How to Guide Kids to have a Meaningful Lent

Recently on Morning Air, John Morales welcomed Claudia Cangilla McAdam onto the show to discuss how parents can use Lent as an opportunity to teach their children about getting the most out of this Liturgical season.

McAdam, the author of children’s books such as The Real Presence, The Christmas Light, and Louie’s Lent, began by saying that the key to understanding Lent is to realize that it’s not about making sacrifices for 40 days because the Church says so. It’s about using the sacrifices we make as a way to grow closer to Christ for the rest of our lives. Each Lent should permanently improve our relationship with God, not just until Easter.

McAdam drew attention to the Lord’s 40 days in the desert where He was tempted three times by the Devil. We can follow His denial of temptations to lead us to the three things we should be doing during Lent to get the most out of the experience.

Firstly, Jesus is tempted by the Devil to turn the stones into bread. He rejects that idea, showing us how to fast. Then, the devil tempts Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world. As Jesus turns them down, He shows us how to be givers, not takers. We imitate HIm by giving alms. And lastly, the devil says that if Jesus were to throw himself from the top of the temple, He is so important that the angels would catch Him. It’s an appeal to pride and independence. We can deny our pride and express our dependence on God by turning to prayer. Those are the three keys to Lent: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.

McAdam took these concepts and boiled them down for children in her new book Louie’s Lent. In the book, a boy named Louie doesn’t know what to give up for Lent because he doesn’t have access to the things that his classmates are giving up. So instead of choosing something that his classmates are doing, he uses Lent as an opportunity to accompany each of his friends on their Lenten journeys. He helps his friend giving up video games by getting them involved coaching little league. He joins his other friend as she gives up sweets by fasting with her. “He led a very good Lent because he did what the Lord asked us to do in giving of ourselves. So, it’s kind of a blueprint for kids on how they might emulate Our Lord and emulate Louie in what he does for Lent,” said McAdam.

In promotion of her book, McAdam references Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” John asked McAdam how parents can instill that message in their children this Lent. First and foremost, she said, we do this by setting a good example. If we give something up, but act uncharitably, we’re not truly living out our Lenten sacrifice. Our physical sacrifice is meant to direct us towards the Lord and if it’s not doing that, then it’s worthless. We need to exemplify the virtue that sacrifice points us to.

Some ways we can show children the connection between our physical sacrifices and our spiritual development is by taking up new habits. It could be going to Mass more than once a week, attending Eucharistic Adoration, going to confession more regularly, praying the family rosary more consistently, or doing the Stations of the Cross on Fridays. John recalled the old saying, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” If you want your children to live a certain way, you need to live that way yourself first.

McAdam recommended that everybody go back to that passage in the gospel where Jesus was tempted, simply as a precursor to Lent, and keep that in our minds as we journey through this season. It’s not going to be, nor should it be, easy, but if we slip in our resolutions, just “get back on the horse” and good things will come of our sacrifices. Our consistent desire to emulate the life of Jesus Christ will keep us centered and ensure that we get the most out of our Lent, as long as we never give up.

Listen to the whole segment below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.