Nourishing Hearts and MindsParenting

Ashes: On Lent and Raising Confessional Children


Today is Ash Wednesday: the day that signifies the beginning of the season of Lent in Catholic and confessional Protestant churches. Many will attend Mass or church services where they will receive ashen crosses upon their foreheads, among the other essential elements of the Divine Service: the Word and Sacrament.

Tonight, Josh and I will take the children to church and all four of us will received our ash crosses. Most likely one or both of the children will smear their ashy little faces across our clothes and we’ll end up wearing ashes on our arms and chests, as well. (Good thing I’m wearing black today. 😉 )

Last year was our family’s first year celebrating the season of Lent, as it was Josh’s first full year as a confessional Christian. He seems to enjoy Lent more than most, as he’s long been captivated by the cyclical nature of the church year, with its seasons for celebration and reflection.

Lent falls into the latter category, and while we aren’t participating in the traditional fasts that accompany this season (for varied health-related reasons), we will observe this season individually and as a family unit.

We’ll attend church weekly and study Luther’s Small Catechism daily at home.

We’ll read Scripture passages that tell of Christ’s road to the cross and humiliation in the last days of His life.

And on Easter, you’d better bet that we’ll don our Sunday best and join the Church in proclaiming loud “Alleluia”s in joy for Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil!

But this season is for reflection.

​Communicating that to loud, boisterous children is complicated, though arguably communicating any aspect of faith and a belief system is complicated.

Our confessions and Church life are important to us as a family. I don’t say this to brag about how awesome Josh and I are as parents (spoiler: we’re not), but because we feel an extra measure of mercy as we participate in them.

Though I grew up confessional, Josh did not. Because I followed his lead and began attending church with him after we got married, for the first part of our marriage and family life, we didn’t have access to the life- and faith-giving means of grace through the right teaching of God’s Word and the Holy Sacraments. We were cut off from the lifeblood of the Church and alienated from our brothers and sisters in the Church present and historic.

My return and Josh’s initiation into the true Church is a blessing for which we’re continually grateful. We’re excited for the opportunity to raise our children in a place where they’re welcomed as members of Christ’s body even as little infants; where the means of grace are extended to them despite their diminutive status in the eyes of most of the rest of the world.

It’s our hope that one day our children will joyfully take hold of a faith their own, though we recognize that nothing we do (or don’t do) is going to make or break them spiritually – that’s up to God and the work of the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, we’ll teach them scripture, the creeds, and confessions. We’ll help them to ask questions and find answers in the Bible and in church life around them.

We’ll present them to receive ashes on their foreheads each year on Ash Wednesday. Tonight, Colm’s ashes will be placed for the first time in the same place the waters of Holy Baptism were mere months ago. That’s beautifully symbolic to my mother’s heart and my writer’s heart.

Tonight and ever, we will remind him of this truth: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

A blessed Lent to you!

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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

What are your thoughts?