Lent is quickly approaching! Before we enter into this profound liturgical season, beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 14th), let’s discern the ways in which we can invite our students and staff into a deeper understanding of their faith.
Lent is a season chock-full of opportunities for young people to grow in their faith. While Lent is often marked as a season of giving up chocolate and waiting for Easter, it’s actually full of rich themes and traditions which can help us on our journey of faith. Inviting our staff and students to actively participate in this season of Lent is a wonderful way to help our school communities become more attuned to a life in Christ.
While Lent does involve giving something up, the aim of it is to encounter, in a profound way, the love of Christ – and this is at the heart of our mission as Catholic Educators. Let’s take the opportunity this year to discern some Lenten themes so that we can better understand how to invite our students on this liturgical journey.
Engage in dialogue about Self-Discipline
Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage.Psalm 27:14
Kick-starting a diet this Lent? Giving up Facebook? We often associate Lent with the things we give up – and how well (or poorly!) we stick to our goals. While fasting is one of the central themes of Lent – it’s always important to remember that our fasts – whatever they may be – are a means to a greater end. The purpose of fasting during Lent isn’t ultimately to lose those extra 5 pounds but to consciously strive to conform our lives to be more like Christ. Fasting – and the discipline involved in sacrificing our own wants and desires – is central to following in the footsteps of Christ and being an authentic Christian.
Prayer takes discipline. Loving your neighbour takes discipline. Following the commandments takes discipline. Without practice and dedication, discipline – especially in today’s world – can be easily lost and subsequently, our ability to pray, love and act as Christ did.
Our students have grown up in a culture of ‘instant-everything.’ From fast-paced video games at their fingertips to smart phones connecting them instantly to anything they want – most young people have come to learn that most things are readily available the instant you need them. While the convenience of this can’t be denied, we can see clearly that the fundamental value of discipline has been lost in many ways – not only among our young people but in all of us.
Lent provides a beautiful opportunity to discuss with our students the value of sacrifice – of giving up certain desires for a greater purpose.
Have intentional dialogue about sacrifice and what it means. Challenge older students to an evening with no technology and ask them to share their experience of it. Take on a fast of some sort in your classroom.
Reflect on the Love of Christ in His Passion
For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
A common Lenten tradition is to spend more time reflecting on the passion of Christ through the Stations of the Cross. You’ve probably seen or heard of weekly Stations of the Cross throughout Lent at your local parish or somewhere in your diocese. This beautiful reflection on the passion and death of Jesus has been a powerful one throughout the centuries not only to remind us of the significant events in Christ’s life but on his profound and personal love for each of us as he endured his suffering. We often think that these ‘older’ traditions are irrelevant to young people, however, these reflections on the passion of Christ are a powerful opportunity to invite students to reflect on the personal love of Jesus.
Students need to repeatedly hear and learn about the personal love of Christ. It’s only within a true encounter with this personal love that students are convicted to live a life of faith. Lent is the perfect time to discuss the profound reality of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and the personal significance of these events in our lives.
Find age-appropriate Stations of the Cross and commit to praying them weekly throughout lent with each class or the entire school. This resource is excellent for students 10 and under!
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16
A penitential service can seem daunting, as probably many of our students have not been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for quite some time, but it’s an excellent practice to keep alive in our schools. A penitential service brings the opportunity for reflection on the mercy of Christ and invites students to encounter this mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Encountering and receiving the mercy of God is a beautifully freeing experience which is often very moving for young people. Held within the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a treasure of mercy which many young people are longing to encounter. Having a penitential service also cultivates honest reflection on our actions, how they affect others, what it looks like to ask forgiveness and be reconciled.
Work with local priests to offer a penitential service and give students an opportunity to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Unity with the world-wide Church
We have thought on your mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.Psalm 48: 9 – 10
Entering into the Liturgical Seasons means we’re journey with the world-wide Church – and Catholic Schools on every continent! Have your school engage in the year-long liturgical calendar and use it as a teaching opportunity! Whether it’s a front hall display or a prayer space depicting the season in the classroom, changing the colours and symbols with each new season in the Church is a wonderful way to invite students to journey with the rest of the Church through the liturgical seasons.
Create a Lenten display in a main hallway or in each classroom, explaining the colours and what they represent. Changing the display at Easter time helps to create the contrast between Lent & Easter!
Be assured of our prayers from CCSTA for each of the schools in Canada throughout this season of Lent. May it be a time of peace in each school and as we draw from the riches of our Faith, may each of our students have the chance to encounter with the love of Christ.
We want to hear from you! What does your school do for Lent? Do you have any long-standing traditions? Any stories from previous school experiences in Lent that we could share?