We have made it through the dreary months of winter and the desert of Lent! The Easter baskets have been filled and demolished, the eggs have all been found, the “alleluia” has been sung and the new members of the Church have received their sacraments. Now it’s just a mad dash to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer — or at least it can feel that way.
With the disciplines of Lent behind us, it can be tempting to go back to life as “normal.” But as we hear Jesus tell the disciples in the first season of The Chosen, we are supposed to “get used to different.” Our families — filled with the joy of the resurrection — are called to become beacons of light in the world. As we wrap up the school year and juggle our busy calendars, how can we remain intentional about living in the joy of the risen Christ and continue sharing the Good News of salvation? Here are a few simple things we can do as families to keep living as an Easter people.
It is so easy to succumb to focusing on the frustrations of life. Jesus tells us, though, that he has come to bring good news, to offer us salvation, and to give us life in abundance. We are reminded in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that whatever we do, we ought to do it in the name of Christ giving thanks to God the Father. This Easter, practice making gratitude a central part of your family life. Incorporate it into your dinner table conversations. Include it as part of your night prayer. Encourage everyone to begin their day with a prayer of thanksgiving. It can seem overly simple, but in these small acts, we can begin to create an innate posture of gratitude that helps us acknowledge even the smallest gifts of God in our lives and recognize him at work in the lives of others.
GO DEEPER: Create a “blessings jar” in your home. Each evening, invite everyone to add a slip of paper that shares one thing they are thankful for that day. At the end of each month, go back and read through what has been shared to see how God has been present in the life of your family.
Walk in Prayer
It is spring in Michigan, and the weather is finally (hopefully) getting nicer! One way our family intentionally prays for our community is by taking prayer walks through our neighborhood. Praying for our neighbors doesn’t have to be scary! Take a walk around the block as a family and pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As you walk, you could also pray a rosary for the intercession of the Blessed Mother in leading people to Jesus or pray a Divine Mercy chaplet for God’s mercy to fill the hearts of your neighbors.
GO DEEPER: Get to know your neighbors if you don’t already. Learn their names, and intercede in prayer for them by name. As your relationship grows, be bold — ask them if there are things you can pray for specifically.
Archbishop Vigneron reminds us in his pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, that we are called to be joyful missionary disciples. The importance of joy cannot be understated. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer for long. In fact, St. Teresa of Calcutta wisely taught us that joy is a net of love by which we can capture souls. The joy and imagination of our children can certainly move hearts!
If your kids are like ours, a little paint keeps them occupied for a long time, and they love sharing their creations with the world. Give them a mission project: paint rocks with short messages sharing the hope and joy of Christ to leave in public spaces around the neighborhood. Make little cards to give out to neighbors. We never know who might need a sign — however small — that they are seen, loved and not alone. A bright and visible reminder might be just the thing to shine a sliver of light into someone’s darkness.
GO DEEPER: Have the children assemble small care packages with an encouraging note, artwork and something fun like bubbles, a mini-puzzle or coloring book/crayons and see if you can drop them off at a local hospital, nursing home or care facility where residents might feel isolated.
Create a Paschal Candle for Home
Our churches just lit their new paschal candles from the fire at Easter Vigil. The paschal candle celebrates the risen Christ, the light of the world. From it, we light our own candles during the vigil as darkness turns to light. We can continue to celebrate the resurrection and remind ourselves to live in the light of Christ with our own candles at home.
While the paschal candles at church are large and often ornate, you can create a simpler version for your family. Use a tall pillar candle and decorate it with the symbols of the Paschal candle: a large cross as the center, the year written in the four corners of the cross, and the Greek letters Alpha above the cross and Omega below the cross (symbolizing Christ as the beginning and the end). Then, on the four ends and center of the cross, add a clove (or a decorative brad) to represent the grains of incense that adorn our paschal candles at church to symbolize the five wounds of Christ. (You can also use a tall votive candle if you’d rather design a label or purchase a pre-made sticker to affix on your candle instead!)
Once finished, light the candle at dinner or during family prayer through the season of Easter.
GO DEEPER: Use the paschal candle as a centerpiece on your table or mantel and add one candle for each family member surrounding it. On Sundays during family prayer, light your paschal candle and then renew your baptismal promises as you each light your own candle from it.
Read through the Acts of the Apostles as a Family
During the Easter season, the first reading at Mass is proclaimed from the Acts of the Apostles instead of the Old Testament. We do this to both ground ourselves in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter and to focus on moving forward from the resurrection event to our lives as disciples today.
Consider reflecting on the daily Mass readings from the Acts of the Apostles as part of your Easter family prayer. There is a beautiful, illustrated Acts of the Apostles for children published through Ignatius Press to help engage early readers in encountering the Word as well. (This was a well-loved book in our own home when our children were younger!)
GO DEEPER: Lead your family in a contemplative reading of the stories from the Acts of the Apostles through Lectio Divina or Ignatian Contemplation. For a simpler challenge, choose a memory verse for the week from Acts and display that prominently in your homes for everyone to learn.