for his friend. Why not try this during Lent?
  • Practice silence: one day a week, each night after the kids are in bed, etc. Silence is important to our spiritual growth in the midst of our noisy world, the Pope tells us.
  • Park in the last spot at the shopping center or at work and say a prayer as you walk in and walk back to your car when you leave.
  • Buy a pair of used shoes from Goodwill and wear them every day of Lent.
  • 40 Bags for 40 Days: fill up 40 bags of stuff you don’t need and toss it or donate it. It’s a good sacrificing way to take an honest look at whether you REALLY need something.
  • Volunteer! Check with your parish, the diocese, local organizations, or organizations like Volunteer Match or Volunteer Guide.
  • Check out the “pins” on the Catholic Sistas’ Pinterest Board for Lent for more Lenten inspiration.

And if you want some help keeping track of your Lenten sacrifice this year, check out the Lenten Sacrifices Cross available at Casia Books, it’s something the whole family could do. Or check out the Lenten cross from this post here from this morning.

Whatever you decide to do during Lent just remember the whole reason why we live in this desert of 40 days. We are uniting our sufferings with Jesus’ and we will celebrate his resurrection with great joy on Easter Sunday when it is all over. And if we are successful and stick to our plans, it will be a sweet joy indeed!

Just don’t try to overdo it or take on too much but do try to be intentional with whatever it is you choose to do.

What are you doing for Lent this year?