Planning Your Liturgical Year

 

 

So you’re interested in living liturgically…

 

Welcome, Friend!!

 

 

Go grab yourself a cuppa and cozy up in your comfiest chair because this topic is one of my favorite things.

Oh, you’re back? Splendid!

November is when I typically sit down and do an overview of the next liturgical year. The moveable feasts get added to my google calendar, that year’s Advent and Christmas plans are finalized, and then a few new ideas get added to my Holy Days Binder ( more on this to come in another post ). This is just a brief session as I’ve been slowly adding to our festal repertoire over the years. This quick look with everything gathered together really helps with spontaneity during busy weeks. On Sundays when I plan the next week and its upcoming feasts, I can just pull a couple things from my lists and be done with no stress. Since it’s that time of year, I thought it might help others to share how the liturgical celebrations of our family have been shaped and the methods I use to incorporate liturgically living into our home.

If you are just becoming acquainted with the Church calendar and the home commemoration of feasts and saints, below are a few ides for how your family can get started before the commencement of the new Church year. Yes, you still have time!

 

Many, many years ago…

For our family, liturgical living started while I was still in college and learning about the Catholic faith. My future husband and I would observe the major seasonal feasts and fasts of the year with Mass and related meals. Think simple things like meatless Fridays and Holy Week services. After our wedding and the added convenience of being married, we began to mindfully live out the Church calendar with a more earnest effort.

One day while browsing the little Catholic bookstore on the outskirts of my college campus, I picked up a thin (now out of print) booklet called Customs & Traditions of the Catholic Family. Put out by Family Life Bureau, and formerly entitled Your Home, A Church in Miniature, this fascinating read on the Church’s rich saint day traditions became my light reading while on the train to and fro classes. This welcome escape from the hectic demands of my last semester was a calming balm of peace for my frazzled soul. My rides were spent learning of regional customs like Luciadagen and dreaming of our own family’s festal celebrations once our first child arrived in a few short months.

Gradually we added some of these small saint celebrations to the liturgy of our life. I would keep a dry erase calendar updated with the month’s daily saints in the kitchen. With my class and work schedule and that of my new husband, supper with a couple hours in the evening was the only time we saw each other during the week. To use the most of this time, before we tucked into our nightly meal we would do our devotions, going over the saint of the day and asking for their intercession. If we were not familiar with the assigned saint we would read about them then. I began to make special meals in honor of our patrons and to form connections between the historical music I had been learning the past few years and the Saints and religious practices that inspired their composition.

Later, as our sons were named and baptized, the saints of those days were included in our family’s annual observances. Through the years others have joined our family calendar as the saints have found us or as members of our family have developed a special devotion to a specific saint. We have slowly grown the number of, tweaked, and even dropped some commemorations over the years. And, based on our season of life at the time, no two year’s celebrations have looked exactly the same. 

Our family did not begin all our feast day traditions at one time and if your family is new to this idea you don’t have to either. In fact, I would heartily advise to the contrary. 

I’ve heard repeatedly that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Then, being four weeks in length, Advent is the perfect time to begin practicing new family devotions. The fall school semester is winding down as the first Sunday in Advent starts the new Church year. The lead up to Christmas and the new calendar year provide down time for planning and easing into your family’s new chosen practices. But what feast day’s should your family make an effort to celebrate? How do you pick from the Church’s over 1000 canonized saints? In what ways can your family celebrate the chosen feasts? First of all pray, you may be surprised by which saints and feasts are laid on your heart.

 

Here are a few ways your family can choose to start:

Pick one suggestion and celebrate the next feast or season on the calendar.

  • If your family is not already, start living as a Sabbath people. Keep Sunday holy through Mass attendance and keeping rest a priority. You can also help bring back the communion of Sunday Suppers.

  • Institute the age-old, super simple practice of meatless Fridays or some other Friday penance to remember the crucifixion of Christ.

  • Commemorate Major Feasts and Fasts first – Advent, Epiphany, Lent, etc.

  • Choose feast days you family will recognize – Which saints are already familiar to them?

  • Incorporate days that are significant to your family – namedays, baptismal anniversaries, confirmation saints, and or patron saints.

  • Look at the feast days for the month, liturgical season, or the monthly dedication for a more comprehensive view, pick one a week or month to observe – This look ahead at the beginning will allow more time for budgeting and preparation.

  • Glean ideas by flipping through another one of my favorite liturgical living books, Joanna Bogle’s A Book of Feasts & Seasons, or another book on the subject. I will compile a list of some other lovely ones in a post soon.

Once you have narrowed down a couple feasts to commemorate, decide how involved each particular celebration will be. For our family, the major church feasts like Christmas and Easter are much more elaborate than say the feast of St. James, a nameday in our home. The make-up and focus of your own family will shape this decision. For example, the slaying of a loaf of dragon bread on the feast of St George may not be as big of a deal for a family of multiple daughters as it is for our rascal of boys. Theses remembrances are an opportunity for a creative outlet, but they do NOT need to be complicated to be educational and have a spiritual impact on your family.

 

These are the types of activities that we regularly pull from to celebrate a feast:

If you are new to this practice remember, there is no need to try and do them all for every feast. One or two each observance is plenty to create a meaningful, lasting memory that will help your family grow in the Catholic faith.

 

Art –

Through the ages Master Artists have looked to religious events as subjects for their works. These masterpieces in various mediums can be found through simple on like search phases like, “Visitation fine art” or “Crucifixion paintings.” Many of these images are in the public domain and may be printed for your family’s picture study use. Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa and Michelangelo’s Pietà are a couple statues we revisit through photographs each year. Giotto also has some beautiful frescos fit for Holy week.

Books –

Doing an internet search for “books for the feast of ______” will bring up several available suggestions for both children’s picture books and longer chapter books suitable for the whole family. This is also and opportunity to to learn more about the dedication of a specific month. You can start a monthly book basket with related picture book titles and or choose a chapter book for your family read aloud. St. Athanasius’ On The Incarnation is a versatile title that could be used in March for the feast of the Annunciation, or in December as a part of devotions around the Advent wreath.

Crafts –

My sons are not big on crafts and glitter, but if your children are, Pinterest has a plethora of ideas that can be organized into monthly or seasonal boards. You can check out mine here. I prefer to have the tangible projects at my finger tips, so I usually go ahead and print the very few things we will be using and place them in my Holy Days binder. Like Pinterest, Catholic Icing is also searchable has many traditional craft ideas by saint and season as well. My second son (6 years old) is especially fond of the free coloring pages from Paper Dali

Food –

This category seems to be the most popular for families to implement. We tend to include a food related to the day’s feast because on hectic days everyone still must to eat. In addition to those mentioned above, there are a few ways we go about making liturgical connections through food including, serving the cuisine of a saint’s native land, mission field, or a place that holds them as patron. Some saints shared their favorite food, for example, St. Therese is said to have loved eclairs. Other feasts, namely the Transfiguration (grapes) and Fig Monday during Holy Week, have foods that were customarily associated with them. Several dishes have also derived their names from a religious context. For instance, angel and devil’s food cake, or the scrumptious, savory-sweet hors d’oeuvre of bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans called Devils on Horseback. Finally, other connections can be made between meals and what a saint did or the events of a particular feast. Two of our family’s most treasured traditions are stabbing our dragon bread on the feast of St. George and barbecuing for the feast of St. Laurence.

Home Decor –

Most of us are participating in the Church year through this category without even realizing it. The is especially true during the holiday season, when you gather your family around an Advent wreath, put up a Christmas tree in your home, or exchange Christmas gifts. A simple way we continue this practice throughout the year is by lighting candles at meals and switching between a small number of tablecloths that mirror the color of the liturgical season – purple for Advent and Lent, a blue and white pattern for May and Marian feasts, one with a bit of green for ordinary time, red for a martyr, etc. These have be acquired over the years from various sales. If you have a chalk or dry erase board, it can be used to display seasonal hymn lyrics or a quote by the saint of the day. Lighting a child’s baptismal candle at supper on that anniversary makes the day even more memorable.

Indulgences –

Thanks to a dear friend, indulgences are a practice that our family has recently added over the last couple of years. Many common prayers and pious acts have been given a partial indulgence, and several are connected to certain feast days. You can find ones for November in this All Souls Day post.  An extensive list can be found in The Enchiridion of Indulgences.

Media –

This category is where I lump all the audio and visual resources not related to music. We have come across several wholesome films based on different saint and feasts. The 1943 film The Song of Bernadette is a gem. A Man for All Seasons from the 1960’s, inspired by the English Reformation Saint Thomas More, is another worthy classic. My sons also enjoy the older, but still lovely, animated religious DVD’s put out by CCC of America. The Odyssey and St. Nicholas are the two they request most often. I have heard a lot of good things about the Glory Stories CD’s by Holy Heroes but have yet to make that investment.

Music –

If you have visited this little corner to the “interwebs” before, you probably know how significant music is to me and therefore our family culture. Due to my childhood and educational background, this is the area in which I am most familiar. When planning the musical aspect of a feast day I look for ways to connections through four genres: Hymns, Children’s Bible Songs, Chant, and Classical works. I select a piece for that day’s Concert Hour or Dinner Music that was written either by or about the saint, generally about their character, or about the events of the day itself. My prayer is that this blog is a resource to you in this department. If you are looking for an easy way to add music to your liturgical practices this year, please take a look at my musical Advent devotion, Awaiting the Messiah: An Family Advent Journey with Handel’s Messiah.

Outings –

It is so much fun to come with the ideas for this category! Some things that we try to do, deranged Texas weather permitting, is to visit the zoo near the feast of St. Francis and have a picnic at the grave of our fourth son on All Souls Day. Bowling for the feast of St. Therese has also been a hit in our home. Why not plan a camping trip and hike in honor of the great outdoorsmen St. John Paul the Great or Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati? I also include the less exciting activities like dropping off clothing donations for St. Martin and St. Vincent de Paul Day and making it to confession on the feast of St. Padre Pio in this section.

Prayers –

This can be as simple as adding, “St. ______, pray for us!” to the end of your blessing before a meal. Many saints have also composed prayers that can be found with a quick online search, while other feasts have related prayers, like All Saints’ and the Litany of the Saints. We like to have a litany for each month that corresponds to the monthly dedication. Novenas are another option to incorporate prayer to match the rhythm of the liturgical year. The Pentecost novena, dating back to the Ascension of our Lord, is one not to be missed. Of course, many of the saints pinned prayers and those are easily found by internet search. St. Bernard and St. Francis are two off the top of my head.

Readings –

Read a summary of the saint’s life and historical setting at a meal. Most of these can be found online for free. Saint of the day (modern calendar) and Per Ipsum (traditional calendar) will send you an daily email of the commemorated saint. The daily office is wonderful resource in this regard and many writings by individual saints can be found online in the public domain as well. Additionally, the daily Bible readings will match up to major feast and can be found on websites like The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

 

If you are a long-time observer of the liturgical year, I hope our family’s practices have given you some new ideas to include this year.

Whether this is your first year following the feasts of the Church or to your twentieth, may God bless your endeavors as you strive to bring your family closer to Him through the liturgies of your everyday life.

 

How do you go about planning the festivities of the liturgical year in your home? I’d love to hear about your particular method in the comments!

Blessings,

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Prayers for the Poor Souls 

In the Catholic Church the month of November is dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. These almost-saints are on there way to heaven but need a little more purification before they can receive the beautific vision and be in the presence of God. They are helpless, in that, they can not even pray for themselves or others, but we have the ability and privilege to come to their aid. We can pray for these often forgotten souls and our prayers can help them be released from purgatory sooner!

The month of November is a wonderful time to begin the family devotion of remembering the Poor Souls in Purgatory throughout the day. Starting in November provides the opportunity for this practice to be easily continued into the new liturgical year during Advent. Traditionally, a bell would be rung as a reminder to pray for the Poor Souls an hour after the noon Angelus Bell. This practice can be revived in your domestic monastery by simply setting a daily alarm on your cell phone. Many of them come standard with a bell chime ringtone too. Another option for working these prayers into your family’s liturgy of life is to tack the prayers onto the end of the blessing before a particular meal each day. It is also a pious custom to pray for these faithfully departed when driving past a cemetery.

November also has two opportunities to offer a plenary indulgence for a Poor Soul. First if you visit a church on the Feast of All Souls and say the Our Father and Apostles Creed and second if you go pray at a cemetery any day during November 1st through 8th, with the usual requirements.

 

The following are the two Poor Souls prayers we use most often:

Requiem Aeternam
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

St. Gertrude’s Prayer for the Holy Souls

(1000 souls released at every pious recitation)

Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and in my family. Amen.

 

 

Music For HOBBIT Day

Happy Hobbit Day and the first day of Autumn!!

In remembrance of J.R.R. Tolkien today, our little hobbits will be enjoying all the comforts of home, “food and cheer and song.” I imagine food and cheer will be in abundance for many families’ Hobbit celebrations, but I would invite you to follow in Tolkien’s hairy footsteps and include the beauty of song as well.

Though J.R.R. Tolkien came from a family of piano manufacturers, he had little musical training. His love of music was not absent however. In one of his remaining letters to composer Carey Blyton, Tolkien confided, “Music gives me great pleasure and sometimes inspiration, but I remain in the position in reverse of one who likes to read or hear poetry but knows little of its technique or tradition, or of linguistic structure.” Despite his lack of talent for musical performance, thankfully Tolkien heeded the example of his literary mentor, George MacDonald, and filled his many stories with moving songs.

Although there is no officially written music for Tolkien’s Middle-Earth songs, in the same correspondence with Blyton, he was hopeful that his writings would one day excite the creation of musical compositions. Lucky for us, in 1967 these aspirations came to fruition.

The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle in the ilk of Austrian, Romantic composer Franz Schubert. In collaboration, Donald Swann set seven of Tolkien’s poems, mostly from The Lord of the Rings. All of the pieces are lovely and worthy of a listen, but most intriguing to me is the fifth song, “Namárië,” based on a tune by Tolkien himself and sung in Elvish. The sixth song, “I Sit Beside the Fire” is another favorite taken from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Following Tolkein’s death, Donald Swann added two other songs, “Bilbo’s Last Song,” and a poem from The Silmarillion entitled “Lúthien Tinúviel.” Several others have also gone on to compose settings of “Bilbo’s Last Song.”

You can listen to The Road Goes Ever On as the original song cycle here:

This is “Bilbo’s Last Song” with a short introduction by Donald Swann:

How will your family be celebrating Hobbit Day? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Blessings,

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A Classical Eclipse Playlist

Since early recorded history the connection between music and the wonders of space has been documented. In Biblical times man was moved to song by God’s glory revealed in the heavens. The Greeks believed in the music of the spheres, that heavenly bodies produced an individual soundtrack all their own. Even throughout the present numerous composers have employed cosmic themes to spark their compositional creativity.

Continuing in this tradition, I have curated a playlist of classical music pieces, inspired by the sun and moon, for today’s Eclipse festivities. Y’all enjoy!

How May I Pray For You?

Before our baby is born in the next couple weeks, I wanted to pop in and ask if there were any prayer intentions of yours that I could be offering up during labor. It would be a delight to pray for you as it would give me a positive way to focus my attention through the pain. No prayer request is too small, so please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below or if they are of a more sensitive nature feel free to email me through the contact page above.

Also, if you could spare a prayer for me and this upcoming birth, especially for peace over anxiety, I would greatly appreciate it!

Upon his arrival, I will be taking some time off from the blog to enjoy our squishy new baby, but I look forward to sharing some exciting new things with you here this fall.

Many Blessings,

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Music for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene 


Today we commemorate St. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles. She was given that title as the first witness to Christ after He arose and the sharer of the good news of the Resurrection with the disciples. For our family’s festal concert hour tonight we will be listening to one of the few classical music works written in her honor. 

In April of 1873, French, Romantic composer Jules Massenet premiered his oratorio Marie-Magdeleine in Paris. Written in three parts, this little know oratorio recounts the final days leading to Christ’s Passion through their meeting after the Resurrection from St. Mary Magdalene’s point of view. Your family can listen along with us below. 

Babyproof Your Homeschool {Week 4}

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Week 4 – Baby Bric-a-brac

Week 4! I can’t believe we are here at the end of our eCourse. Thank you to everyone who took the time to work through this prep voyage with us! I have been so encouraged and blessed by all the feedback and wisdom shared in our Facebook group and pray this course has been a benefit to your family too.

If you are still working through the projects of each week or just now finding this course that is perfectly fine! You can refer back to the previous weeks all at the bottom of the Overview post here. If you want to share your progress with us over on Instagram, don’t forget to use the hashtag #babyproofyourhomeschool so we can see it.

 

 

Readying All The Baby Bric-a-brac

This week we will devote ourselves to the final preparations for baby’s arrival – locating and putting out all the everyday items that we will be using: clothes, swaddles, feeding supplies, etc. This is also when I complete gathering things for a hospital bag and complete any other priority projects that have been hanging over head. Because we never know when baby will decide to make his appearance, my intention is to make the last month or so of pregnancy as stress-free as possible by simply maintaining the systems previously set-up. In my experience, labor has been longer when I was worrying about the things undone and left waiting for me at home instead of just focusing on getting baby earth-side. Lastly, an enjoyable, memory-filled, worry-free time with your new squishy baby is what I pray for us all. The tasks on my final countdown include:Get out all the stored or new baby clothes and linens, wash them, and put them away in their new home. Set aside baby’s first outfit during this time. Get out all the stored or new baby clothes and linens, wash them, and put them away in their new home. Set aside baby’s first outfit during this time.

  • Get out all the stored or new baby clothes and linens, wash them, and put them away in their new home. Set aside baby’s first outfit during this time. For stubborn old stains I do an overnight soak with OxiClean then put the clothes out in the sun to dry.

  • While washing all the baby things, write down your laundry routine using the provided worksheet, in case you are blessed with help in that department. Post in a prominent place near your wash area.

  • Pack your hospital bag and put it in the car you will be taking.

  • Put a trash bag or dollar store shower curtain and a couple towels in the car as well, should your water break.

  • Place another dollar store shower curtain under your bedsheets to protect the mattress.

  • Put the final touches on you baby’s room or sleeping area.

  • If you will be using bottles, clean all the parts and arrange an easily accessible storage area for them. This may require clearing counter or cabinet space and relocating less often used items.

  • Like you did in your homeschool area, make little stations for baby gear like diapers and wipes at convenient places where you will be spending most of your time. Next to where baby will sleep or be fed are a couple to start with. The basket near my mama-bear chair for feedings also has other things I might need while nursing like water bottles, a bag of trail mix or granola, and a book. Tailor these stations to your personal tastes and preferences.

I can’t thank you enough for joining us for this eCourse! In the next week I will be sending out a super brief survey for participants to gather your honest thoughts. Those who complete the survey will be entered into a little give away. More details to come…

Finally, if you have any prayer requests you would like me to offer up for you during labor, please put them in the comments below or email me via the contact page above. It would be my pleasure to pray for your intentions!

Blessings,

Worksheet for Week 4:

(just click on the photo to download)

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