YOUR BEST LENT YET! Write words on stones to reflect current struggles; then open in prayer.

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1 YOUR BEST LENT YET! The purpose of this activity is to help participants understand the meaning and purpose behind the celebration of the liturgical season of Lent and to discuss, identify, and commit to personal and/or group goals for Lent. Review the entire lesson plan in advance so you are prepared to lead and discuss comfortably. Adjust the suggested time allotments as necessary. Time Section Session 10 minutes CONNECT Write words on stones to reflect current struggles; then open in prayer. 65 minutes DISCUSS Use Matthew 4:1-11 to discuss the season of Lent. Then talk about ideas for engaging in the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 10 minutes COMMIT Make individual Lenten commitments, and formulate a plan for Lent as a group. Close in prayer. Bibles Stones (smooth are best) Permanent markers to write on stones Participant Sheets Pens or pencils Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 1

2 You can purchase craft stones at an art supply store. Or if you have a natural area near your church or meeting place, start the session by going outside together and collecting stones. Discipleship is about more than discussing the faith and participating in a small group. Discipleship requires learning from the example of a rabbi in this case, participants learn from your daily example. It is healthy for your group members to do regular, everyday activities together because they will learn from your example and the example of their peers. As they grow in fellowship and deeper friendship through these activities, they will grow as disciples. SAY: Tonight, we ll be discussing the areas of our lives that we need to give to God. Sometimes it s hard to understand all of the liturgical seasons, so tonight we will work together to make a plan for a fruitful Lenten season. Give everyone a smooth stone and a permanent marker. SAY: I want you to think about something in your heart that you are currently struggling with. This may be something that is preventing you from growing closer to God. Write down one word to describe it on the stone. Allow a minute or two for everyone to think and to write on the stones. Make sure you create one yourself. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 2

3 Now turn to a partner and discuss these two questions: What did you write down, and why? How can struggles hinder our relationship with God? How can struggles encourage us to lean on God? Give participants each an opportunity to share with the group about their struggles and stones. Then read Ezekiel 36:24-28 from a Bible, or use the version below. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28 SAY: The stones in our hands represents our stony hearts. When our hearts are stone, nothing can penetrate them and we leave God out. Lent is a time intended to help us turn our hearts from stone into hearts of flesh, so that God can enter into our hearts and resurrect us during the Easter season. When we give God the opportunity, He can transform our lives. Let s begin in prayer. PRAY: God our Father, we thank You for bringing us together today. We ask that You prepare our hearts for the season of Lent and show us where we need to be purified in our lives. Give us the gift of fortitude so that we make firm resolutions to grow in holiness in this special season. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 3

4 SAY: Lent is the liturgical season of forty days, which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal Mystery (Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, leading into Easter Sunday). Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church s liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer. Ask for a volunteer to read the passage in Scripture about the temptation of Jesus in the desert, Matthew 4:1-11. In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray for forty days in preparation for His ministry, which would culminate in His Passion, death, and Resurrection. Satan tempted Jesus during this time, but Jesus refused to give in to the temptations. Lent is our time to unite ourselves with Christ in preparation for the Pascal Mystery. He will give us the strength that we need to surrender our stony hearts to Him so that He can purify us and give us His heart. ASK: Jesus prepared Himself for ministry for forty days in the desert. What do you do to prepare yourself for spiritual growth? What, if anything, have you done in previous years for Lent? Allow a few minutes for responses. SAY: This Lent, as a discipleship group, we want to be challenged to go deeper than we ever have before. We want to prepare ourselves for Easter and ask God to remove our stony hearts. We are going to spend some time making a plan for Lent. In this plan, we need to discern what obstacles we have in our hearts and how we can overcome those obstacles. Lent isn t about giving up chocolate it s about uprooting sin and obstacles in our lives and surrendering them to God. There are three pillars to Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let s look at each one of these pillars and offer suggestions for each one. Prayer SAY: During the season of Lent, we have a special opportunity to make our relationship with God a priority through prayer. Prayer is a great way to grow closer to God because it is a chance for us to spend time talking with and listening to Him. We can spend time thanking Him, asking Him for the things we need, and telling Him what s going on in our lives. It s also important to remember to take time in silence to listen to His voice, in our hearts and in Scripture. Commit to spending some time, every day, in prayer. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 4

5 Here are some ideas: Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day. Pray the Stations of the Cross every week. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the daily Mass readings. Download an app to view them on your phone. Read 15 minutes of Scripture every day. Make a morning offering of prayer every day when you first wake up. Frequently visit the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Journal every day as a way of talking to God. Pray a rosary every day. Get up early and go to daily Mass once a week. Fasting SAY: Often, when we think about fasting for Lent, we only think about giving up chocolate or soda, or not eating meat on Fridays. These are great things, but it s important to make sure that we re making these sacrifices meaningful and not just going through the motions. Fasting has two great impacts in our spiritual life: It helps us to uproot sin in our lives, and it strengthens our will so that we can learn to resist temptation. If you have a regular habit of sin, and you only give up chocolate for Lent, you are missing the point of fasting. Give up the sin instead of the chocolate. Here are a few ideas for fasting during Lent: If you have a problem with addiction (drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual impurity, etc.), use the season of Lent to motivate you to give up this addiction. Give up swearing, sarcasm, complaining, or gossip, and use your words to help others. Ladies, give up wearing make-up to remind yourself that God made you beautiful. Give up fast food, coffee, candy, soda, or meat, and then pray for those who are starving. Or save the money you would have spent on those things and give it to those in need. Give up secular music and only listen to Christian music. Give up the snooze button and get up when your alarm goes off so you can pray before you go to school. Give up electronics, even just for an hour each day, to spend time in silence with God or to hang out with your family. If you drive, give up speeding (drive the speed limit) and don t play music in your car. Take the opportunity to appreciate silence and grow in patience. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 5

6 Almsgiving SAY: Almsgiving is a way that we remind ourselves of all the blessings God has given us, most especially in His suffering and death, and as a sign of our gratitude we give back to those around us. We can give to God and others through our time, our gifts and talents, and our money. How are you going to give back this Lenten season? Here are some ideas: Volunteer at your parish fish fry. Visit a nursing home. Serve at a local soup kitchen. Save all your change and donate it to a charity. Become a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, usher, or altar server. Go through your closet and donate unused clothes. Don t eat fast food or drink coffee, and donate the money you save to a food bank. Volunteer to help with the faith formation or middle school youth group at your parish. SAY: Let s take a few minutes to each reflect on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for this season of Lent. Your stone from our opening activity might give you inspiration. Think about our discussion and make notes on your Participant Sheet of your personal commitments. Allow time for participants to share their commitments for Lent. Also, make a discipleship group commitment to do something together. It could be having everyone pray the same prayer every day, go to Adoration together 30 minutes before your weekly meetings, carry a cross as a reminder to pray for the group members, or something else unique to your group. When you are finished making your plans, close in prayer. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 6

7 PRAY: Come, Holy Spirit, provide for our needs and strengthen our resolve as we enter into this season of Lent. Take away our stony hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh that we may die and resurrect with Jesus in the Easter season. Help us, Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, Spouse of the Spirit, as we pray Hail Mary, full of grace Lead the group in a Hail Mary prayer. Have participants take their stones home as reminders of struggles that separate them from God struggles that they can overcome through surrender to God this Lenten season. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 7

8 YOUR BEST LENT YET! PARTICIPANT SHEET SCRIPTURE QUOTE FOR THE WEEK For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28 ACTIVITY Prayer: Commit to spending some time very day in prayer as a way to grow closer to God. Here are some ideas: Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day. Pray the Stations of the Cross every week. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the daily Mass readings. Download an app to view them on your phone. Read 15 minutes of Scripture every day. Make a morning offering of prayer every day when you first wake up. Frequently visit the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Journal every day as a way of talking to God. Pray a rosary every day. Get up early and go to daily Mass once a week. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 1

9 Fasting: Fasting has two great impacts in our spiritual life: It helps us to uproot sin in our lives, and it strengthens our will so that we can learn to resist temptation. Here are a few ideas for fasting during Lent: If you have a problem with addiction (drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual impurity, etc.), use the season of Lent to motivate you to give up this addiction. Give up swearing, sarcasm, complaining, or gossip, and use your words to help others. Ladies, give up wearing make-up to remind yourself that God made you beautiful. Give up fast food, coffee, candy, soda, or meat, and then pray for those who are starving. Or save the money you would have spent on those things and give it to those in need. Give up secular music and only listen to Christian music. Give up the snooze button and get up when your alarm goes off so you can pray before you go to school. Give up electronics, even just for an hour each day, to spend time in silence with God or to hang out with your family. If you drive, give up speeding (drive the speed limit) and don t play music in your car. Take the opportunity to appreciate silence and grow in patience. Almsgiving: As a sign of our gratitude to God, we give back to others. Here are some ideas: Volunteer at your parish fish fry. Visit a nursing home. Serve at a local soup kitchen. Save all your change and donate it to a charity. Become a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, usher, or altar server. Go through your closet and donate unused clothes. Don t eat fast food or drink coffee, and donate the money you save to a food bank. Volunteer to help with the faith formation or middle school youth group at your parish. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 2

10 Choose from each category above for commitments to make over this Lenten season. Circle your choices or write other ideas on the lines provided. Create reminders for yourself so you can follow through daily, and text your friends in your discipleship group to encourage them in their individual Lenten commitments and your group commitment. Remember, don t get down on yourself if you slip up stay the course! Our group commitment: Ask one of your family members to join in on one of your commitments for the Lenten season. It makes the sacrifice easier when you have someone in your home joining you! Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 3

11 YOUR BEST LENT YET! PARENT SHEET Every YDisciple session has three parts: CONNECT, DISCUSS, and COMMIT. The CONNECT section is designed to build trust, transparency, and community in the group. The DISCUSS section introduces topics of the faith, engages critical thinking, and facilitates valuable conversation. And the COMMIT section helps students take ownership of their faith and put it into practice. Use this Parent Sheet to take a glimpse at our most recent session so you can have a follow-up conversation with your teenager about his/her experience in the small group and encourage spiritual growth. In this activity, the teens came to understand the meaning and purpose behind the liturgical season of Lent. Throughout the session the teens discussed, identified, and committed to personal and/or group goals for Lent. Teens each wrote on a stone a word to reflect something that has been preventing them from growing closer to God. The teens shared with a partner the word they wrote down and discussed how these struggles hinder their relationship with God. The purpose of this reflection was to get them thinking about different commitments they can make for this Lenten season, particularly in ways that will help with their individual relationship with God. We looked at the temptations that Jesus faced in Matthew 4:1-11 and discussed the season of Lent specifically the three pillars: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Here are some questions that can foster conversation this week. Make sure to share your perspectives as well. Jesus prepared Himself for ministry through forty days in the desert. What do you do to prepare yourself for spiritual growth? What, if anything, have you done in previous years for Lent? Give an example of someone you know who made a real sacrifice during the Lenten season. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 1

12 Teens each chose specific ways to grow closer to God during the Lenten season through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. They were encouraged to create daily reminders of their commitments and to text their friends in their discipleship group to encourage them in their commitments. We also decided on a group commitment. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ask your teen what he or she decided to commit to doing this Lenten season, and ask if you can join in on one of the commitments! These challenges can seem easier when someone has joined in with you. Encourage your teen to stay the course and not get discouraged by slip-ups. Copyright 2013/2016 Augustine Institute. 2

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