Lenten guide for children/curious readers PDF Print E-mail
Written by OHmommy   
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 10:01

In my past life I was a renowned anthropologist studying the world. Which is why I find reading blogs so interesting. People fascinate me. A topic I love exploring is religion and when people write about their faiths I eat up every word out of curiosity. Two of most favorite blogging series are Metalia's Ask A Jew! and Casey's Mormon posts. With their spiritual confidence I am offering an amateur explanation of Catholicism's most important seasons. Lent.

What is Lent?

Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. It lasts for 40 days (not including Sundays) in which Christians prepare for Easter by fasting and spiritual discipline - all for setting aside time to reflect on His sacrifices. Basically, Lent is a time for "spring cleaning" our lives while giving thanks to God.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, the faithful go to church to receive a sign of the cross on their foreheads from ashes (ashes from the blessed palms used on Palm Sunday). This is a reminder of our mortality and a call for repentance. The priest blesses the ashes and says "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return" and the message for the day, in so many words, is "Pray like no one is watching you. Fast like no one is watching you. Do good like no one is watching you. God  knows". (The sermon makes this blog post totally hypocritical but I've had trouble explaining Lent to my children and hopefully it will help others with young kids)

Lent with kids.

Kids have a hard time understanding Lent. One way of explaining Lent is that it's a time to bring us closer to God. In our busy lives we fill our selves with candy, buy toys, play video games and watch television which makes us happy but that happiness is temporary. During Lent we stop filling our lives up with temporary happiness and make more room for God. Adults usually give up something important to them for the 40 days of Lent.

Activities during Lent.

There are many things you can do during Lent. The "Jelly Bean Prayer" for children is a sweet way of teaching children about Lent. Using various colors of jelly beans to describe a virtue, children are given a jelly bean for each good deed collecting them up until Easter.

Red for the blood of Christ (a sacrifice).

Green for shade of the palm (doing a good deed).

Yellow for God's light (kindness to others).

Orange for prayers at twilight (good behavior at bed time prayer).

Purple for days of sorrow (apologizing to someone).

Pink for each new tomorrow (forgiving others).

Starting on Ash Wednesday, begin rewarding your kids with a jelly bean of the appropriate color each time they do something that corresponds with one of these acts. On Easter, allow the children to receive all the jelly beans they have earned. Credit.

What is Easter?

Easter is the most important religious feast of the Christian year celebrating the re-birth of Jesus.


I am not an expert; but, I am a devout Catholic. I do feel a little hypocritical preaching to you about my faith after hearing the Ash Wednesday reading "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven." but fingers crossed and a couple of Hail Marys that it will help one person today either learn something new or explain Lent to their children. Perhaps I'm still feeling guilty for my truancy this week at PSR. Sorry Sister Judy.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 13:40


# Cecily R 2011-03-09 10:45
Just last night I was trying to explain Lent to Gracie and failing miserably (as a Mormon in Utah, I admit to being in a bit of a religious bubble sometimes--I try to pop that bubble a little for my kids, but don't always know what I'm doing). This post was timely and helpful, so thanks a million! :)
# Jen 2011-03-09 10:47
*LOVE* this.
# Amy in StL 2011-03-09 11:04
I was always taught that the ashes are made from the blessed palms from last year's Palm Sunday. Is this not universal? If not, where does your parish get it's ashes?
# Pauline 2011-03-09 11:08
Yes that is universal. I just added that to the post. Thanks for the reminder.
# Barb 2011-03-09 11:16
I took my two youngest to Mass this morning before school. They were very concerned afterwards about the teasing they might get at school today with the ashes on their forehead. I told them that any teasing they get is just from people who don't understand. So thanks for sharing so that more people understand and fewer people walk up and say "oh - you've got something dirty on your forehead"
# Pauline 2011-03-09 11:21
I pulled my kids out of school to go to morning mass and they too said the same thing. They were worried what other kids would say about their "dirty foreheads" and I re-told the reading from today. It seemed to work. That or the donuts I treated them to.
# TAMI 2011-03-09 12:50
Very nicely written, its always hard for the little ones to understand. My kids were debating on what they will be sacrificing for Lent this year. They each have to give up one thing and work on doing something nice during this season.
# Stephanie 2011-03-09 12:54
I am protestant, and I have never heard of the jelly bean prayer but I really like it and I am going to go grab some jellybeans before my three year old gets home from preschool today! Thank you!
# Karey 2011-03-09 12:57
Love your blog! Just took my girls to mass this morning to receive ashes and although they're too young to really understand, I'm sure they'll eventually start peppering me with questions.... hopefully I can explain it as well as you have!
# dziadek 2011-03-09 13:32
Bardzo dobra robota Paulinko
# Pat Connor 2011-03-09 21:42
Hi..I noticed that a few days ago you had tweeted about ways to make Lent meaningful. This column was in the Rochester paper this week. I thought you might be interested democratandchronicle.com/.../...

# Karen German 2011-03-09 21:53
Love the jelly bean prayer. I'll copy it and use it for my PSR class. BTW...God will forgive you for the small amount of preaching you did.
# haniaski 2011-03-10 08:40
Good job!
# Texan Mama 2011-03-10 10:22
Pauline, so great to read this. Wonderful sharing of your faith. Have a very blessed Lenten season as we prepare for the resurrection of our Lord!
# SueMac 2011-03-10 11:22
How am I just now stumbling across your site? What a great explanation! Have a blessed Lenten season!
# allison 2011-03-10 15:39
I'm pretty sure I have forgotten everything I learned in Catholic school. But I remember the stations of the cross, and, how incredibly long the mass felt.
# The Divas Thoughts 2011-03-11 12:26
Great post!
# Courtney 2011-03-14 08:20
Great post on Lent. My son always enjoys the jelly bean prayer. For a 3 year old is works best in explaining Lent.
# Renny 2011-03-14 16:30
I totally don't think you're practicing "in order to be seen by them." I think it's important for people to share their faith with others, that is how we gain understanding and empathy.

And you answered a question I had about Lent. I didn't know you don't count Sundays in the 40 days, and I couldn't understand why Ash Wednesday was more than 40 days before Easter.

See, all good. :)

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Pauline Karwowski.

Is a self proclaimed globe trotting, minivan driving, SAHM stiletto ho.

Happily married mother to 3 Cleveland natives: Jay the son, Lola the daughter, and Fifi the banshee.

Now in Chicago, IL.

The content on this blog is the opinion of the blogger.


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