The Ripple Effect of a Slack (or a Great) Lent

Jesus statue lent

Image by Linda/Flickr


I’ll never forget the sharp stab of guilt I felt at the conclusion of Lent a couple of years ago. My eldest daughter had struggled beautifully and mostly successfully to give up sweets, despite her younger brothers and sisters occasionally enjoying them in front of her.

“A couple of times I ate a chocolate mum,” she said regretfully, just before Easter. “What about you?”

I had promised to give up chocolates and lollies with her. I admitted that I’d given in too once or twice (although in fact it was more often than that). She looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “I’m going to pick something easier to give up next year.”

That was what got me – not my failure so much (because I was used to that!) but the impression that my failure had made upon my daughter. The message she had got from my admission was that one shouldn’t try too hard. That is was better to aim low and succeed than aim high and be disappointed. What an uninspiring example I’d been! She was now lowering her expectations of being able to remain faithful to her Lenten promises based on my infidelity.

In some ways children are very good at raising their parents. Every Lent since then I’ve tried to do fasting and almsgiving a little better, not necessarily doing more things, but at least doing what I set out to!

The fasting and almsgiving are so beautiful together. Even the children understand that it’s easier to go without something if you are giving something to someone you care about instead. And every parent knows that sacrifices are easy to make for our children, in fact when they are suffering, it’s a relief and a pleasure to be able to offer them. How much more should that be the case with us and God, who made us and then suffered for our sake?

I always feel that Lent is about living life a bit more vividly. We disrupt our usual routine – trying to add in extra prayer or Masses here, extra giving or act of service there, and denying ourselves some of our little daily supports – and we shake off a layer of dullness in our lives that many of our habits lay down. It’s a detox for the soul, and don’t we need it when we’re so accustomed to being able to indulge ourselves in some way nearly every day? I know I find it refreshing, at least at the start of Lent until it gets a bit harder.

There are a variety of resources, books, magazines, and websites available to inspire families this Lent. This year we’re choosing from the activities suggested by our parish and the children’s school, which takes a small burden of decision-making off my shoulders.

The parishes and schools we’ve belonged to have been a great support. I don’t know how we’d do this business of raising our family without them.


Article originally published in The Catholic Weekly.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Marc says:

    The purification / detox is very good for us!!

    In the link below, there is an excellent sermon on having a very grace-filled Lent. I heard it last year as well as my children. They were begging me to play it again this year. I love how he talks about this time of Lent being a time of many graces not always available. It’s totally changed my focus from disliking lent to “bring it!” Lent.


    1. Thanks for the link Marc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marc says:

        Anytime! I hope you enjoy and benefit from the sermon. I have listened/watched many of the VideoSancto sermons and they are exceptional.

        Liked by 1 person

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