The Institute for Christian Formation
Lent
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Are you ready for Baptism Preparation?  Unless you have never been baptized and are inquiring about baptism, are a parent expecting a child, the parent of an infant, or will soon be a godparent, perhaps this sounds like a strange question.  If you don’t fit into one of the above categories, you probably are thinking, “Why would I be interested in Baptism Preparation?”

But what if I told you that not only will you be participating in Baptism Preparation this year, but you will be doing so every day for six weeks?  I am referring to the season of Lent.  Lent is about preparing for baptism.  During Lent those who will be initiated at the Easter Vigil enter their final, intense period of preparation for celebrating the Easter Sacraments.  And those of us already baptized prepare not only to accompany these “Elect” on their journey to the font, but we prepare ourselves to renew our own Baptismal Promises at Easter.
Baptismal Font
Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Cincinnati, Ohio
Lent ends and we begin the Sacred Paschal Triduum








Before Evening Prayer on Holy Thursday, the Season of Lent comes to an end.  It is with the entrance antiphon at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on this evening that we begin the Sacred Paschal Triduum, what you could say are the “high holy days” at the center of our entire Church Year.  Over the next three days we will celebrate in a profound way the passover of our Lord Jesus Christ from death to life.  Read more and download our free ICF Triduum bulletin here.
Two Solemnities: Saint Joseph and the Annunciation
*The Solemnity of Saint Joseph is transferred to March 20 in 2017
You might notice a few things at Mass the Fourth Sunday of Lent that are different from other Sundays in Lent. What does Laetare Sunday have to do with mothers? And what is the traditional recipe for Laetare Sunday? Find out more about Laetare Sunday, get links to recipes, find a kid's activity, and download our Laetare Sunday handout here.
The Three Lenten Disciplines:
Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

CRS Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services Lenten Outreach Program, is a wonderful way to keep the traditional Lenten Disciplines.  CRS Rice Bowl has numerous resources for individuals, families, parishes, schools, and colleges/universities for keeping the season of Lent while living in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the globe.  Check out CRS Rice Bowl this Lent!
The Sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday.  Why palms? What is their significance? From early on in our liturgy we have used palm branches to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where he would fulfill his mission for the salvation of the world! Find out more about Palm Sunday, the significance of palm branches, and download a free Palm Sunday bulletin here.
Crucifixion
Giotto, circa 1315
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
May you have a fruitful and Spirit-filled Lent!

So, in essence, we can look at Lent as our yearly period of Baptism Preparation.  It is a wonderful opportunity to take our faith inventory as individuals, as families, as a parish community, as the Body of Christ.  Have we lived up to our Baptismal Promises?  How have we served as “priest, prophet and king” this past year?  How have we lived as a new creation, clothed in Christ?  Have we let Christ’s light shine through us to all those we have encountered?  Have we listened attentively to the Word of God and let this Word form our lives?  Have we sung God’s praises to the best of our ability?  Are you ready for Baptism Preparation this year?
Lent is about baptism.  During Lent we journey to the font with those preparing to celebrate the sacraments of initiation at Easter, and we who are already baptized prepare to renew our own baptismal promises at Easter.  Download our ICF Bulletin on the RCIA Process to read more.  Just click on the image above.
The theme of Pope Francis' Message for Lent 2018 is “Because of the increase of inquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)     Read the entire message here.
"Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive." (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, #27-28a, from Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts, copyright 1982, ICEL)
Prepare for Lent by celebrating Carnival/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras.  Learn more about the spirituality and traditions of Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, and Mardi Gras here.
The ashes used in our Ash Wednesday liturgy come from the Blessed Palm (or branches) from last Palm Sunday.  Blessed Palm and Blessed Ashes are sacramentals with a long Biblical history and a rich theological meaning.  Find more, including a free bulletin to download and distribute, here.
Pretzel Prayer Pals…
A Great Lenten Outreach Project!

The pretzel is a food commonly associated with the season of Lent for some 1500 years now, and is a reminder of Christian prayer. This Lent reach out in prayer to others by being a “Lenten Pretzel Prayer Pal.” Find out more, including recipes and a handout to download here.
A young mother shared with the ICF her family's Lenten Calendar project: "We started a new tradition last year that I thought I would pass on. We bought some felt and made a felt calendar to count the 40 days of Lent. Each day we have various Lenten symbols made out of felt and special ones for feast days or for the Sundays of Lent. The kids absolutely love this, and we all have learned a lot about our faith by doing this! It takes a bit of
A Lenten Calendar Project for Home or Classroom

time to do each felt symbol, but now that we have it, we can use it every year. I thought I would pass this on to you, in case you could use the idea for other families."

The family has their calendar prominently posted in their home, and beneath it they keep a basket to collect food donations for the local food pantry.
The March 19 Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the March 25 Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, usually fall during Lent.  Solemnities are never days of penance.  There are many traditions associated with these two feasts.  The Tradition of the St. Joseph Table is a wonderful way to both celebrate St. Joseph - patron of the Universal Church, and to do some Lenten outreach at the same time!  Learn more here.
Laetare Sunday: The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord:
Holy Week Begins
Hot Cross Buns!
“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters give them to your sons,
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!”

When you learned this nursery rhyme as a child, did you know that the history of the hot cross bun can be traced back to Good Friday in 1381?  Find more here.
Other Lenten Resources

Here are links to a few other good resources to help enrich your Lenten experience:

*Regulations for Lenten fasting and abstinence can be accessed here.

*The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has an online, interactive calendar for Lent 2018.

*The Redemptorists have a free downloadable Lent 2018 daily reflection booklet available.

*Catholic Relief Services has a CRS Rice Bowl Community Reflections 24-page downloadable resource.

*The USCCB has resources for Stations of the Cross.

*Pray the daily Scripture readings using the Lectio Divina reflection method.
*Boston College offers a free online course on the "Death of Jesus."  Explore the four different Gospel passion narratives and encounter each Evangelist's unique insights into the spiritual meaning of Jesus' death.  A rich study for Lent and/or Holy Week. Includes introductory material on reading the Bible, and an overview of the four Gospels.  Content by Dr. Philip Cunningham, former director of the Boston College Center for Christian-Jewish Learning.     

*Loyola Press Stations of the Cross for children.