The Lenten season is an opportunity to thoughtfully instill the Catholic faith in your children, taking it beyond mere words to action. This can be achieved through prayers, meditation and reflections, making small sacrifices that bring us closer to God, and helping those less fortunate. We’ve created this blog post to be a guide as you contemplate how you will use this opportunity to bless your family. We cover how to explain Lent to your children, crafts that help them better understand the meaning of Lent, and prayers that you can say together.
How to Explain the Meaning of Lent to Children
The advice of Michaelyn Hein, author of the blog Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, is to let your children take the lead. After all, she knows firsthand how challenging it can be to explain the crucifixion to a very young child.
“While the Christmas season found me gushing to my young son about the Christ child and a humble manger and that beautiful star of Bethlehem, Lent left me speechless. How was I to describe this very difficult part of Jesus’ story, of our story, to him?” she admitted.
But the day came sooner than expected when her son noticed Jesus on the cross at church.
‘Mommy,’ he asked, ‘how did Jesus get up there?’
She thought of the advice her mother had given her: Let children lead difficult discussions because they want simple answers. So Michaelyn related to what her 3-year-old’s mind would understand: Good guys and bad guys. Here’s her touching story:
“Well,” she began carefully, “there were bad men who didn’t like Jesus…”
“…and they hurt him?” her son finished.
“Yes,” she answered. She waited, wondering if she should elaborate. But she willed herself to follow her child’s lead.
“Oh,” he said easily. “I don’t like those bad men.”
She searched her son’s eyes for tears or anger. Instead, she saw compassion as he stared at the crucifix.
“Mommy,” he asked, “can I kiss His boo-boos and make them better?”
“Of course,” she whispered.
She watched as her child approached the crucifix, leaning to kiss the feet of Jesus and his bloodied side and her fear was replaced with love, peace, and gratitude.
This story illustrates that when it comes to explaining Lent and Jesus’s sacrifice, it’s best to keep it at a level your child will understand. Let them know that as Jesus gave Himself for us, we make a special effort to give of ourselves to Him and to those less fortunate this season. Also, look to resources that can guide your conversations, such as the What is Lent Coloring Book.
Lenten Crafts for Kids
Lenten crafts can help your child learn that the Lenten season isn’t all about sadness and suffering. Quite the opposite, it’s really about being more joyful and victorious as we prepare for Jesus to rise again. There’s great joy in helping others and making room for God to work in our lives through the small sacrifices we make during the Lenten season. Lacy Rabideau, a contributor to the blog, Catholic Icing shares three fun crafts that can help children better understand this.
Pray, Fast, Give Alms Craft
Lacy created this craft to help her children remember the importance of the Lenten traditions of prayer, fasting, and giving alms.
- Assorted Paper
- Glue (I like glue dots for this one)
- White paper (or small paper plates)
- Plastic fork, knife, and/or spoon
- Pipe cleaner
- 11 beads
- The symbol for prayer is little rosaries made of pipe cleaners and beads. Write “PRAY” near them.
- The symbol for “FAST” is an empty plate. If you don’t have a small paper plate, just cut a circle out of paper. Glue down your plate, fork, and spoon. Write “FAST” in the middle of the empty plate.
- The symbol for “Give” is a hand with some coins. Coins can be made out of circles of yellow paper or foil Or save wrappers from your St. Nicholas coins.
- Trace your hand onto some paper and cut it out. Glue it down with the coins on top. Then write “GIVE”.
Crown of Thorns Craft
Lacy says this is the go-to craft if you want to make your kids very conscious of doing good deeds during the Lenten season. Every time your child does something nice for someone or makes a sacrifice, they get to pull a “thorn” out of the crown.
- Plastic plate
- Purple spray paint
- Grapevine wreath
- Brown tempera paint
- Paint the plastic plate purple and let dry.
- Dunk the toothpicks in the brown tempera paint and let dry.
- Once toothpicks are dry, insert them in the grapevine wreath.
- Set the grapevine wreath on the plastic purple plate.
- As a your child does a good deed, have them pull out a toothpick and place it in the center of the plate.
Optional: For Easter, you may want to transform the empty wreath with flowers and vines.
Pretzels for Lent Craft
Do you know that the pretzel has Catholic origins? According to Catholic Culture, it was the Lenten bread as early as the fourth century, when Christians kept a very strict fast: no milk, butter, cheese, eggs, cream and meat. Instead, they consumed small breads of water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads "little arms" (brucellae). From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term "pretzel."
It’s in this spirit that Lacy created this Lenten pretzel recipe that you can make with your children.
- 1 package yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups flour
- 1 egg
Mix yeast, water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, and knead until the dough is smooth. Shape into the form of arms crossed in prayer and place it on a baking sheet. Brush the dough with a beaten egg to give it a shiny finish. Sprinkle the top with salt, and bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Add this pretzel prayer for an extra touch of Lenten goodness.
Lenten Prayers and Meditations
- A candle to symbolize God’s presence.
- A purple clothbecause, as the liturgical color, purple will be familiar to children.
- An empty bowl to symbolize fasting.
- A scripture such as the Psalm 23.
- A cross to help children remember Jesus’s great sacrifice and resurrection.
Use this space to recite these Lenten Prayers created for families by the United States Council for Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/upload/Lenten-Prayers.pdf
Sunday Intention: For the Church
Leader: Heavenly Father, Your Risen Son claims the Church as his beloved spouse and pours love over all the baptized. Hear our prayers for the church throughout the world. Let this Lenten Season draw us closer to his Sacred Heart in deeper commitment to the mission of proclaiming and living the Kingdom of God.
All: We pray for Our Holy Father, our bishop, our pastor, all ordained and for all in leadership positions in the Catholic Church. May their attempts to promote human dignity and the common good bear fruit in our Lenten prayer and penance. For all the elect journeying to baptism and for the baptized ready to welcome them into the sacramental life of the Church. May our deepened commitment to our baptismal promises bring the light of Christ to the darkness of injustice and cruelty in our world. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Sunday Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Monday Intention: For Peace in Our World
Leader: Heavenly Father, we proclaim your son as the Prince of Peace. At his Last Supper, he gave his disciples his gift of peace. Today we mourn for the many wars, conflicts, brutalities, and countless deaths of innocents in our world. Hear us plead for peace in our time, and let us be instruments of your peace and love in a world of violence and hatred.
All: We pray for all nations torn by war and for all victims of war. May all nations “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. May all nations not raise the sword against each other or train for war again.” We express gratitude for all who serve or have served in our nation’s military. For their safe return home, and for proper care for all veterans still suffering from the effects of war. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Monday Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow charity; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, the truth; Where there is doubt, the faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Tuesday Intention: For Refugees, Immigrants, and Homeless
Leader: Heavenly Father, Your Son was born in an animal stall because there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the Inn. A restless homelessness journeying from village to village preaching and healing marked his public ministry. He identified with those uprooted, abandoned, and rejected and proclaimed, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Hear us now imitate your Son as we pray for those wandering the lands throughout our world seeking a home; and seek to be their advocates for justice.
All: We pray for the more than 220 million people wandering the face of our earth searching for safety, stability, work and basic human needs. We pray in sorrow for the hostility they often endure and for the exploitation and violence that crushes their souls. We pray that their search for welcome and peace be fulfilled with compassion of the nations and the support of all believers in God. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Tuesday Prayer: The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. II You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.
Wednesday Intention: For the Hungry and Malnourished
Leader: Heavenly Father, With a few loaves and fish, your Son fed the multitudes with abundance. In the Eucharist, he continues to nourish our souls with the Bread of Life: his very Body and Blood. Hear our prayer for those suffering hunger throughout our world.
All: We pray for the growing numbers of American families now living in poverty and choosing between housing and meals; heating or eating; medicine or nutrition. We pray for all efforts to secure stable sources of food for all families and households. We pray for all farmers, and farm workers. May they receive just recompense for their labors and harvests. For all operating soup kitchens and food pantries. We pray for millions of third world families despairing of the next meal and watching their loved ones die of starvation. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Wednesday Prayer: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Thursday Intention: For Those Lacking Adequate Health Care
Leader: Heavenly Father, in his public ministry, your Son healed the sick and cured many of diseases. Throughout the centuries, manifestations of his Blessed Mother and official canonization of saints are often accompanied with healings of those declared incurable by medical professionals. Hear us as we pray for deeper compassion and justice for the sick and their loved ones anxious for their care.
All: We pray for the tens of millions in our own nation lacking basic health care insurance. We pray for those who receive inadequate treatment for their illnesses and injuries or have suffered financially from their health condition. We pray for all Catholic health care professionals who realize their career is a vocation flowing from their faith. May the conscience of all health care professionals and all faith based health care institutions be protected from participating in any medical procedure that violates the sacredness of human life. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Thursday Prayer: The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.
- Then on the Our Father Beads say the following: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
- On the 10 Hail Mary Beads say the following: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (Repeat step 2 and 3 for all five decades).
- Conclude with (three times): Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Friday Intention: For the Protection of Human Life from Conception to Natural Death
Leader: Heavenly Father: The Blessed Mother rejoiced at Archangel Gabriel’s announcement she would give birth to your divine Son. When she visited Elizabeth her relative, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped for joy.”Hear our prayers for the protection and safety for all preborn children and care and compassion for their mothers.
All: We pray for all preborn children safe in their mothers’ wombs and we pray for their safe delivery and welcome into nurturing families. We pray for women with troubled or unwanted pregnancies. May they receive the financial, medical, spiritual and emotional support to bring their babies to birth. We pray for all women who have had abortions and for all involved in procuring abortions. May they come to realize the sacredness of all human life especially life in the womb. May they realize the power of Our Lord’s healing and merciful love. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Friday Prayer: At Least One Decade of the Rosary Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Saturday Intention: For Justice for All Workers and Employers
Leader: Heavenly Father, your Son labored as a carpenter using his skills to build and repair homes, make tools for other workers, and create other useful products for daily life in Nazareth. Hear us pray for a greater sense of the dignity of work and a deeper sense of the sacred in the workplace.
All: We pray for the growing numbers of workers now unemployed for long periods of time. We pray for businesses and companies ready to hire when demand for their services and products improves. We pray for all efforts to secure justice on the workplace for employees and employers. We pray for millions of people exploited for their cheap labor and often reduced to slave conditions. We pray that labor unions be recognized as legitimate advocates for workplace justice, in keeping with the constant teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
Saturday Prayer: Magnificat of the Blessed Mother (Lk 1:46-55)
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
We hope that what we’ve provided you enriches your family’s Lenten experience. If you wish to attain more guidance, we recommend the following publications: