Students in Jennifer Luna’s third-grade class had an “Alleluia Parade” on Fat Tuesday. (Submitted photo)

After the Pączki had been eaten and the last Alleluia had been sung, parents throughout the archdiocese helped their children to shift into the penitential season of lent.

Saying Goodbye to Alleluia

Jennifer Luna’s third-grade class at St. Eugene School had an “Alleluia Parade” on Fat Tuesday to symbolically put away the Gospel Acclamation until Easter. Students made banners and processed through the hallways singing as their classmates watched and clapped.

Erin M. shared her daughter’s reaction to losing Alleluia for a season: “This is her favorite church song. She started crying when I told her we can’t sing the alleluia song from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Literally crying real tears.”

If your children are similarly saddened by the thought of not using the “A-word” for Lent, remind them that we are, as Pope St. John Paul II put it, an “Easter people.” We will pass through Lent and the Triduum into the gloriousness of Easter joy.

Preparing Home Altars and other Décor

“The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the ‘domestic church’ where God’s children learn to pray ‘as the Church’ and to persevere in prayer. For young children, in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2685

Much like the beauty of our churches — the stained glass, statuary and liturgical environments — can teach our children without words, our homes can help young children to better understand liturgical seasons. This does not need to be an expensive or even time-consuming enterprise, and small changes can make a big impact.

“We are making a crown of thorns out of a bare wreath and toothpicks … whenever someone does something nice, they get to take a thorn out of Jesus’ crown (then overnight on Easter I’ll take the thorns away and replace them with flowers).”- Connie P.

“I’m changing out my front door wreath for a simple grapevine wreath with a purple ribbon. We will be swapping the linens out on our home altar with purple ones to reflect Lent and will have a ‘sacrifice vase’ where we can add a pebble and say ‘I love you, Jesus,’ whenever we feel tempted to ‘cheat’ on our promise.” – Anonymous

Making Lenten Commitments

Helping children discern their Lenten commitments can be difficult. Dr. MaryRuth Hackett from Catholic Spiritual Direction notes: “Giving up their favorite things for the entirety of Lent, however, is something that should be child-led, rather than done out of obligation. The point of fasting is to detach oneself spiritually and encounter a deeper union with the Lord. It is to set aside some aspect of your day as a sacrifice. It is not designed to make us unhappy.”

The Milwaukee Catholic Mamas shared what they and their children will be sacrificing:

“My younger girls are doing 40 items for 40 days. Each day, they’ll select a toy, book or piece of clothing to give away.” – Christine T.

“We talked how prayer, fasting and almsgiving are related. Daniel decided to give up his screen time (he did it during Advent voluntarily and was the only one who kept it at home to the end. The teacher even reached out to find out why he was falling behind so much in one of the apps). Doing so helps him to build a healthier relationship with himself by not becoming a slave to screens and knowing he is strong and doesn’t depend on it. Then what is he going to do in his not-screen time? Pray and read scriptures, which will strengthen his relationship with God. Still looking for where he can go and read to either younger kids or the elderly, which will be the almsgiving, he will grow his relationship with others, especially on providing his time and talent to strangers. As a family, we are doing other things like giving up eating out, and we will donate that saved money.” – Consuelo O.

“Resurrection Sunday is always joyous but extra if you stick to your Lenten promise. (My son) is deciding between his occasional soda and a video game app (mom’s choice). Can’t wait to see which he decides. My dad always gave up beer with (an) exception for St Patrick’s Day, so I allow myself grace that day, as well, no matter what it is I give up.” – Tina S.

Tina also said, “My nana always said when she was pregnant she gave herself a lot of grace. I just didn’t give anything up. I felt I was already sacrificing so much.”

Whatever one gives up, it is important that we unite our sacrifices and sufferings with Christ on the Cross, praying that by joining in His Passion in some small way, we may also join in His Glory.