What Lenten Hymns Teach

children singing

Editor’s Note: With Ash Wednesday fast approaching, today we highlight one of the activities from our popular 40 Ideas for 40 Days feature. While organized according to the calendar, the activities aren’t limited to just one day of Lent. Check out 40 Ideas for 40 Days here.

Today’s Lenten activity is an opportunity for catechists to reach those young people who are more musically inclined, tapping into the musical/rhythmic intelligence of some of your students.

What Lenten Hymns Teach

  • Ask the young people to identify some of their favorite songs that they keep on their smartphone or other digital player.
  • Explain that some songs and collections are labeled with warnings that the content is “explicit.” Tell the young people that, for better or worse, songs teach us, and that songs with explicit lyrics can teach that certain unacceptable behaviors are OK.
  • Tell the young people that, by the same token, songs can teach us positive messages. If possible, name a few contemporary songs with positive messages.
  • Point out that at Mass, we sing songs (hymns) that teach us about our faith and that, during the season of Lent, we sing some traditional Lenten hymns.
  • Arrange to have some hymnals from the church on hand, and invite the young people to locate some of the following examples of Lenten hymns.
      • “Stabat Mater” (“At the Cross Her Station Keeping”)
      • “O Sacred Head Surrounded”
      • “Be with Me Lord”
      • “The Glory of These Forty Days”
      • “Hosea”
      • “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”
      • “Jesus, Remember Me”
      • “Attende Domine (Hear, O Lord)”
      • “Forty Days and Forty Nights”
        (I’m sure there are many other wonderful Lenten hymns that I’ve not mentioned, but liturgical music is not my area of expertise. Don’t limit yourself to my list! And by all means, send me your suggestions!)
  • Arrange the young people in groups of three or four, and assign a song or songs to each group. Tell them to summarize what the song teaches us about the season of Lent. If you didn’t know anything about Lent and all you had was this song, what would you learn about Lent from it?
  • If possible, arrange to play recordings of some of these hymns, or arrange to have a choir member, cantor, or liturgical musician join you to play/sing these songs for the young people.
  • After each song is played, have the young people report what the song teaches.

Make the most of your Lenten experience with seasonal books from Loyola Press.

About Joe Paprocki 2750 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

4 Comments on What Lenten Hymns Teach

  1. Great idea for an activity, Joe. One of my favorites in Lent–especially Good Friday–is “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

    After reading your post, I find I’m ready for a good Lent to begin. Time for a change. Time to pray more, listen harder, go deeper.


  2. I coordinate with our music director to get a list of hymns we will sing during Lent (and Advent). Then I create a playlist on Spotify and share the link with our catechists. That way, we all have access to the music we’re singing at Mass. It’s perfect for people not gifted with musical talent (like me).

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