It is important to train our children to follow the spirit of lent even in their youth. Although they may be too young to follow the disciplines strictly, they should be prompted to offer up things they like, and do something extra with the intention of uniting themselves to the sufferings of Christ.
The Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts:
1. Corporal or External Fast, including the abstinence from certain foods, drinks, and amusements, i.e. music, and parties during Lent. These points of fast should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society.
2. Spiritual or Internal Fast which consists of abstinence from “all evil”—sin. Saint John Chrysostom taught that the “value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices.” Saint Basil the Great explains: “Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things—herein lies the true value of fast!”
3. Spiritual Change achieved by the practice of virtues and good works must be the main objective of our fasting. The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the faithful attend the Lenten church services and daily Mass.
In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes. Today, unfortunately, the observance of Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress on one’s spiritual growth or the amending of one’s life style.
It is urgent that we return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world.
Listed below are suggested practices that may be used along with your usual Lenten family traditions of sacrifices and penances.
Corporal or External Practices
a. Take less of what you like and more of what you dislike at meals today.
b. Take nothing to drink between meals.
c. Do not use seasoning on your food today.
d. Do not use any sweeteners with your food or drinks today.
e. Avoid listening to the radio at all today.
f. Take nothing to eat between meals today.
g. Avoid any T.V. or videos; instead read the Passion of Christ in your Bible or missal.
h. Take only one helping of each item at meals today.
i. Say an extra Rosary.
Spiritual or Internal Fast Practices
a. Don’t do any unnecessary talking; instead, say little ejaculations throughout the day.
b. Exercise your patience today in all things.
c. Don’t make any complaints today.
d. Restrain any anger, and go out of your way to be kind to the person who caused your anger.
e. Don’t be distracted with someone else’s business.
f. Avoid any gossip today; instead say an extra Rosary to overcome this great fault.
g. When asked to do something extra, do so with a joyful and pleasant attitude today.
h. Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone today.
i. Avoid using the phone today.
j. Tell the truth in all your dealings today.
k. Avoid any vanity or self-seeking today.
Spiritual Practices (virtues and good works)
a. Practice humility today in all your actions.
b. Be generous today; help someone in need.
c. Look for ways to be helpful throughout the day.
d. Do a job that needs to be done without being asked.
e. Be courageous; walk away from any impure situations today.
f. Don’t be idle at all today. Always be doing something for others or for your spiritual growth.
g. Go out of your way today to help or talk to someone who is usually difficult.
h. Volunteer for an extra job today.
i. Say an extra Rosary today for the conversion of a sinner.
j. Visit someone who is sick or lonesome today. Offer to say the Rosary with them.