The beginning of Lent is only a few days away, and I have finally hashed out my plans. My tendency of perfectionism means it takes a while to type them out, but once I have it done, things go pretty smoothly.
I enjoy planning for Lent and Easter. I don’t make plans to rigidly follow, but it’s a way to gather my thoughts. I don’t really do unit studies, but having some unified themes and direction is helpful. Lent has the spiritual call to start anew, to start again with a clean slate. This is the call of springtime of Lent: we will concentrate on our weak areas and begin again. Last year I started to write my plans, and duty called and things were in a flux, so this year I’m writing details.
Our focus this Lent is tied in with the preparation for First Confession and First Holy Communion. My son is attending an atrium of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd which has a wonderful approach on FHC. I do want to take some of what he learns there and extend it at home, so he can contemplate these mysteries of Faith.
I wrote a little article for our Lent and Holy Week reading which will appear in the spring issue of mater et magistra. But until then, I’m sharing a few notes here on our reading plan.
We will be reading An Introduction to the Liturgical Year and The Way of the Cross: Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross, and the Resurrection by Inos Biffi, illustrated by Franco Vignazia, beginning with An Introduction to the Liturgical Year. This is the best book I have found that presents the entire liturgical year as a whole, helping us see the whole pattern of the Church’s liturgy.
I reserve The Way of the Cross: Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross, and the Resurrection for our Holy Week reading, bringing this and An Introduction to the Liturgical Year to all the Holy Week liturgies our family attends. The images are again vivid and brilliant, following Jesus through Holy Week, walking in His footsteps through His Passion and Death and Resurrection, and also tying the events as the Church relives them during the Holy Triduum.
St. Patrick’s Summer by Marigold Hunt is our Lenten chapter book. I have fond personal memories of reading this book as a young girl; this book made quite an impression. It is a living book, providing in a wonderful narrative style great mysteries of the Faith.
As I was rereading the book for planning reasons, I noticed the themes covered in the book seem to echo the key events of the Easter Vigil liturgy. The readings of the Vigil retell the story of salvation. The stories are repeated in the book: St. Patrick brings the children back to the Easter night with the Paschal fire, then the next visitor is Eve, Mother of All Living, who gives the tale of Creation and Original Sin, and next is Abraham, our father in Faith, discussing Baptism and taking the children to the scene of the parting of the Red Sea, and also the sacrifice scene with his son, Isaac. The reader becomes a catechumen, pondering the great mysteries of the Faith, and given the basics on how to live one’s Faith in the world.
Although the book is a type of catechism, I won’t require it for assigned reading and narration. As the parent I can recognize the great truths taught, but allow my son to savor and enjoy the book at his pace, letting it speak to his heart. Perhaps it will be a book that he will reread often, as I did.
Keeping to the salvation history as mentioned in St. Patrick’s Summer, and presented at our Easter Vigil, both currently, and the older forms, our read-alouds will follow those key figures and events of the Old Testament. The key ones will be Creation, the Fall, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Exodus, and Jonah. I want to sprinkle a few extra Old Testament figures along the way, and I will present them chronologically, as unveiled in the Old Testament. A few stories we will pull from collections, like Little Stories About God or various Bible stories for children, as I haven’t found a satisfactory book for the story of the Fall, and Abraham sacrificing (or almost) Isaac. Please let me know if you have found any good picture books for those areas!
It’s a wide variety of reading. I have many books on our shelves and from the library, and I’ve included some similar titles. We won’t necessarily read all, but I do like to offer choices and we also like to read books with the same theme and compare. We usually read one or two books a night, and have room for more in the daytime. We might not read them all, but this is to remind me of the ones we have. We can repeat or read the missed ones other years. My son is an avid reader, so I also know the amount of reading isn’t too much for his voracious appetite. We’re not failures if we don’t read all or most of the titles – this is only a guide, suggestions for us.
Our favorite start-up with Lent is the We have a little plaque to put on our mantle, and I had painted a tile to use on our table, and a pysanky egg. Every year we try to come up with other ways to present that reminder of NOW is the time.NOW Cross.
Our table will have a Lent for Children Daily Display. This was really enjoyed last year, and the discussions and ponderings of the Gospel by the children were wonderful to see.
The Crown of Thorns is a centerpiece for our table. I use wooden picks instead of toothpicks. We’ve been using a grapevine wreath for years, and if I run out of time we’ll still use it, so we won’t have pressure. But I do hope I can create a salt-dough wreath this year, since we have missed out for so many other years.
My boys love the Lamb of God poster inspired by Karen Edmisten. They recently saw it in the poster stack and reminded me to make sure we do it this year.
Another poster I’m creating will be a large grapevine, with branches enough to have images of art for the Gospels of each Sunday with a short Scripture quote, and also the main parables that will be contemplated during the Sacramental Preparation at our son’s atrium. That is still being created, so no pictures yet.
I use Personal Program of Lent as a guide for our Lenten activities. So much of Lent is learning deny oneself, so the first week we will read from Catholic Children’s Treasure Box, number 5, and make sacrifice beads. Kim Fry had posted some great ideas with pony beads, and I have a pack of purple ones just waiting for this project.
As a family, we do give up TV, pray the rosary and Stations of the Cross, and attend a few extra Masses during the week during Lent. We will add some simple Lenten chants and hymns to sing throughout the season. I’m not worried if they don’t learn all the words, but I’m trying to familiarize them with the melodies. I hope to put together a little booklet with the music that we can use throughout the season.
We do want to say goodbye and bury our Alleluia. I’ll have each boy make their own Alleluia. I’ve got a bag of blessed palms I want to burn into ashes—our parish won’t take them. So I’m thinking place the Alleluias in a box and in the burial in the garden incorporate some of the ashes. I will use them for our display, but only for a day or two, because I know they won’t remain in the bowl for long.
Work of our Hands:
Besides the “usual” Lenten activities, we are going to focus on calligraphy, illumination, pysanky (Ukrainian eggs), and a bit of working with wheat (dough and baking). With this late season of Lent, gardening will also be a part of our activities. With all these interests we will have some books to read along. I have placed titles in various weeks, but they are merely suggestions for those weeks.
I have been working on calligraphy since I was 11, and my son has really taken to doing it himself, learning and practicing in the atrium. It’s been wonderful working side-by-side, and he’s so proud of his work. The calligraphy will be focused on projects for prayer cards, writing and illuminated texts from the Psalms and Gospels tied in with the presentations of the Catechesis. As I mentioned recently, it is extremely refreshing, peaceful and a wonderful way for contemplation when writing.
Every year we take up our kistky and try to make Ukrainian eggs, and this year will be no exception. We have so many wonderful books that tie in Easter and eggs and pysanky. Some of our focus will be on symbols, not necessarily Ukrainian ones, but Christian symbols. This will tie back to our illuminated manuscripts and our regular hardboiled Easter eggs.
Some of our science focus will be on learning a bit of natural dyes, and also about the honeybee. Spring is the new time in the hives. With the Paschal Candle, beeswax used in the Church’s Liturgy, the long symbolism of the bee and wax and the Church, and then the actual process of pysanky incorporating beeswax, I see a natural connection and so we will extend that in our reading. My sister keeps bees so I get lots of information from her.
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