One idea that leads and guides our family during the Lenten season is the use of our Lenten coin box. Around the start of the Great Fast, we bring home our Lenten coin boxes from church. Throughout the season, we are to give alms to the poor and needy by putting coins into the box. After celebrating the Feast of Pascha, we return our filled coin boxes to church, who then distributes the money to those in need.
Last year, I wanted to make sure our children were involved in preparing for Pascha and include them in various Lenten activities and fasting. That’s when I customized a special chart and calendar to be used throughout the Lenten season. It not only kept our children focused on living a Christ centered life, but gave strength to us as parents to remain steadfast in our Lenten journey of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and attending church services. I printed out calendars that covered the days of Great Lent. I mounted those calendars on poster board. Above the calendars, I found, printed, and mounted icons for the special Sundays throughout Lent, as well as any feast days, and Holy Week. I created a “Featured Icon” space to showcase the current icon our family planned to learn about, based on where we were in our journey through Lent. Next, I created a list to be placed on a poster beside the calendars. The list consisted of various activities that would maintain the Lenten spirit. Each activity had an accompanying monetary amount. The list served as a reminder of activities that my children could choose to do throughout the day that were in keeping with the discipline of Great Lent. At the end of the day, the children would sit down and tally up which activities they engaged in and receive the money earned for those in need from completing those specific tasks. That money was then placed in the Lenten coin box. (At the beginning of Great Lent, I went to the bank and withdrew rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels, which I then placed in a bowl located near the posters and coin box.) Activities included: saying evening and morning prayers, reciting the prayer of St. Ephraim, going to church, singing in the choir, skipping TV, avoiding candy, avoiding meat, helping a family member, doing a kind deed for someone, reading a bible story, and learning about a saint. These activities can be customized to meet the needs of your family and the ages of your children. In our family, we used the calendar to keep track of how much money was earned for the box each day and what we chose to read and learn about to strengthen our spiritual life. On the calendar, I also wrote in the special Sundays, saints’ days, and feasts that were to occur during Great Lent. That way, we were sure to spend some time on that day learning about the saint or feast. We also used the calendar to cross off the completed days of Great Lent.
The children were mindful throughout Great Lent of our Lord, refocusing and opening our hearts and minds to Him as we maintained a spiritual fasting period. Because of their active involvement, we as parents were encouraged by our children each day throughout the Lenten season. Instead of watching TV, we were reading scriptures and other Lenten material. We prayed more often, we attended presanctified Liturgies. We also discovered how disciplined our children could be and how much they enjoyed growing closer to God. As a family, we were spiritually edified, and developed habits that continued long after celebrating the Paschal Feast. When we did finally arrive at Holy Week, we felt as though we were walking with our Lord through the events leading up to His death and resurrection. And ultimately, we were able to fully experience the great joy that comes with celebrating the resurrection of our Lord.
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