Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Living Lent in the Domestic Church

In preparation for Lent, I am sharing my Lenten Checklist.  This is being posted mostly for my own accountability and records.  I am definitely a list maker! If it helps anyone else out there looking for ideas then all the glory to God!  Many of these things are gleaned from past years of reading and hearing about what other families do in their own domestic churches.  We are so blessed by our Catholic community of bloggers who so generously share their ideas, time, and talent.  I am incredibly grateful to God for this.  I have listed some helpful Lenten blogger links at the bottom of this post.

1.  Lenten Team Huddle
We held our Lenten Family Meeting that I like to call our "Team Huddle".  We brainstormed about ideas that we had for making a fruitful Lent as individuals but also as a family team.  Extra ways to Pray, Fast, and Give Alms were placed on our family calendar. We discussed the importance of making it to the "Super Bowl" (Heaven) one day.  The Season of Lent is opportunity for us to train-up our souls to be a winning Christian Family Team.  Hubby spoke to the kids about being good disciples of Christ before we can be good Apostles.  This includes being good followers by living our faith.  Each individual went away with homework to come up with their own individual lists, apart from the family calendar, to grow closer to Christ over the 40-day course of Lent.  Our theme for our family Lenten Journey is "Create In Us A Clean Heart , O God."
2.  Lenten Spiritual Reading 
Lenten Spiritual Reading books were given out at our Lenten Team Huddle.  We have agreed as a family to add more spiritual exercises to strengthen our journeys.  This includes daily reading.
  Angel Baby will be read to (Misc. spiritual board books)

Three of the younger children will be reading these books:
Our 1st Grader will be doing Grade 2-3 (with help)
Our 3rd Grader will be reading Grade 4-5
Our 6th Grader (12 yo) will be reading the Teen book
I am trying these for the first time so I hope to follow-up with an opinion.  So far, they look good.  

As I mentioned earlier, our oldest son will be doing a self-guided retreat with hubby and I, using this book.  The three of us will be reading 10 pages a day and trying to meet weekly to discuss.

Our 3 readers were also given this Lenten Gift to help with daily spiritual reading and prayer:
We are learning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, using this abbreviated version to start with! 

3. Lenten Calendar
We used this tri-fold board to make our Lenten Calendar this year.  It serves as a reminder of our family Lenten goals.  It is also a visual countdown of the forty days and keeps track of the special Feast Days during Lent.  There are so many neat calendars that different families make.  Ours is certainly only one way to do it.  Click on this previous post for more information about our calendar!

4. Home Altar Change
We changed our Prayer Table/Home Altar cloth to Purple for Lent!  
Since March is also dedicated to St. Joseph, we also hung our St. Joseph canvas and displayed his holy cards.
We found that these cute little picture holders (someone gave this one to me for a gift) come in handy to display holy cards!
Isn't this St. Joseph picture a great find from the Dollar Tree?

5.  Sacrifice Beans and Kindness Jar
It 's time to put out our Sacrifice Beans and Kindness Jar!
Many families use this idea to enhance their family Lenten Journey.
I have a previous post here with explanation on both the Sacrifice Beans and Acts of Kindness Jar.  My list of things that go into the Kindness Jar is posted here This is another way we incorporate daily Prayer, Sacrifice (Fast) and Service (Almsgiving). 
6.  Lenten Candles
Boy, it sure is tough to find purple candles!  Last year I just used white.
This year I decided to paint my own for our dinner table centerpiece during Lent.  We light one purple candle each Sunday (much like Advent).  Except for Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday during Lent) when we light the rose colored candle.  The candles are set in sand to represent the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, hence our own 40 days of Lent...cleansing our hearts and souls and preparing for new life.  The 7th Sunday is Easter Sunday and we can light our Paschal candle after that!
7. Lenten Decor
Last year I finally found some purple violet fabric to drape our cross.  This cross hangs on the landing of our staircase, now ready for Lent!
My Liturgical Wreath for the month of March is Lenten in color and spirit.  All materials came from the Dollar Tree, of course!  (Minus the Crucifix) Am I a Dollar Tree addict or what? The lilies represent St. Joseph since the month of March is dedicated to him.  My tutorial for this wreath and a St. Patrick's Day wreath can be found here.
Create other sacred decor like this candle wreath:
Make Resurrection Pots to plant Easter grass in preparation for Easter!
See more ways to decorate the home for Lent, including a Lenten Mantel in my 2012 Lenten post.

More Helpful Lenten Links:
Family in Feast and Feria~Daily Lenten Devotion

 I read this scripture over at Shine Like Stars and found it perfect to share for Lent!

"Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."
~Philippians 2:14-16~

Instructions for Lenten Countdown Board:
"Create In Us A Clean Heart, O God"

~This is our Family Lenten Journey Motto~
We created this tri-fold calendar to help us count down the 40 days of Lent and to remind us of our promises to grow closer to Jesus.  When I use the word "Journey," it is not to imply a walk in the park or something easy.  We thought it represented a road or path that we must take, with bumps and bruises a long the way...Of Course!  The Journey to Bethlehem comes to mind and the suffering that beheld that particular journey for the Holy Family.  Not to say that our journey will be anything close to THAT journey.  We pray it will be a meaningful practice of moving forth with sacrifice in heart, mind, and soul~A true journey.
"The more we become empty of ourselves, the more we will be able to be filled with God."
~Blessed Mother Teresa~

We just purchased this tri-fold at the Dollar Tree and used purple (Color of Lent) sticky notes to mark the days.  
Note:  Depending on the size of your tri-fold, you "may" have to trim the sticky notes.
We marked the calendar dates in the corners and the days of Lent (#1-40) circled and highlighted in the center.  We thought this would help the younger children to see both the date and the Lenten number for that day.  Here is a close-up photo:
Then we added some special saints and feast days that we will be celebrating.  I had this sticker album on hand that I hadn't used yet.  I photo copied the stickers to use for our Lenten Calendar.
At our Lenten Team Huddle, we came up with our family spiritual goals for Prayer, Fast, and Almsgiving.  We listed our plans on the sides of the board.
As we peel off the stickers, there are actions to be taken and also a "secret message" to be revealed at the end of the 40 days.
The days prior to Holy Week reveal flowers, or blossoms, like our new lives that we have created and fragrant gifts we have given to God, who has given everything to us.
"God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son."
~John 3: 16~
When all the notes are peeled off for Holy Week...
It will reveal this!
I pray that we are ready for our Lenten Journey, not just on paper... but most importantly in our hearts and souls.
Note:  I am happy to send the list of things to do under our sticky notes.  I have not yet taken the time to learn how to upload documents to share!  If you'd like the list, just drop me an e-mail.
{A Lenten Checklist is coming soon!}

Please visit these blogs for other Lenten Calendar Inspirations:

10 Ways to find the "holy" in Holy Week

~I have Holy Week On My Heart~
"Only the love of God that reaches as far as the Cross can open a breach in our hardened hearts." ~Cardinal Schonborn~
We still have 1 more week to go but we are most definitely on the home stretch of our Lenten Journey.  Lately, I've been reflecting on the busyness of our lives, as a bustling family of 7.  It's often difficult for us to find the silence of our hearts among the organized chaos business inside and outside the home, even during Lent.  I am always feeling guarded against too many activities that may ultimately distract us from God as our first priority... There are so many temptations.  Holy Week seems like a fitting time to slow down yet again, re-evaluate the last 35 days of Lent, and search my heart for ways to grow even closer to Christ on the crucifix.  I long for the silence in my heart and to teach our children the importance of this.  It seems like a constant battle to fight the noise, both in the literal sense and in the figurative sense.  Carmelite spirituality teaches (and I'm sure many other spiritual orders too) that silence really is the most intimate part of God.  It becomes quite apparent that we cannot speak to God and to the world at the same time.  With a desire to offer ourselves up as a gift back to God, it is my prayer that we work as a family to minimize as much unnecessary secular activity, during Holy Week as possible. That being said, I'm making my plans now to cut back the "noise" so that we can better hear and feel what this week is really all about.
Holy Week Plans
I would like to preface this by stating that I certainly don't have any holy answers and I certainly don't make any holy claims.  I am just an ordinary Mom who is eternally searching for small ways to sanctify my life (and my family's life) one tiny step at a time.  It's one step forward, one step back quite often!

These are my 10 Hopes for finding the"holy" in Holy Week:
1.  To cut back all outside activities to a bare minimum.  I am hoping to focus primarily on liturgical activities. We will definitely be checking out all of the great ideas over at Catholic Icing and Catholic Cuisine for Holy Week.  We are also printing this lovely Holy Week Prayer Book so generously being offered by Family In Feast And Feria.

2.  To shut off all noise in the home to include television and computers.  I am even stepping away from blogging, starting on Palm Sunday until after Easter. The hope is to concentrate primarily on Holy Week activities, taking in the Word of God and the Cross.  I will, however, hope to bring out more spiritual music and chant to fill our ears with holy noise!

3. To make the entire week a meditation on the Passion of Christ, to include praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. We are kicking this off with watching the Passion Of The Christ, for appropriate ages in our house.  (I have heard you can also watch it on You Tube)?  How can you NOT be in the right frame of mind after watching that movie?
Jesus said to St. Faustina, "I give great graces to souls who meditate devoutly on My Passion." 

4. Starting on Saturday, we hope to use this book: Encounter The Cross~Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  The idea is to read one of the seven last words per day through Good Friday.  This book looks like a great tool of reflection with discussion questions and a nice prayer to follow each word/phrase and reflection.
5.  Monday:  Pretzels and Prayer.  I'm going to try Lacy's over at Catholic Icing.

6. Tuesday: Way of the Cross with Mary and possible outdoor nature hike to listen to God's voice through the beauty of His creation.  We will also read The Purple's Are Coming!
We are using this book to meet Mary at the foot of the Cross.
From my Consoling The Heart of Jesus:  "Jesus fully revealed Mary's special task shortly before his death.  It happened when he looked down from the Cross and said to Mary as she stood  with the Apostle John, "Behold your mother" (Jn 19:26-27) At that moment, Jesus gave us one of his greatest gifts: his mother as our mother.  Of course, Mary isn't our natural mother. She's our spiritual mother.  In short, Mary's job is to help us grow in holiness It's her mission to form us into saints."
 There are other helpful sources to include these:
There is also a Way of the Cross with Mary in the back of the Lenten Magnificat Companion

7. Wednesday: Paschal Candle.  We don't have a kit so we are going to attempt to decorate our own this year!  I will be referring to Catholic Icing's DIY link!  Catholic Culture gives the meaning behind the Paschal candle.  Today we plan to read one of our new favorite Lenten books, The Story Of The Easter Robin.  If you buy one new book this Easter for your young children, I recommend this one!

8. Holy Thursday:  Adoration, Cross Crafts (below), and Mass.  Last year, we used this craft. This year we are trying something new.  One of our parish Catechists came up with a neat idea for making crosses, using branches from your backyard!  I loved the natural concept, reflecting the true wood of the cross.  This will be a great companion craft to our book: The Tale Of Three Trees.
You simply tie together a few sticks in the shape of a cross with hot glue and pipe cleaner.  We added a little drape with purple ribbon.  They will be a nice Good Friday reminder for our home altar and also to tack in the children's bedrooms later on.
9.  Good Friday:  We have a family tradition to participate in a local Walk For Life.  It's a wonderful way to start the day.  We follow that with a" live "Stations of the Cross and head home for silent meditation (as much as possible) during the 3 PM hour of Our Savior's death.  We enhance the mood by doing everything in darkness using only candle light. I really like the tradition that JOYfilled family uses for their Good Friday dinner so I'm thinking about following suit with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup!  We will start our Divine Mercy Novena this evening.  There will be special excitement behind our novena this year as we pray for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1st! 

10. Holy Saturday:  This will be another quiet day, observing as much silence as possible.  We will decorate eggs and prepare Easter food for traveling to my sister's on Easter morning.  We have also adopted the tradition of Resurrection Cookies.  This year, we may try the Resurrection Rolls!  I am so excited that we are attending the Easter Vigil this year as one of our Youth Group teens will be entering the church...Hallelujah!
Last but not least, I pray that the true meaning of the Cross will illuminate the glory of the resurrection to all who encounter it.  I also pray that each reader who crosses this path will find their own holiness in Holy Week.
"The Cross means there is no shipwreck without hope;
there is no dark without dawn;
nor storm without haven."
Pope John Paul II
"Here in this book of the crucifix is great occasion of song.  If you first truly lament with Christ, you shall after joyfully sing with him."
~Saint John Fisher~

Holy Week in Review!

At the Foot of the Cross, all 6 candles got burned during Holy Week and we eagerly waited for Easter to arrive!

I know that going backwards is not always as fun as moving forward... But I really want to write this post for my records and memory keeping.  My blog has become my brian!
So here goes our Holy Week in reveiw...We made it through the desert!  
Actually we were no where near the desert.  It was a simple, quiet (but busy) liturgical week of reflection and delving deeper into our faith, seeking to be closer to Jesus at the foot of the Cross.
What was the most fruitful part of our Holy Week?
Next to the amazing grace of the DIY reading retreat that I made with dear husband and oldest son, this Encounter The Cross study was probably the most fruitful part of our Holy Week, as a whole family.  We used the book and made our own presentation to place in an easel binder.  We would reflect on one of the last words (phrases) of Christ per day and then sit down as a family each evening to discuss it.  There were great reflection questions and prayers in the book that helped guide our meaningful study.  We waited until our toddler was in bed but all other ages (7 to 44) enjoyed and participated. I will try to make the presentation pages available for free printing on my blog next year.
What was the most fun?
Making our own "Crossed Arms in Prayer" Pretzels was the project that reaped the most fun by far!  We learned about this tradition several years ago but just never took the time to do it.  Our kids LOVED it...They mostly loved the process:  Reading the story, kneading the dough, and watching the pretzels rise to little puffed arms crossed in prayer.
Side Note: This Seton book has the pretzel story and many other great Lenten stories, including the Alpha and the Omega that we read about for our Paschal Candle making.
Everyone wanted to take a turn stirring!
We discovered that kneading the dough is a lot of work...Praise God for Bakers!
Army Dude turned out to be the "Master" pretzel baker!
We learned that the key to a good pretzel is PATIENCE, mostly in the kneading.
We made one for a family friend...Gift tag courtesy of Lacy at Catholic Icing.
Master Baker with his prize!
~A hidden "gift" is discovered~
Mom's favorite Holy Week craft?
The Paschal Candle!
~We made 2~
{One for downstairs and one for upstairs to use in our school room}
~Here is the 2nd one~
We used the tutorial from Our Domestic Church and read about the different symbols at Catholic Culture and Fisheaters.  Catholic Icing also has other ideas for doing this yourself. I found these wonderful stickers at Rosary Card.  They incorporated many of the Easter symbols all in one sticker. (Paschal lamb, crown of thorns, grapes, chalice, Eucharist, dove, etc.)
I didn't use a beeswax candle this time around but maybe next year. These glass candles are just too cost effective to pass up.  I love that you can get them just about anywhere to include the grocery store!  I got mine at the Dollar Tree, of course. These were our other supplies, to include a glue gun, my favorite tool.
The children learned so much about the Paschal Candle that it made our Easter Vigil extra special.  We knew exactly what was going on when Father T. pressed the 5 incense spears into our parish Paschal Candle, representing the 5 wounds of Christ.  We watched intently as he lit it for the first time from the outdoor fire pit and brought it into the church, the first "light" of Easter!  Then we gloried in the blessing of the candle during the liturgy as Father T. and Deacon T. dipped it into the baptismal waters.  Finally, it was an Easter grace to see all the Catechumens receive their special candles lit from that big and beautiful Paschal Candle.
  Our paschal candle study of the Easter symbols tied perfectly into First Communion preparation.  We had fun making these yummy
Lamb of God Rice Krispy Treats!
These were really easy using cookie cutters.  We also marked these crosses with the 5 wounds of Christ.
Jessica from Shower of Roses has a neat post on Easter symbols to make candy.  We cut out a chalice and host {free hand} to remember Christ's institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday.  With Princess making her First Communion in 11 short days from now, she got to decorate this one!  What an extra blessing to concentrate and focus on this blessed Sacrament during our Holy Week...God's perfect timing and she is ready!
What brought the most tears?
I sat during Holy Thursday evening Adoration and bawled my eyes out while reading this book.  Maybe it's just me in my hormonal state of life...but it moved me deeply.
Best whole family time?
Good Friday!
Our local Walk For Life was a beautiful event, as usual.
It was the first time we have participated as a total family unit!  In the past we have been fractured due to dear husband's work schedule or young babies that we weren't brave enough to tow.  It was a blessing to have us all together.
The 3 boys...
followed by Dad and the 2 girls.
 Our walk ended at a nearby parish "Live" Stations of the Cross.  This was another "first" and definitely on our list for next year.  No photos to share but it was amazing!  We ended our day with a quiet evening of meditation and prayer.
+These Grilled Cross Cheese Sandwiches were dinner for Good Friday+
Served with Tomato Basil Christ's Blood Soup
This Good Friday meal was adopted and adapted from JOYfilled family.
+Some photos of our Good Friday reflection+
"Mother, what you bore urges me to say a loving thank you.
You endured suffering not for Him alone---
Yes, for Him in the first place---
but also for me.
If only I could walk like you through life, 
a thanksgiving gift in return.
My path leads homeward to the Father where you are at home,
where your divine Son reigns in glory, 
where the Holy Spirit fills every vast void,
including empty human hearts, where love and joy have no end.
Let each step lead me there."
+From Mary's Way of the Cross+

Before the crucified love of God, we bow in wonder and prayer.
Our Resurrection Pots have grown in perfect time!

Equipping Catholic Families

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