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"It's OK to be unoriginal this Lent" by AnneMarie Miller (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com, (2018), CC0/PD[/caption] Whether you want five ideas or 100 as you alter your “Lenten Plan,” there is guaranteed to be an article floating around on the internet, waiting for you to find it. These listicles for Lent can be really helpful, and offer many good ideas for practices or penances that we may not have thought of adopting. Over time, though -- especially now that I have young children -- I have noticed a struggle within myself. I see list after list of things I “should” or “could” be doing, and I become so overwhelmed by it all that I freeze up. Coloring sheets for the kids? Themed meals a couple of times a month? Crafts and movies and books that will infuse my home with the theme of the liturgical season? As if all of the “normal” ideas weren’t enough, there are also a plethora of “quirky” ideas: ways to observe Lent that are creative and may even “wow” your kids, social media followers, and relatives alike. If you thrive upon finding the “perfect” craft for your kids to make as they ponder the suffering and death of Christ, that’s wonderful. I’m sure your fervor will help you and your family grow closer to God. However, if the overabundance of “creative” Lenten activities is too much to handle, I invite you to join me in stepping away from the hustle and bustle of it all. I have loved doing “quirky” Lenten penances in the past, but as the season drew closer this year, I realized that I don’t have to be creative. I don’t have to put together multitudes of crafts and special prayers so my kids can have a fruitful Lent, and I don’t have to follow an offbeat set of perfectly-tailored guidelines for my own spiritual growth. As this season begins, I find myself pondering a question that was posed at a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation session last summer: What’s simple and essential? Young children like my own do not need an abundance of noise; they can thrive on simplicity (In fact, one of my kids was thrilled to attend Ash Wednesday Mass when he heard that he would receive ashes on his forehead! It really doesn’t take much to impact a child). I’m realizing that I, too, can benefit from this childlike approach of simplicity and essentiality. In that spirit, my resolution this Lent is to be unoriginal: to bring a deeper sense of quiet and stillness into our home as we look to a few time-honored practices and prayers. I’ve sadly neglected the daily Angelus for several months, so I’m trying to bring that back into my life this season. As a family, we can participate in the weekly Stations of the Cross with our parish and an extra daily Mass or two, as we are able. Simply adorning our dining room with a simple image of Christ, crowned with thorns, we can recall the suffering and death of Our Lord throughout the day. I’m trying to purposefully not overfill our schedule, so that we have time to simply be with each other, our neighbors, and our local community. In all of this, we’re making space to let stillness and silence permeate our lives. This approach is simple and extremely un-creative, but it’s what I’m trying out this year.

How else can we embrace simplicity during Lent this year?

Copyright 2020 AnneMarie Miller