When I first became a mother, six years ago now, I was a nominal Catholic that barely celebrated the liturgical year. I went to Holy Mass on Sundays and attended all obligatory days, but Jeff and I just didn’t know that the liturgical year was there. It seems silly now looking back at photos; our life seemed to lack the joy and luster of God’s love. Feasting was centered around food and very rarely tied to God, the Saints, or Our Blessed Mother. What changed? Well, a mentor of mine gave me a copy of Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day over a good-bye lunch (we were moving to Virginia). I spent the next day engrossed in Gould’s descriptions of a cultural past. Catholicism seemed to come alive.
1. Gather Ideas.
Thanks to the interwebz there is a plethora of great blogs, sites, and resources on how to live liturgically. Educate yourself on the who, what, where, when and why even if the answers are basic. Our perspectives grow over time with contemplation and education.
Recently, I was asked to review The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics (By the way, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.). Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina co-author this simple and engaging book. The Catholic Home is about how to celebrate the feasts of the church, but The Feasts is about the why (I suggest reading these two side by side!). Inside The Feasts, simple definitions of liturgical terms are defined like octave (section of eight days that starts with a major feast like Christmas), season (think Advent or Lent), and many more. The ranking of feasts is also explained, so a solemnity takes precedence over a memorial which takes place over a weekday. Each major feast of the Catholic Church is explained historically, theologically, and culturally. The Feasts strives to explain the importance of feasting ordered towards God through the physical world he created for us.
2. Plan in advance.
Pick out one Saint day a month, or focus on just the main seasons and great feasts like Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. Just adding one celebration a year in the life a person leads up to one heck of a joy filled experience.
God created the world in six days and took his rest or leisure on the seventh. Think about that: God rested on the seventh day. Does God really need to rest? Nope. He’s the ultimate energy source. (I just wished he cleaned houses for fun! “oh hey, Ashley seems to be drowning in dog fur and sparkle glue. I should totes clean her house.”) God was insuring that we, his creation, had a day built in for rest and spiritual nourishment. He commanded that this day be kept with no unnecessary work. I know that I struggle with resting on Sundays; I love to accomplish and check off. Thanks to many great books like The Feasts and many great priests, mentors, and friends, I have learned to trust that God wants me to rest even if the laundry sits unfolded. He is giving me Sunday as a day to revel in his Creation, and the gifts he has given me like my amazing husband and chickadees. Because that spiritual nourishment and rest creating trust and faith, feasts can be seen as sacramental. We receive Graces from participating in feasts.
In our Catholic faith, we have ten obligatory (meaning we have to attend Holy Mass) universal feast days (eight are required in the US and several are moved to the nearest Sunday) and Sunday is also considered a holy day of obligation. It can be overwhelming thinking about how many feasts the Church promulgates as well as the Saint Memorials! However, the Church makes certain feasts like Christmas, Easter, All Saints, etc. holy days of obligation to safe guard people from overworking and not worshipping God. God built into our very calendar the ability to rest.
3. Get everyone involved.
Find ways to incorporate both activities, events, and foods that speak to all age groups including the adults. Children need to see how faith and celebrations mature over time. What better way than for us as mothers and fathers to model that for our children. Joseph and Mary certainly had adult rituals in which Jesus observed and may not have fully participated but witnessed.
This is the most approachable cook book ever. The recipes have always turned out tasty. Plus, the layout and pictures make you feel at home. Can not beat that, peoples!
4. Mix it up.
Feasting is more than food, more than a craft; it is an experience. Perhaps for St. Vincent DePaul’s feast day, the family could work in a food pantry or visit nursing homes delivering goody bags. There are many ways to experience feasting.
All of those obligatory and non-obligatory feasts draw the participant into the history of the Church back to Hebrew roots back to the earliest days in that little room after Christ’s resurrection back to the beginning when God rested. Simply reading about these feasts is not enough. Just like reading the Bible, or the words of Aquinas are not enough to change our fallen nature. We, as part of the mystical body of Christ, must take part. We must do. We must be. We must celebrate these feasts! Actions speak louder than words my dear readers! As Catholics, the joy is what draws people. Joy! Even amidst our suffering we must be joyful! Our family’s traditions are always in flux; we must realize that our own celebrations of the Church year will grow over time just as the Church calendar has. Adding one small thing a year or adding one new Saint a year is great! The very action of just making a special dessert or adding a fun Saint activity brings that spiritual nourishment into our lives. God truly wants that for each of our souls!
Are you ready for the good news? After making it through this long-winded rambling, I’m giving away a “Hands On” Starter bundle! Use the rafflecopter below to enter.
One lucky winner will be receiving a digital copy of Feast! and More Feasts! from Daniel and Haley Stewart at Carrots for Michaelmas, a digital copy of The Best Laid Plans Planner from Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum, a print copy of The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics, and a month of Saint Mail! Please click on through to these lovely sites since they were excited to share their hard work with the lucky winner. Once the winner is chosen, it will be announced on Epiphany here in this post. So check back here! I will need to give your email to Hayley and Kelly and your address for the book and Saint Mail winner. Thanks again. Good luck!