This video about Lenten fasting from Redeemed Online would be a great introduction to talking about the disciplines of Lent as a communal experience, rather than 40 Days of Self-Improvement:
“One billion people in the world, fasting from the same thing, lifting up our prayers to God…”
Challenging young people to take Lent seriously can too easily come across as just another self-help program; sure, you slacked on your New Year’s resolution, but now you get a reboot with awesome ashes on your forehead!
It strikes me that Lent is perhaps our strongest remaining experience of a Catholic culture. Christmas is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike, and Advent reads to the larger culture as generic “getting ready for Christmas” along the lines of setting up the tree and planning for the big meal. But Lent is a communal occasion of penance and sacrifice, culminating in the highest of our holy days.
Yes, it is a chance to supercharge one’s faith, I suppose, but that’s not really how we are supposed to see this season. We are sinners, we need Christ’s saving presence, and we take on these disciplines to remind ourselves of the need for His mercy. The fish fry dinners and the community Stations of the Cross help create this culture apart from the world. If we can’t go on pilgrimage, we can embark upon this smaller journey together. Invite your students to focus on Lent as members of the Body of Christ, explaining how our individual acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not about attaining our own perfection but rather offerings in union with Christ’s sacrifice.