We are officially in the season of Lent. It is day two, and chances are we still feel pretty good about our plans for mortification and observance of this solemn season in preparation for Our Lord’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
Like most things in our modern world, even Lent can drag us into the dangerous comparison game when it comes to how we live it out in our family’s lives. There is no shortage of material, electronic and otherwise, that shows us how to do this Lent better than in years past.
Every year, before Lent begins, I have high expectations for my family. We go around the table and talk about what we might be able to sacrifice—individually and as a family. We silence screens, banish sweets, and add prayers to our list. I imagine my children might beg to say the Rosary while kneeling on rice, and offer it all to the Lord for the poor and hurting among us, while they simultaneously give away their toys and stop fighting all together. Okay, maybe they won’t want to kneel on rice, but the rest isn’t too much to ask, is it?
The truth is that our commitment to our observances may ebb and flow. Our children are unlikely to fully embrace the mortifications of the season, and they will likely complain. We, too, will falter. Life keeps moving even during Lent, and the truth is that we are not called to a life of quiet reflection during this season any more than we are during Ordinary Time. The very essence of our life is one of sacrifice and mortification because we are mothers, and family life is often Lenten in its very existence.
This is not to say that we should skip sacrifices and special observances during this important season. This is simply to say that we could easily get caught up in Pinterest-worthy practices that have little to do with God’s call to us. He cares that we are teaching our children the important privilege of suffering for Christ. It is so essential that we teach our children how to suffer well, how to bear the pains of this life with patience and love and eternal perspective. Life will give them suffering; Christ will allow them to bear that which seems unbearable. But for now, we can train them in the little things. We can give up sweets and T.V., not because those things are intrinsically evil or in any way separate us from God, but because in missing those things, we can turn our gaze in love toward Christ, who literally gave everything for our eternal freedom.
We live with an incredible amount of comfort most of the time, and choosing to set aside some of those comforts and turn our gaze toward Christ is a necessary part of our constant conversion. Even if our children don’t fully comprehend the “why,” it will necessarily help form them.
So this Lent let’s think less of what our Lent looks like from the outside, and consider day by day how we can point our hearts, and the hearts of our children, toward the suffering Christ. When Christ on the cross is our focus, nothing he asks us to suffer can overwhelm or defeat us. He has suffered all things first, and we must not forget that all of this points us to his victory and his triumph. Even during Lent, we are Easter people; may he carry us with him on this journey of the Cross.