By Anne Metz
On Ash Wednesday, my family skips school in the morning and heads to Mass. We started this tradition when our kids were very small because making it to the 7 pm Mass just didn’t work for our triplets’ early bedtime.
Even though my kids are now old enough to stay awake for the evening Mass, we continue our tradition of going to Mass in the morning. On a normal Wednesday, my children would be in school all day. But Ash Wednesday is not a normal Wednesday. This day is different, set aside.
What are some ways you can set this day aside with your family, to truly show your children this day stands apart? Below are some ideas to get you started.
Go to Mass
A simple way to celebrate Ash Wednesday is to go to Mass together as a family. If your children are little and go to bed early, take them in the morning.
Children under the age of 14 are not required to fast on Ash Wednesday, but your children will see you setting the example of fasting and that will leave an impression on them. Since we are required to abstain from meat on this day, your little ones can abstain from meat as well. You can also avoid giving them sweets or treats so they may participate in a type of fasting with the whole family.
If you don’t already pray together as a family, Ash Wednesday is a good day to start since the season of Lent calls us to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If you are new to praying as a family, start small with a Hail Mary or an Our Father. If you already pray together, try something different to make Ash Wednesday stand out. If you traditionally pray rote prayer together, pray out loud together from your heart or vice versa.
Go to Adoration
Praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a powerful way to experience God’s presence. Yes, taking young children to adoration can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip it. Prepare your children ahead of time and plan for a short visit. If your family includes little ones, you may plan for just 5 minutes, but they will be 5 minutes well spent.
Turn Down the Noise
Make Ash Wednesday a quiet day in your home. Can you and your family fast from screens? Turn off the TV, put the phones and video games aside and spend your day in silence. Or, fill your home with the sounds of worship music or favorite hymns that remind you of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Prepare Your Home
During Christmas and Easter, our churches are filled with flowers and decoration signifying a season of celebration. However, during Advent and Lent, seasons of preparation, decorations are sparse.
To remind your family of the solemnity of the season, take a note from the Church and keep decorations simple. Save your celebratory Easter decor to put out when Lent is over. Maybe you can even put away some knick knacks and decorative items to give your home a more sparse look as a visual reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice.
You can also veil your statues. It’s a custom in the Catholic church to cover statues and crosses with a plain purple cloth during the last two weeks of Lent. You can bring this tradition to your family and cover the statues and crosses in your own home.
In Lent we are called not only to pray and fast, but to give alms and what better day to start than Ash Wednesday? As a family, you and your family can put together a bag of food to take to the local food bank. Or, place a jar in the center of your kitchen table where all members can contribute money to donate to a local charity. You could even create a list of chores that your children can do to earn money to put in the donate jar.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Ash Wednesday together as a family. Whether you tackle the whole list or simply choose one, you are showing your children that this day is truly special and different than any other Wednesday.