Approaching Lent as a family unit

By  Lisa Petsche
  • February 19, 2009
{mosimage}Each year at the beginning of Lent, my family receives a “Lifestyle Awareness Calendar” in our parish bulletin from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The idea is to set aside small sums of money which accumulate for the Share Lent collection. Each day there’s a different donation suggestion, such as “15 cents for each glass of unpolluted water you drink today.”

My children go around counting the number of appliances, light bulbs, books or other items in our house, then we calculate how much to deposit in our collection container that day. On Sundays there’s a social justice issue to pray about — for example, South African women who struggle for just working conditions.

The calendar raises our awareness of the many conveniences of North American life we take for granted that are not part of the lives of most people in developing countries. It prompts us to reflect on how we can more equitably share the goods of the world.

It also leads us to consider the impact on our family of the consumer- and success-oriented culture in which we live. Daily we’re bombarded by advertising that aggressively aims to influence our wants and convince us that they are needs. It perpetuates the myth that fulfilment comes from external sources and that the more we acquire in terms of goods and prestige, the better we will feel.

In a recent homily, my pastor pointed out that while it’s not a sin to be wealthy — and most of us are compared to our counterparts in the developing world — it is a sin to place our faith in our wealth instead of God.

Herein lies the danger: the power that comes with wealth can lead to a false sense of security. The result is a diminished perception of the need for God in our life.

It’s no wonder that many people who, by society’s definition “have it all,” admit to feeling an emptiness inside. Witness the popularity of books and magazine articles on reducing stress, finding balance, living within your means, nurturing your spirit and leading a more meaningful life.

Clearly, more and more adults in today’s fast-paced, high-tech, superstore society are yearning for simplicity and, with it, a higher spiritual component in their lives. They wish to be more in tune with their inner selves, their environment and, in many cases, a higher being. They hunger for a sense of purpose that transcends the material world. And they long for true connection with others, whereby they’re valued for who they really are rather than for their appearance, assets or accomplishments.

Fortunately, the Lenten season presents a wonderful opportunity for us as Catholic parents take stock of our relationship with God, our loved ones and the world around us. This involves honestly examining our values and priorities, as exemplified in our daily living.

For instance, do I put my family ahead of work and other pursuits?

Do I make ongoing efforts to enrich my relationship with my spouse? As a family, do we spend regular, quality time together? Do we function as a team?

Do we focus as much, if not more, on our emotional and spiritual needs as on our material needs and wants?

Do we live in the present, appreciating the blessings we have? Do we look for signs of goodness in ourselves and others?

Do we trust in God’s ways when faced with life’s inevitable challenges?

Do we have the courage to be unconventional in a society that tends to undermine Catholic family values?

What are we doing to make the world a better place? Do we pray for those in need; perform regular acts of charity; treat the Earth’s resources with respect; get involved in social justice issues?

Another activity my family finds valuable is participating in our parish’s weekly Stations of the Cross, using a thought-provoking booklet titled Everyone’s Way of the Cross by Clarence Enzler. The reflections help us identify more closely with Jesus not only in our struggles but also in our daily routines.

Through our various Lenten endeavours we experience renewal, gradually drawing closer to God and each other.

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