Fasting, abstinence. and other sacrifices can seem like inconveniences, but they help our children grow spiritually.
It’s always surprising to observe the dread that takes over some of us in the beginning of each Lent. The very thought of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday makes one cringe. We dread fasting so much and sometimes try to get out of it, claiming that what matters most is building a stronger relationship with Jesus and giving alms to charities. Fasting can be a challenge for those of us who live in a consumer-oriented society and have never experienced real privations.
But let’s try to be objective. The Church invites us to express our love for Jesus through abstinence and fasting. And doesn’t depriving ourselves for someone else’s sake an expression of our love for them?
Fasting as a family helps to be stronger
We can even insist that our kids temporarily give up treats and goodies like chocolate and Netflix without worrying about missing out on what matters most. We can offer the Lord our abstinence as a symbol of love and solidarity with His suffering. And when the time comes we’ll celebrate Easter, with a renewed sense of joy for being saved, symbolized by the return of all these good things!
Lent is an opportunity to convert and focus more on God. We are asked to give up the material things to concentrate on the divine. And penitence allows us to do this. But is it too much to ask of our kids? (Do keep in mind that small children should not be expected to fast.) This would be to underestimate them and their spontaneous desire to emulate Jesus.Concealing the truth about Lent from our kids will prevent them from accomplishing great things beside this sacrifice. No one can question their ability to say from the bottom of their hearts: “It is for You, Jesus, that I do this.”
Fasting and abstinence allows all of us to fully experience the joy of Easter. Forty days without a few of our favorite things may seem like a lot, but it can demonstrate our fidelity and devotion. Don’t we expect the same from those we love?
Inès de Franclieu
8 Old Irish Lenten traditions