The Vocabulary of Lent

dictionary with purple variants for Lent

As we look to observe Lent with our students, I am thinking about the language of Lent and how to ensure that my seventh-graders know the Church’s vocabulary related to the season.

I shared a post on the Vocabulary of Christmas two months ago, and many of the techniques for helping children understand key terms could apply here as well. But one of the advantages of Lent, from a catechetical perspective, is that it is a long season. We have more time together with our students to explore the vocabulary of Lent and what it means to commit to Lenten practices.

By the time you read this, I will already have led my preparing for Ash Wednesday session. The warm-up activity as the young people gathered that evening was a page from the chapter review of Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 15. The page included a selection of Lent-themed words in a word scramble. It was a great way to engage the young people as they started to grasp seasonal terminology while helping me gauge their knowledge about the vocabulary in a way that is more of a game than a test.

Within the context of that same session, I wove in many Lenten terms and their definitions. For instance, we did a guided reflection on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to help young people understand what these mean. I reminded the young people about the practice of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays. And, of course, I helped them know what Ash Wednesday is, how it marks the beginning of Lent, and the meaning of Lent as a season of repentance.

As we move through the weeks of Lent, we’ll explore Gospel stories about temptation, sacrifice, and hope. When we near the Third Sunday of Lent, we’ll talk about the special readings chosen to help the RCIA candidates in their final preparations for the sacraments; of course, I will explain what RCIA stands for, because average Catholics don’t know this acronym.

Before Holy Week, we’ll talk about the events associated with each day of that week and give the young people familiarity with the names of the days of our holiest week: Palm/Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

In all of the Lenten sessions, I try to expose the young people to the appropriate vocabulary to understand the season and what they should be hearing at Mass.

How do you expose the young people in your group to the key vocabulary of Lent?

About Denise Gorss 55 Articles
Denise Gorss is a catechist with 16 years experience, mostly in junior high. She appreciates the gifts of Ignatian spirituality and likes sharing various types of prayer with the young people in her groups. She enjoys seeing the world on pilgrimages and lives in the Chicago area, where she works as Web Editor at Loyola Press.

2 Comments on The Vocabulary of Lent

  1. Hi Denise,
    You raise important points about helping youth understand the vocabulary of Lent. I especially agree with Catechists helping their students understand the Church’s celebration of Holy Week and its connections to the Salvation Story “climax” in the Gospel accounts.

    I have found that most 6th grade students do not understand the meaning of the word “repent” – a word we hear a lot during Lent. They think it is synonymous with “confession” or asking God’s forgiveness for sin. To illustrate that repentance involves a change of heart and mind to turn away from sin, we use a couple of activities in our curriculum. In our lesson on Jesus’ public ministry, we show a short video from the TV mini-series “The Bible” where Jesus calls the tax collector Matthew to be one of His Apostles. The class discusses not only the changes they see in Matthew in the video, but how they believe he changes going forward as a follower of Jesus.

    The other activity is a skit the class rehearses and presents to a younger CCD grade level based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We discuss the pivotal moment when the prodigal son admits his sins and turns away from his sinful life to return home to his merciful father.

    Thanks for sharing, Denise!

    • You’re welcome, Mary. A skit can be a great way to invite students into the story, and I like that you can share the presentation with a younger grade for further learning and community.

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