Faith at Home is a monthly column coordinated by the Diocese of Trenton’s Departments of Catechesis, Evangelization and Family Life, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry. For additional Faith at Home resources, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/faith-at-home.

We live in a very noisy world. This was a phrase that popped into my mind recently, as I was supposed to be focused on a homework assignment for my current theology course. As I was doing my work, unrelated obligations started to divert my attention: that Amazon order I had to place so I could get a hard-to-find cardstock for work by Monday, the ShopRite order I needed to place, since I didn’t have time to do our food shopping, and the random diversions of social media (Italian cooking videos on Tik Tok are very addictive!). 

After finishing my assignment, I realized that I had interrupted my own study time with a lot of unnecessary “noise,” both visual and auditory, which also meant it took much longer than it should have to complete it. I saw how easily I could make things much more complicated for myself than they needed to be, just because of the distractions of modern life.

In order to make meaningful changes, I knew I needed to commit to some kind of discipline with regard to my own daily tasks and schedule. My first step was to look at the calendar, and to my surprise I immediately found what I needed: LENT!!!

One of the many things I really love about being Catholic is the beauty and reliability of our liturgical seasons. The fact that our faith is basically telling me that I need to slow down, reflect and pray is a very welcome directive. I am sure I am not alone in this feeling, especially as we all continue to adjust to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, and so I think it is good for us to share how we can enter Lent together in ways that help us to remove the distractions that cloud our focus on Christ. We can start by thinking of the three pillars of Lent:  prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Prayer:  During Lent, think about having the family learn or re-learn a new form of Catholic prayer together. For example, the family can be “assigned” to download a Rosary app and pray a decade together one day a week. If praying together is something very new for your family, consider adding a simple grace prayer to meals. You may be surprised to see how quickly these brief moments of prayer become family traditions.

Fasting: We usually think of fasting as “not eating,” but we can absolutely find spiritual meaning in fasting from other things. An obvious modern example is social media; we can choose the platform that we know commands too much of our attention, and not engage in it for 40 days. Families can also opt to fast from screens in general by establishing dedicated days or time frames for “in person” family activities together.  

Almsgiving: Studies have shown again and again that our younger generations are very motivated to help others. Practically speaking, we know this because young people tend to respond very positively and enthusiastically to invitations to help others. During Lent, we are especially called to charity. Charity is not giving to others out of detached pity, but rather serving others in love and great humility because they are our brothers and sisters, created by the God whom we love above all else. Consider serving others as a family in your community or serving one another more prayerfully and intentionally in your own household, which can sometimes be more challenging. As St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”

The Lenten practices set forth by our Catholic faith are not a simple laundry list of dos and don’ts.   We aren’t just called to “cast off” our old ways, but to transform ourselves and find new ways to bring the love of God to all the world. These ways often start as small, mustard seeds of faith planted in the life of the family. Let us dedicate ourselves to planting and nourishing these seeds with love during Lent.

Jessica Donohue is parish catechetical leader in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton.