The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide

In the event that you find yourself still deciding what to do for Lent on this Shrove Tuesday, this resource guide from the National Catholic Register should help. It’s separated by category (Lent in your email inbox, Lent for families, etc.), so you’re likely to find something well-tailored to helping you grow closer to Christ and the mystery of His Passion and Death this Lenten season.

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” – Pope Francis

“Time spent with the sick is holy time”

So many of us are touched by the pain of mental health deterioration in some way. As a little girl, I remember my grandmother once repeatedly telling me how much she loved the ice cream sundae I made for her, not realizing until later that she had expressed her gratitude at least three times within five minutes. Though she was embarrassed, I recall loving her all the more in that moment, while simultaneously being frustrated that sickness can be so debilitating to experience and to witness. My grandmother was one of the most grace-fillled and beautiful women I’ve ever known, and I am thankful that even today, many years after her passing, I can relish not only the good memories we had, but also the faith in Christ and in His Church that we shared.

If you or someone you love is in a battle with declining mental health, I hope my recent article in the National Catholic Register on Caring for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s brings you some help and consolation.

“Time spent with the sick is holy time.” -Pope Francis

Finer Things Night: Our Favorite Family Date

Since my husband and I have only been married three years, there are few long-running traditions in our house yet, with this fabulous monthly exception. I look forward to the 14th of every month. It’s like a breath of fresh air, and a unique change of pace during an otherwise normal week or month.

I leave little reminders on the fridge or on bathroom mirrors to remind us to plan for FTN.

I leave little notes on the fridge or on the bathroom mirror to remind us to plan.

Allow me to introduce you to one of our favorite in-home date experiences. We call it Finer Things Night.

The name derives from the exclusive group of coworkers in the show, The Office, who call themselves The Finer Things Club and meet once a month to discuss books, listen to classical music, enjoy fine food, and appreciate culture “in a very civilized way.” As they say in the show, “There is no paper, no plastic, and no work talk allowed.”

So the hubby and I hijacked the sitcom’s infamous club name, but the desire to start Finer Things Night, and the date of the month we chose to schedule it on, was an effort to celebrate our anniversary date every month of the year. Our anniversary being on April 14th, we wanted the 14th of every month to be a mini-celebration of our continued love and fidelity for one another and a chance to enjoy not only each other’s presence, but to soak in some of the finer things in life together, disconnecting from technology most of these finer evenings and embracing high culture “in a very civilized way.” We also just wanted an excuse to have a little extra fun on a random weeknight.

Some things I love about Finer Things Night:

  • They require intentionality on our part, but not a burdensome amount of
    A FTN menu and a little decor

    A FTN menu and a little decor

    planning or execution. When we first started doing this, the hard part was remembering to plan something and then dividing responsibilities, but neither of those tasks were actually that difficult once we got the hang of it. I usually type up a “menu” for the night, which describes our meal for the evening (preferably something slightly fancier than we may normally eat on a week night) and the “finer” activity. I cook, set the table and the ambiance—like candles and flower petals (or flowers that Ray brings me), cloth napkins and wine glasses, for example—and

    We get a little fancier than usual on our FTN. (Picture: homemade chocolate raspberry cake…with a secretly healthy spin. Shh. Don’t tell my husband.)

    Ray plans and executes the activity. Neither of us spends more than a few hours planning (if that), but the small time investment is so worth it. We also try to get a little dressed up, even though we’re staying in.

  • Everyone can be involved. This is more of a family date night than a couple one, though it can be either. We love to engage our son in the activities, since we want him to appreciate culture anyway. Because he is the ultimate reminder of our love for one another, it makes sense that he’s an integral part of our evening festivities, too. Since he is only 14 months old now, his involvement is likely to grow as time goes on. Currently, he sometimes falls asleep before the activity starts.
  • It reminds us to celebrate our marriage every month. In the middle of hectic family life and work, we are forced to stop and think, “Gosh I am happy to be married to this man/woman,” and to spend a little extra time in thanksgiving for our marriage when we come to God in prayer that night.
  • We learn something new and interesting. From listening to and
    From classical music studies to tea tasting, FTN is full of culture and learning.

    From classical music studies to tea tasting, FTN is full of culture and learning.

    studying the history of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to learning the process for harvesting, brewing, and tasting tea, we always go to sleep that night with a sense of unexpected appreciation for whatever we have learned or experienced.

  • It’s fun. Sometimes, it just feels so good to break up the monotony of an ordinary evening with fancy food, good conversation, and a little class and culture.
  • It’s flexible. If Finer Things Night falls on a weekend night, we may go out to eat and do our activity out of the house. If it’s a Holy Day, Mass is our “finer
    FTN table setting...I even did a "bishop's hat" napkin fold (after almost giving up)!

    A FTN table setting. I even did a “bishop’s hat” cloth napkin fold (like I said, fancy!), pictured by an appetizer platter of spruced up prosciutto deviled eggs with sesame seeds.

    activity” (the finest activity, really).

I can’t say enough great things about our monthly Finer Things Night tradition. I hope it continues for a long, long time. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

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