by Lindsay Schlegel
As a parent responding to the call to raise my children in the Faith, I want to make the liturgical year feel alive and active. The rhythms of seasons of fasting and feasting are meant to reach us as creations of the Creator and to help us—children and adults alike—draw closer to the Lord.
During Advent, we have a Jesse tree, nativity sets, and Advent calendars to mark the season of waiting before Christmas begins. The kids pick out tags from the giving tree at church and select a gift to give.
It’s a little bit more challenging to make the season of Lent compelling to a child.
Praying, fasting, and giving alms are not as exciting, at least not on the surface. My children don’t particularly love that we have dessert less often or that Friday afternoon movie is prefaced by a stop at church to pray for a few minutes. So a means of making this season fruitful and memorable, something they can look forward to, is a priority for me. The key for me this year is the Brother Francis Lent Flash Cards.
These cards are sturdy, colorful, and more than twice as big as the index cards my mom used to teach me multiplication facts! Each one has an image and word or phrase on the front, and a description and Scripture verse on the back.
With a ten-year age difference between my five kids, everyone is going to approach them differently. Here’s how we’ll use them this year.
Our Lenten decorations are pretty spare. All we put out is a plastic container of beans next to an empty jar. Each time one of us makes a sacrifice, we transfer a bean from the container to the jar. On Easter morning, the kids find that the dry beans representing their offerings have been transformed into jelly beans—a sweet treat to make tangible the gift of God’s mercy.
This year, I’ll set an easel stand (the kind you’d use to display a decorative plate) next to the bean jar, and put out a new card each day. It’ll be something we can think about during the day and talk about for a couple minutes at dinner time.
In the liturgical calendar, Lent is longer than forty days, since we don’t count the Sundays. But I know myself, and I appreciate that this set-up gives me a little leeway in case I forget to switch the cards now and then (and I will!).
When praying the rosary
My younger kids like to have something in their hands when we pray the rosary as a family. I can see these cards becoming a year-round tool for praying the sorrowful mysteries. The kids can locate the appropriate card or cards, reflect on the Scripture verse on the back, or copy the word and draw the image on the front on a sheet of paper.
During the Stations of the Cross
We try to pray the Stations of the Cross in chunks throughout Lent, a few each Friday on the way home from school. On Good Friday, we try to pray the whole set, typically at home. These will be helpful to aid the kids in following along for that longer time of reflection. I’ll ask them to lay the relevant cards out on the floor in order before we begin (they won’t use them all; the Brother Francis Stations of the Cross Devotional Fan would be better for that). Then the kids can pick up the cards as we go, making any corrections as needed.
As an activity for quiet time
The big kids who don’t take naps still have some quiet time after lunch when they’re not at school. On those days, I’ll ask them to order as many of the cards as they can chronologically to show the journey of Christ’s passion. I know one child will take this as inspiration to act out the scenes, and I’m all in!
During Holy Week services
Holy Week services are beautiful, but they can be tough to make it through for, say, a spirited three-year-old. Whether we attend in person or watch the livestream from our living room, I’ll be sure to have these cards on hand to give my little guy something to do, while still drawing his attention back to the traditions of our faith from time to time.
Kids often surprise us: even when it doesn’t seem they’re paying attention, they are taking in everything around them. Leaning into that reality and giving them vetted resources to nurture their faith is one of the simplest ways we can live out the promises we made at their baptisms.