As the Lenten season starts, we hear all kinds of people, young and old, solemnly announcing to the world that for the next 40 days, they have given up coffee, chocolate or pop. Yet, we have to keep in mind that there is much more about Lent than just giving things up. So in this blog post, we will go over three timely reasons you can use to inspire and educate your children regarding the importance of Lent.
Reason #1: learning to grasp the value of time
During our early years, (from little children to early adolescents) time seems rather a slow-moving process. One day feels like a week, a week feels like a month and a year… sounds more like a century! Perception of time is definitely not a sharp reality when we are young. On the other hand, the earlier we teach the youngsters to understand and manage time properly, the more beneficial it will be, helping them to learn the skills necessary to be organized, productive and accomplished individuals. So where and how Lent fits on this learning curve? On Ash Wednesday, for instance, the Priest pronounces some very meaningful words: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return…”, solemnly reminding us that we are on earth for a limited period of time. We come from nothing but ashes and one day we will return to them. In other words, time is nothing but a creature of God given to us to administer. And it is up to us making the best of it in happiness and joy, through holiness and wisdom. A major lesson provided by the Lenten Season is that time is limited, and those ashes are a powerful sign that our time here on earth has a beginning and an end.
Reason #2: Learning to appreciate self-sacrifice
Lent is a 40 days long preparation for Holy Week, when Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, for the redemption of mankind. Little sacrifices like giving up TV, electronics, chocolate or pop, may be very formative if pointed to a realm of greater ideals: heroic and unselfish self-sacrifice, mastering self-control, and giving up momentary satisfaction for the benefit of others, and for love of God. In sharp contrast with the Lenten sacrifices, our contemporary world seems to head frantically in the direction of selfishness and egoism as being paramount to complete self-realization. On the contrary, opening the eyes to the existence of higher values than self, maybe a priceless lesson we can profit from during this Lent. The examples of remarkable saints such as St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Therese, St. Damien of Molokai, or St. Maria Goretti can, according to the ages of the listeners, inspire and eventually define the course of a life. And Lent is a great source of inspiration, plenty of teachable moments.
Reason #3: Instant gratification is not all
Contemporary society seems to present instant gratification as the most desirable objective of any motion, action or initiative, implying that anything that may take longer than a second or two… should be avoided as boring, tedious and dull. Sadly influenced by this kind of ‘make-no-effort’ mania, our society gives the impression of sinking on the total abandonment of discipline, of effort, and of hard working ethics. As a result of this influence, we may end up seeing sacrifice as an evil to be avoided as much as possible, if not at all costs! The pursuit of instant gratification above all things is a treacherous path. Why? Because acquiring a virtue, progressing on a skill or developing a successful project encompass processes that require time, effort, dedication, and a generous dose of perseverance and resilience. Meaningful and long-lasting moral or material accomplishments are not attainable on a second or two… Lent, through 40 long days, teaches us that “instant gratification” is not compatible with the formation of a solid character based on Virtue. A good wine requires time to reach its full bouquet; in like manner, to reach the peak of any virtue, our soul requires a long growing process based on sacrifice, perseverance and the grace of God. Lent reminds us that virtuous habits do not happen on a click or two, cannot be bought on Amazon, and most likely are not to be delivered instantly on a single download!
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Lent is, without any doubt a very beautiful time of the year, plenty of teachable moments. which Parents, grandparents, teachers, and educators may use them to the great advantage of the young and of themselves; teaching and in turn learning formidable lessons culminating on Easter and in the joys of the Resurrection.
by Br. Gustavo Kralj, EP