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Lenten Joy

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catherine
catherine's picture
Lenten Joy

I have long puzzled over the observation of Lent with 3-6-year-old children. Last year I wrote the attached CCT in Context on Lenten Joy to begin to articulate my thinking about this. Part of the puzzle is the church's observation of Lent compared to that of Advent. Part of the puzzle is finding the good news that Lent holds for children and adults. Please share the journey with me. Read the attached essay, and comment with your anecdotes, questions, and reflections. Perhaps children can lead us all to joyful anticipation of death and resurrection.

lindaa021750@ve...
I am currently reading, The

I am currently reading, The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching by Marvin L.Krier Mich. Chapter 7 is titled “Solidarity: War and Peace.”Here the author speaks of Saint John Paul II visiting Poland in 1979.  The Pope urged millions ofPoles,  “Do not be afraid to insist on your rights.  Refuse a life based on lies and double thinking.  Do not be afraid to suffer with Christ.”  Within a year of his visit the trade union movementSolidarity was born.Father Jerzy Popielusko, a Polish priest offered to say mass for the ship workers and steelworkerswho had gone on strike. As he grew in solidarity with the oppressed, many threats were madeagainst him.  After he was indicted, jailed and eventually given amnesty, those who loved himbegged that he go abroad for safety.  His response was, “If we must die it is better to meet deathwhile defending a worthwhile cause than sitting back and letting an injustice take place.”  He waseventually brutally tortured and left to die. In death the echo of his voice only became louder andwithin five years the first free elections were held in postwar Poland.Through Jesus’s passion we learn what path to follow in times of conflict. This is an essential partof his teaching.  Pope John Paul II went on to say. “Conflict has a positive role when it takes theform of a “struggle for justice.’”  “The weapons to be used are truth and justice.” In this context,justice does not mean equal, or ‘an eye for an eye’, but giving to each according to his/her needs.Through the death of Father Jerzy we see the fruits of following in the footsteps of Jesus.  Duringthe Last Supper presentation we talk of how giving ones body and blood means giving all that onehas to give.  With the parable of The Wolf and the Hireling, the child reflects on the great love ofthe Good Shepherd.We are reminded of the parable of the Mystery of Life and Death when freedom and a better lifeare brought to the Polish people through the life and death of Father Jerzy.The younger child does not have the concept of sin in relation to Jesus’ death on the cross butcomes into Lent with great anticipation of preparing for Easter.  Their response to theannouncement of Jesus’ death is met with tears born out of their great love for the GoodShepherd.  The announcement of his resurrection brings great Joy. (I am away from myresponses of the children right now but am sure many catechists could provide examples!)Surely, The Found Sheep and Psalm 23 are joyful announcements pondered on during lent.During Lent, the older children are often led back to the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Theimportance of anticipating this with joy of the sap freely flowing and thus being in fuller unionwith God is so well established in reflections on the parable of The True Vine.  My daughter Annathis year is assisting in our church’s regular second grade CCD preparation for First Reconciliation. She said it was so said.  She tells me the catechist is always focusing on their sins and nevermentions their gifts or the fruits of their gifts.  Forgiveness is such a huge part of the peaceprocess.   Perhaps in Level 3 children could meditate and reflect on the greatness of God’s love by reflectingon Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” And Luke 23:42-43 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus’ reply, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   All wwe have to do is ask!  When meditating on The Forgiving Father, time should be spent on the other son’s reaction.  There is a lot of internal growth to be had.  Bringing the Light of Christ back into Reconciliation is surely one way of bringing the glory of Easter forward into Lent! Children have such a profound understanding of the mysteries of Christ!  I am reminded of two such examples.   One was reported to me by another catechist.  As she pondered the gifts given to Jesus by the Magi, she asked, “I wonder what gifts Jesus brought to us?”  A 3 y-o girl with several developmental delays and no speech got up, went to the altar, and brought back the paten and chalice.The other is a 4 y-o child who had Down Syndrome.  Week after week he clutched the cross from the altar repeatedly giving Jesus kisses.  One week after the children had left we found the cross, not with the altar, but placed on the “altar table” of the Cenacle.Sprinkled throughout CGS there are many points of light to be reflected on during Lent.  If we listen to the children we will be led on a joyful journey during this profound and meaningful church season.  The Passion of Christ is surely full of “teachable moments” for us all!  May we listen with great joy as we sit beside the child. May the peace and love of Christ reach deep into our hearts!God bless!linda

catherine
catherine's picture
Lent and Joy

Thanks Linda for the many ways you point out that Lent can also be a season of joy. How do we practice this? Personally and in the atrium. It's hard not to be repressive at times when we pray during Lent, subconsciously taking on the seriousness of the season rather than it's joy. Thoughts?

lindaa021750@ve...
Joy comes from giving all we

Joy comes from giving all we have to others...now, only if we could listen more intently to thechildren and learn how to really do that!  I still remember the boys who made crosses to sell forthe orphanage in Haiti. Perhaps nuturing this in the children will enrich it in us!  Does anyonehave an example of children reaching out to the world with all their love?

KateVanderLaan
Joy Comes from Giving All We Have to Others

I love this phrase, Linda!  I love how it points to Jesus who "[f]or the JOY [bold mine] set before him [] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).  I believe that that joy was communion with the Trinity and with their beloved creation.  Jesus' gift of himself brought him JOY.  You asked if anyone had an example of children reaching out to the world with all their love.  I was so struck with my daughter's reaction to adopting a Compassion child at Christmas.  She was so full of energy and joy.  She couldn't wait to write her new friend Marta (who she called by name right from the get-go...like they were old friends).  Here's what she wrote:  "DeAR MARTA I LOVe You. SO MUCH I KNOW THAT EVEN IF I HAVE NEVER SEEN YOU LOVe SALEM."  What a picture of cosmic communion that was for me!  She KNEW she loved Marta who lives on the other side of the world, Marta who she has never seen, Marta who speaks a different language.  There were no barriers to that love.  That love was a given.  That love was the starting point.  They were friends before they ever met each other.  Her joy came from giving herself to Marta in friendship.

KateVanderLaan
Light-Filled Sadness

I posted this under the other topic as well.  I reference the Joyful Work article, but I was originally thinking about these things as they relate to children and Lent.Preschoolers can carry a lot of pent-up emotions about things that are stressing them.  They have anxiety, jealousy, anger, hurt, sadness, confusion, etc. just like we do.  What happens when you draw them onto your lap, look them in the eye and say  "I notice you were feeling sad (or bored, or ...), NAME. Do you just need to cuddle and maybe cry a bit? Everybody needs to cry sometimes. I'm right here to hold you."  I wonder if Lent might be a time we help the children acknowledge the pains and losses in their lives, so they can get to the joy on the other side of sadness.  I read the following recently:  [Psalm 137] originally expresses the lament of the Jewish people in their captivity in a “foreign land,” Babylon (and at its “rivers,” the Tigris and Euphrates), after the conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The conquerers “required songs” of their captives not in order to learn about their faith, but to mock it. In our own situation today, we have similar voices, calling us to “perform” or share of ourselves for the wrong reasons and inauthentically, hiding our sadness. But that kind of “song” brings no benefit either to ourselves or those who hear it. Because the light-filled sadness of a God-centered life is the very place from which all truly-inspired art comes.  (from "Coffee with Sister Vassa")I think we sometimes call our children to perform and inauthentically hide their sadness. I wonder if we don't always acknowledge the big feelings that small people are carrying around.  In McLaughlin's article, she writes:The years before the age of six are the child's wonderful opportunity to revel in God's love. Soon enough, experiences of loss, broken places in our world, and pain all build walls within us.  I think that young children are incredibly resilient and they default to joy, but I also think that they are sometimes forced to stuff big feelings because parents and other adults don't know how to deal with them.  I wonder if giving them space to explore their own experience of pain and loss, they might tap into an even deeper joy.  I know a child after a good cry fits the description that McLaughlin gives of the children after joyful work.  "The children don't seem stimulated so much as rested."

catherine
catherine's picture
Little Ones' Sadness

Kate, this is so pastoral and compassionate. I know song is one way children have permission to express their feelings. Songs like "Bells of Norwich" which includes the line "let the winter come and go" acknowledge that there is winter. Or "the people that walked in darkness" acknowledges darkness. Being able to choose these songs when needed is helpful. Also giving children space to be sad rather than tickling them into laughter is respectful of the need for time to sit with life's pain once in a while. Thank you.

lindaa021750@ve...
Lenten Joy

Kate, such an awesome and important reminder.  I have copied and posted your response on mydesktop.  I can think of many children with whom this is important to remember.  From the past Ican recall many children who went straight to work with the Good Shepherd, the Prayer Table, orsat before the altar.  Once an opening was given for them to tell what was on their hearts, manypainful experiences emerged and many tears became songs of praise and thanksgiving!

walshnorma
Lenten Joy

Catheren, you are so right. I do not understand why is there always sadnes around this time of year. Why do we focus more in the suffering of our Lord? Why the sadness? When we should be focussing on the Resurection, on the light and the new life that Jesus received. What I do before the season starts, I show the Liturgical calender, and I show the children all the days the church will be celebrating Jesus' resurection all the way 'til Pentecost. Therefore, we will be starting a seson Joy and Celebration, and children rejoyce and smile. I can see it in their eyes, and in their attitude.  I think Joy and Celebration are key words for the children, because I can see hapyness in them.

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