The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season
In the Year and Our Children, Mary Reed Newland talks about teaching our children valuable lessons during the grace-filled time of Lent.
One practice she did with her own children is the Lima Beans for sacrifices. The beginning of Lent each child had their own pile of different colored lima beans (they had colored themselves) so they could differentiate from each other’s lima beans. Every time a sacrifice was made they could put one of their own lima beans in the jar. When Easter came the number of lima beans was rewarded accordingly.
A sweet practice that would be fondly remembered by the kids as they grew into adulthood….
Some of her own thoughts as they journeyed through Lent:
The meditations for the Stations of the Cross are most fruitful if they relate to daily life some trial we are struggling with now.
For example, our Lord’s silence when He was condemned to death, when He was tormented by the soldiers, or when He fell under the weight of the Cross – this can be related to that commonplace of childhood: bickering.
The one who holds out longer with his pecking at another is victor, having reduced the victim to tears, goaded him to losing his temper, striking, or some other form of retaliation, which is all reported as an unprovoked injustice as follows:
“But I didn’t do anything. Nothing. I just said . .
“I just said” is himself far more culpable, usually, than the poor soul he has goaded beyond endurance.
There is no real remedy for this but silence on the part of victims.
Abstinence from it on the part of attackers is the perfect solution, of course, but if someone does start, silence will stop him.
This, however, is awfully hard on the one who is silent, because this is how bickering goes (as if you didn’t know):
“You pig. You took the biggest.”
“I did not, and I’m not a pig.”
“You are too.”
“I am not.”
“You are too. Pig!”
“I am not a pig. I’m not. I’m not a pig I’m not a pig I’m not a pig!”
“You are too. You are a pig you are a pig you are a pig.”
“I’m not I’m not I’m not.”
“You are you are you are.”
This could go on for an hour if Mother didn’t begin to froth at the mouth. Whereas the silent treatment winds up the conversation (if you can call it that) as follows:
“You pig. You took the biggest.”
“I did not. And I’m not a pig.”
“You are too.”
Silence. In other words, you are a Pig.
O cruel silence …
But children well understand that no one is really a pig; this is only a game to see who can make the other lose his temper first.
It is ugly and mean; and the winner is usually the older child because he knows the extent of the younger’s endurance.
Out of his own store of unavenged wrongs, he chooses this way to refresh a bruised ego. If we have taught them what our Lord said must be the very basis for our behavior, we have the point of departure.
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”
Learning this, we know what we must know in order to put meditations on the Passion together with events out of daily life and discover how to use them.
Then we can see – and children can see it – that to provoke a brother or a sister is to provoke Christ; to be silent under provocation is to be silent with Christ.
It is not good to make such accusations while saying the Stations, but rather to connect the meditations with these real problems (names of particular children omitted), and return to the principles when we are on the scene of abuses that we must correct.
“You are teasing Christ when you tease your brother. It is the same. Whatsoever you do…” He said.
You torment him just for the fun of it the way the soldiers tormented our Lord.
Yet you really love him, as you really love our Lord.
Keep these things in the front of your mind during Lent, and try to bite your tongue when you are tempted to unkindness.
Each time you keep from saying something unkind, it is a triumph of grace, and our Lord will strengthen you with grace for the next time.
There are powerful graces coming to us during Lent, and we must try to use them to rid ourselves of our faults so that on Easter we can be free of them, like the newly baptized are free of Original Sin.
Impossible? Not really, although it will probably take a lifetime to do it. But it is the goal, and especially during Lent it is the spirit of the preparation: to be as those newborn, on Easter morning.
If we are spectators to such a moral victory, we must be sure to congratulate the hero. “Darling, I heard N. today when he called you a pig and tried to make you angry. It was wonderful, the way you didn’t answer back and only walked away.
You used silence the way our Lord used it, the way He wants you to use it. When you are silent in union with Him, you are growing in the likeness of Christ.”
When Dominic Savio was silent before an unjust accusation, he shamed the other boys into admitting their guilt.
This is often the effect of heroic efforts to reach out to Christ and bear hurts with Him. Grace is the invisible ingredient in all these struggles for perfection.
For every honest effort, one may put a bean in the jar. There are beans for all kinds of things: no desserts, no jumping for the telephone (a genius in our midst suggested this to eliminate violent jostling, wrestling, racing, leaping, and tugging – an excruciating discipline); no complaining about anything; doing chores promptly; no weekly penny for candy, and many more, including that magnificent and most glorious of all: coming when called.
All who do this are known as St. Theresas.
Actually, when you scan the long list of them, they amount to what spiritual directors call the “interior mortifications.”
Our mantel is bare this season except for the two candelabra with their twelve candles and the crucifix between them. Even the bread and the baking speak to us of Lent. Crosses of seeds decorate the bread (because when you see the seeds, you remember about “die so you may live”), and on biscuit crusts and meat pies, symbols of the Passion are cut.
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