Susan Klemond is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn., who writes news and feature articles for the Register, OSV Newsweekly and the Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper for St. Paul-Minneapolis. She also has worked in marketing, editing and magazine production. She thinks about St. Peter’s exhortation to ‘always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.’ While some days it’s probably better that no one asks, she keeps working on it.
About 10 years ago when Heidi Flanagan of West St. Paul, Minnesota, didn’t feel she had enough time after the Christmas season to gear up for Lent, she brought her frustration—and her dislike of the penitential season — to prayer.
“I just felt like Lord, we were just celebrating your birth,” she said. “We turn around and here we are dying. I don’t want to leave all of the beauty of Advent and Christmas: the lights, the symbolism, all this beauty and then we go into this darkness.”
Flanagan wanted to understand Lent better, find love and joy in the somber sacrificial season, and communicate this to her children. “How can I say I’m loving Lent rather than gritting my teeth and bearing through Lent?”
This desire led her to create an illustrated devotion called “Lov’in Lent,” a 40-day journey through salvation history, from Genesis to the Resurrection, as seen through many Old Testament passages and reflection questions. Suitable for all ages, the devotion is available through free download or daily emails, even though Lent is already underway, Flanagan said.
The idea for the devotion came as Flanagan remembered the symbols of the Jesse Tree and the Old Testament Scripture it’s based on, which her family used in preparing for Christmas. When she couldn’t find a similar devotion for Lent, she sensed the Lord saying, “make something.”
For about six months, she pored over Scripture during her weekly Eucharistic holy hour, asking the Lord to show her more about the salvation story.
She drew from one of Scott Hahn’s Scripture classes she’d taken at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. “It just really opened my eyes to how all the Old Testament points to Jesus and points to God's plan of salvation and that’s really important,” she said. “I feel especially for us who don’t understand Lent or don’t like Lent and for children — probably for all of us. “
She found that the salvation story with the forefathers of faith, prophets and Psalms made sense in light of the Old Testament.
In the devotion, she offers both Old and New Testament Scriptures with simpler questions as well as deeper ones for further reflection.
Flanagan asked another mom, Risa Stalboerger of Woodbury, Minnesota, to create simple and clear visual symbols for each of the passages which would be easy for children to color.
Flanagan originally developed Lov’in Lent for her family and other families. While homeschooling her children she found she could discuss the devotion throughout the day. It opened the Old Testament Scriptures for her family and helped them understand the Gospels, she said.
But as her family grew (she now has seven, ages 1 to 14) she realized she needed to make the devotion appeal to all ages. She deepened the reflection questions. “I felt a sense [that I should] make it available to as many people as possible.”
Lov’in Lent’s devotions run from Monday through Saturday. Flanagan believes that since the Sundays of Lent are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence, devotion users could focus on the Sunday Mass readings instead or use the day to catch up on devotions from the rest of the week. She added that Catholics should feel comfortable jumping into the devotion midstream in Lent.
Next year, Flanagan plans to offer the Lov’in Lent’s illustrations in a larger format for children to color.
Flanagan hopes the devotion will help all those who use it, but especially parents struggling to help their kids see Lent’s bigger picture. “It’s not just sacrifices, it’s not just a self-improvement program, and it’s not just another chance at New Year’s resolutions,” she said.
Because of Lov’in Lent, Flanagan said she doesn’t dread Lent anymore.
“We’re walking with Jesus to understand this is the journey of our life and life is hard, just as walking this journey with Jesus to the cross is hard,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t joys and meaning in it and actually a lot of comfort.”
For more information, or to receive the daily Lenten reflections or entire Lov’in Lent series free of charge, visit https://rescuevocations.org/lent/.