Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent at Home

I love Lent. It's such a time for growth, for silence, for stripping away all that needs to be stripped away.

Before we moved to our current location, I worked full time at a parish as part of a graduate program with a catechetical focus. One of my responsibilities in my first year at the parish was assisting in a Level I atrium for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Have you heard of this phenomenal program? It's a catechetical formation program for children (aged 3 years up through middle school) heavily influenced by Montessori thought. My experience in the atrium hooked my interest in both CGS and the Montessori method.

One of the things that I love about both CGS and the Montessori method is the emphasis on a prepared, simple environment. Adults benefit from this - think about how much more productive you feel when you're sitting in a de-cluttered office or how much more relaxed you feel in a living room that is clean, warm, and welcoming. Children, especially young children, benefit from this even more. They thrive on simplicity and repetition, and what can't always be taught through words can be taught through the senses. This is the catechetical method that the Abbot and I use with Sister Stinky - a sort of "faith by osmosis." We surround her with sights, sounds, and things to hold and touch that help her to learn about her faith. Over time we'll explore the meaning of all she encounters - a mystagogical method of sorts.

The Abbot attended a talk the night before Ash Wednesday and I took advantage of the post-bedtime solitude to create our own prepared environment for Lent in our home.


This is the heart of our home - the place where we pray together as a family. It's also a part of Sister Stinky's play area/library corner in our living room. The open shelving with few contents is heavily inspired by Montessori thought, which encourages only presenting a few materials at a time to the young child. The idea is that the lack of clutter allows room for the child to be creative without feeling overwhelmed by too many options for play or work.

In the spirit of Lent, I simplified this environment even more than usual. I removed her usual toys and replaced them with catechetical toys and materials for her to explore. She already has some favorites!


The icon wall has always been one of my favorite features of our home. Sister Stinky has always been in love with icons...so beautiful and yet so very profound these icons are. At first glance they may seem simple, but each icon is rich in meaning. We have icons throughout our home but these three are particularly significant. On the far right is an icon of Christ washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper - a reminder to serve each other in love. On the far left is an icon of the Holy Family - the model our family and all families are called to follow. Finally, in the center is an icon of the Trinity - a reminder of the One who we are are called to loving union with. These three icons (along with the others scattered throughout our home) are beautiful reminders that this world is not our home, and that we are called to journey to heaven together each day.

Of course, Sister Stinky has her very own prayer table. 



The "prayer table" itself is covered with a simple cloth matching the color of the liturgical season we're in. The table is barer than usual during Lent, with the focus being on the cross.


 At the foot of the prayer table is her "prayer box." The contents of the prayer box change from time to time, but are simpler than usual during this Lenten season.

Currently, the prayer box houses one of her stuffed icons (tutorial coming soon!) and an old Missal from her maternal grandfather, her "Dziadzia." (That's Polish for "Grandpa. Yes, we're Polish. And yes, we love Blessed John Paul II. His feastday is actually Sister Stinky's birthday. I'm pretty sure she had the foresight to see that one coming.) At other times her prayer box has also had an assortment of other prayer aides - a rosary, holy cards, etc.


This is what the prayer table itself looks like. It's actually just a simple wooden step stool that was painted for her as a birthday gift.


This is the beloved Fr. C. He's another CGS inspired material. His stole changes based on the liturgical season we're in. One day, he hopes to own a few chasubles, too, but for now the stole gets the job done.


And now for the contents of these shelves...all aides to help Sister Stinky grow in her faith on her Lenten journey. The first is a shelf dedicated to the Stations of the Cross, complete with pictures of the Stations and Stations of the Cross prayer books.


Next is her "purple basket." The contents reflect the color of the liturgical season. Remember, the emphasis is on surrounding her with sights that point back to the faith, even in very simple ways. Surrounding her with the color purple during this season helps her to know that there is something different about this time we're in. The contents of the basket itself are very simple: a purple paint strip, a purple mirror, a purple beanbag, a piece of purple felt, a purple ribbon, and a purple Lenten holy card.


 Speaking of holy cards...little Sister Stinky absolutely loves them! Back in my days of working at a parish, when she was still a newborn, she would come with me to the office and sit in her swing and stare contently at her holy cards for long stretches of time. This Lent, I hand selected some beautiful images of Christ for her to look at. (She has recently been working on perfecting how she says, "Jesus." It's slowly starting to sound less like, "Jee! Jee!")


This is her very first Catechesis of the Good Shepherd material - a sheepfold to tell the story of the Good Shepherd. It's a lovely material, with woodwork courtesy of the Abbot. 


Finally...some lovely books about the faith! We actually got both of these gems at a library book sale for less than a quarter a piece. 


And then there's our family prayer table. It, too, reflects the beautiful Lenten season we're in. The prayer table cloth was changed from green to purple, and the contents emphasize the cross as we look forward to the celebration of the Paschal Triduum.


                                                                            

A lovely, simple, quiet space for our domestic monastery to grow in faith this Lent. Hopefully, you are inspired to prepare a similar space that will meet your family's needs.

3 comments:

  1. this is sooo. inspiring. i need to work on our house now!!!

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  2. This is so beautiful. I really feel like I need to get my game on and put together something similar for our daughter. I hope you post more about the items you swap out at her prayer table - I'm going to be copying everything!
    -Gwenny @ countrycatholiccitycatholic.blogspot.com

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  3. Great to see another Polish blogger:) Absolutely great ideas for Lent.What a great time of year to reflect, de-clutter (our minds, hearts, living spaces) and focus on what is important! I hope to incorporate some of your ideas for the next Lenten season!

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