“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the Glory of God.”
-1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
A Media Lenten Challenge
Deep down we all crave the challenge to choose the path less traveled. What if changing paths is as trivial as choosing, for instance, to watch Mother Angelica Live reruns instead of The Office (ugh stab to the heart.)
In our media-centered world, there is almost endless media content available to us at all times. That’s why I am posing a Lenten challenge to choose media that is morally, ethically or spiritually engaging and hopefully TRUE as a means to devotion on our Lenten Journey. But not only that, the challenge is furthermore to use Media to ignite in the spiritual imaginations of our family members, a desire and vision for a deeper Lenten Journey.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”-Matthew 7:13
Why Media? Media, in its varying forms, is powerful because it can tell a story. And if we feed ourselves a particular story narrative long enough, we may begin to adapt it into our own life and culture even unwittingly. So how can we take media resources this Lent and use them to help our families discover ‘The Way’ of Christ?
What is a Pilgrim Narrative?
To refer to Matthew Kelly here, as parents we are leaders and one characteristic of being a good leader is to be a good storyteller. So be a good storyteller this lent by feeding yourself and your family a Pilgrimage Story. What is a pilgrimage? A pilgrimage is a journey taken with the hope of growing closer in faith to the Source of Life, often as we walk with others to a destination that honors God. Lent, in many ways, is a 40-day pilgrimage. On this pilgrimage, we are surrounded by our family, friends, hopefully, a congregation of faith, and the unexpected individuals that God puts on our path. We are all journeying the Way of the Cross into the Way of Redemption, that being Easter.
What does the story of someone who is heroically journeying toward eternal life look like? There are many great examples– Some we can hopefully name from our own lives. The formula is similar, a person takes up their challenge or struggle, and instead of fleeing them, and with confidence in the Lord’s goodness, they overcome in ways that look like they have just moved a mountain. The Son of God came down to earth to save mankind. He chose to follow through in love with His bloody cross, died and looked entirely defeated. In doing so, he opened the gates of heaven so that the ultimate death of our souls should not prevail upon humanity.
One narrative that our culture’s youth is being fed by the jarfuls is that ‘magic’ is how we overcome our obstacles but that narrative is frequently false and dangerous. Love, virtue, and grace will get them out of the tribulations and obstacles they will inevitably encounter in this life. By focusing on media with Pilgrim narratives, children will begin to differentiate between ‘The Way’ of Christ from the way of the world. Here are some tools and ideas for building a Pilgrim Narrative using Media this Lent. I have added some personal experiences to demonstrate the effectiveness of these ideas.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’”-John 14:5-7 (NIV)
Youtube: Bible Stories and Saint Stories
If you have them, keep Children’s Bibles and Saint books next to the kids’ bed and incorporate spiritual reading into their night time routine. As children’s interests build for a particular Saint or Bible story, browse youtube with them for fulfilling content that expands on that topic. Follow up the video with a thoughtful conversation. Make sure you take time to listen.
Conversion Story: My 7-year-old daughter Maria learned about Saint Therese for a school book report using youtube videos from multiple youtube sources. One video focused on a small story from her life. As a young lady, St. Therese prayed for a notorious convict on death row. He converted at the last minutes before his execution, thanks to her prayers. Maria was so moved by this story that she now prays every night for ‘bad guys.’
Link suggestion: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC63iYSE884kZoq6rfywsXDg
Youtube Channel suggestions: Christian Kids TV, SuperBook
2. Use Great Cinema to Illustrate Heroic Journeys of Faith to Your Family
Have family Lenten movie nights. Curate some great films in your living room. Followed by a conversation after or the next day after the story sinks in. Chances are your children will bring this discussion to you if the movie really touched them. Think watching a movie in the den isn’t lenten enough? Try a black and white film! Kids always freak out at first.
Conversion Story: I can still remember the feeling of a flame being lit inside my chest after watching a spiritual classic that my mom usually had to at first convince us to watch together. My mom was so good at filling the entertainment cabinet with profound movie choices. Some of these movies really changed my life. In these courageous narratives, I found a desire to create a narrative of faith and courage for my own life. Some of these classics were “The Keys of the Kingdom” about a missionary to China, “The Sound of Music,” “Les Miserable,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “The Reluctant Saint,” “The Way” to name a few. Here is a link below with 100 Catholic classics. I’ve seen 52, (I had fun counting!) Many of these you can rent at the local library or purchase online. You will be giving your entertainment budget to good causes, especially if you purchase from faith-based websites. Plus new spiritual greats are being made every year. I suggest the recent movie about St. Paul. You won’t regret having these classics in your entertainment toolbox! They serve as a lasting reference on how to live ‘the way,’ in your families hearts and minds. Also, please pre-watch films to make sure your children are ready for the content matter.
3. Plug into Meaningful Audio in the Car, Kitchen or in the Gym
Dig up a couple of CD’s, or if you’re really cool, digital downloads, for your car rides. Have a variety, such as a Praise and Worship CD’s that your kids enjoy, something soft like Benedictine Chant or classical choir music, and the Rosary. I am lucky to have a copy of a CD Bible Stories for kids in my car. If you have a smart-phone with a lot of Data, you can just blast these from your cell while driving. Don’t forget Podcasts! Free podcast Apps on your phone are really amazing. If you are far into the digital age and have a smart speaker at home, teach it to play the daily readings. Just don’t ask it who Jesus is, you’ll blow that little computers mind! Bottom line, look for opportunities to change the mood and the content of Media in your car or wherever you may be. If you are already doing this…take it up a notch.
Conversion Story: When I was a kid we only had cassettes and radio in the car. My mom had bought these cassettes called the Donut Man (clap if you listened to these as a kid.) We listened to them for years and knew them by heart. Sometimes I was just listening and letting my thoughts wander but other times I experienced profound moments of prayer and praise. I could hear the Lord’s words in my heart. Praise music creates a narrative of a Loving God, who has our love in return. It narrates our pain turning upward to God with our crosses. It’s a powerful narrative building spiritual tool. (Geeze, my Mom must be patting herself on the back right now. Good job Mom!)
Lastly, tell your own stories. Share a conversion experience in your own life, your kids want to know how you came to know and love Jesus and His Church.
While building your Pilgrim Narratives this lent, make sure you leave room for discussion and deeper in understanding the stories full meaning. Also, take time to engage your children’s curious mind with questions of your own thoughtful inquiries. Leave time to hear the answer. Encourage each person in your family to talk about their journeys. Each member can live and tell their own Lenten-> resurrection story during the Easter Season. ‘I started here, and through prayer works and actions, God’s grace made me new in such and such ways…’
Remember, pilgrims traveled together on their pilgrimages to get more out of ‘The Way’ to learn from each other and love each other in their weak moments. Family members are always a part of each others story towards or away from Christ. Let’s do our best this Lent to create a family story of Journeying together with Christ. Sitting together in the living room and reading a Saint book or suffering through a black and white film will not only create family memories but will give you the opportunity to listen, lead and Journey with your family towards to Cross and the Resurrection.
Even though one can hear a good story doesn’t always mean they will get something out of it. Jesus said, “Let those who have ears hear.” Prepare the hearts and minds in your house to be in a place to be able to HEAR. Encourage those who can to make a good confession as you begin your Lenten Journey. Media is great but don’t forget to take time for silence.
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.”-Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta
Enjoy your personal and family Lenten Journey, may it bear much fruit. I hope to hear about your media suggestions and Media challenge experiences below.