If you’ve been around Christian circles for very long, you’ve probably heard some variation of the line, “There’s no such thing as a solitary Christian.” And while St. Simeon the Stylite and other holy hermits might disagree, the maxim stands for most of us. We need others to encourage us, to challenge us, and to correct us, loving us all the while. Those of you who are raising families and living in intentional communities know this–it’s the people around you who help you grow in holiness.
This Lent, why don’t you use that community to help you live Lent more fully? Instead of walking through Lent alone, talk with your family or your community about what you’ll be doing. Ask them if there’s a particular habit of yours that they think you might have an addiction to, a particular way of serving that might push you in just the right ways. Often you’ll find your kids know you better than you know yourself, as they point out your addiction to Netflix or your obsession with your phone. And only your wife would suggest that you offer to do all the midnight sheet changes for your mostly-potty-trained 3-year-old.
It might seem counter-intuitive to discuss your penitential practices–just showing off, some might say–but it also means if you fail there’s someone to call you out on it. And it might just challenge you to do something truly meaningful.
Then there’s the fact that your community exists to make saints out of the lot of you. What better way to do that than to work together to grow in holiness? What if you picked something to do together–a family fast or a weekly community prayer time? Maybe Lent could be more than a diet, instead becoming a season where you all grow closer to one another and to the Lord?
So here’s my suggestion: print out this worksheet and go over it together. Give them out to your Sunday School class, your youth group, your high school students, your RCIA candidates, your catechists–anybody you know with a family. Or give it to the other teachers in your department, the people in your Bible study, the volunteers serving alongside you–anything that constitutes a community. Then brainstorm together. Talk through the list, add your own ideas, tweak the ones you find. Discuss what might be best for each individual and for the group as a whole. Take some time to pray–ten minutes or a few days–then come back with a commitment. Write out who’s doing what. Maybe even pray together over it and then sign it. And post it somewhere obvious with the understanding that you’re consenting not only to correct others (gently) when you see them fall short but also to be corrected.What to Do for Lent
Obviously, people can do more than what they write on this worksheet. And nobody has to do anything. Maybe some people won’t feel comfortable signing on to the group penance. Take what you can get. But I think that when you decide to work toward holiness together you’ll find that your experience of Lent will be much more powerful.You may also be interested in my Lenten Boot Camp, which will help you work from 20 minutes of prayer a day to an hour of prayer a day over the course of Lent, and this fantastic family Lenten practices calendar, which has a different thing for your family to do each day of Lent.