They had days and seasons of fasting and abstinence, which connected them more fully to Christ's ultimate sacrifice to us. As Catholics today, I feel like we emphasize these times of the year pretty well. We all know that Lent is a time of simplification. We give up something we enjoy for 40 days. We might do something extra. We try to incorporate more prayer into our lives. Fridays = no meat (or some other sacrifice if you happen to hate meat already). Even non Catholics understand this very well, as McDonalds and every other fast food chain shows when they just happen to coincide their reintroduction of the Filet o Fish with whatever day Ash Wednesday is that year.
But...what about the feasts?? Why don't we emphasize these more? Catholics have always been really good at partying. What are we typically known for? Enjoying good beer and making babies. Two very enjoyable activities. Why, then, are we not known for living out the celebrations that the Church offers? Even secular people celebrate St. Patrick's Day, St. Valentine's Day, Christmas, and Easter (all feasts that originate in the Catholic Church). Why is it that whenever people think of Catholics, they typically think "rules" or "restrictions"? Rules and restrictions are, of course, very important. But so are celebrations and feasts!
You guys. The Church calendar is FULL of feasts! It's so exciting! My husband and I have made the decision (and when I say that, what I really mean is I have excitedly babbled on to my husband about how awesome this is, and he agreed) that our family is going to make an effort to live more liturgically. This means observing the fasts, like we already do. But it ALSO means observing the feasts!
I think this is particularly important for children. They learn by touching, tasting, and doing. It's important, of course, that they experience the solemness during times of fasting and abstinence. But it's equally important for them to experience the joy and fun of Christian living!
The Church has a feast day pretty much every day. So what we plan to do for now as we are starting this journey is to pick a few days a month that are important to our family and celebrate those days. There are, of course, activities you can incorporate for children with the feast days, but Elizabeth is not quite old enough for that yet. So here's what we have celebrated/plan to celebrate for April:
My husband has always had a deep love and fascination of anything French. St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France and is the patron saint of that area.
What we did: Made a French meal
- Chicken Cordon Bleu
- French Baguettes
- Asparagus (not sure if that's French or not, but it was yummy)
- Crepes for dessert
This isn't necessarily a "feast day" but still a very important day on the Church calendar. It is when we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, and read about the Passover in the Old Testament.
WHAT WE DID:
- Made a symbolic meal of traditional Passover/Jewish food
- Roasted Lamb
- Unleavened Bread
- Potato Knishes
- "Bitter" Herbs (we made Kale)
Our last name is of English descent, so we will be celebrating the patron saint of England, St. George!
- Make an English Meal
- Fish and Chips
- Treacle Tart
- Read about the life and martyrdom of St. George
- Write down some of our own "dragons" (sins) with which we struggle and light the paper on fire (because we are pyros)
Divine Mercy Sunday, always the Sunday after Easter, is when we emphasize Jesus' unending mercy for us. It was made an official Feast Day by Pope John Paul II. Even before that, however, the Sunday after Easter has always focused on God's mercy as we read about Doubting St. Thomas in the Gospels on that day.
- Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
- Go to confession (something we normally do on Saturdays once or twice a month)
Pope John Paul II is a hugely important person in the lives of my husband and me. His teachings and writings are probably the main reason we began to fall in love with our faith. This day, the day he will be made a saint, is going to be a very exciting day for our family, so we plan on pulling out all the stops!
- Make a Polish dinner (JPII was from Poland)
- Polish Honey Cake
- Watch a short documentary on the life of Pope John Paull II (if we have time)
This will be a day of mixed emotions for us. We named our first baby, who is now in heaven, Catherine, after St. Catherine. So we will of course celebrate this feast day, knowing that our baby is with the Lord. But we will also take time to remember her and pray for all those who have lost their babies during pregnancy.
Living liturgically just seems to me like it's such a great way to incorporate our faith even more into our daily life. And it doesn't have to be a crazy, go-all-out celebration every time either! When we had our passover meal on Holy Thursday, we only had about 15 minutes to eat before we had to frantically get ready for Holy Thursday Mass. It's not always going to be a magical, amazingly spiritual experience. And obviously, as my lack of pictures shows, sometimes our plans don't always happen the way we intend. But I'm really excited to give this a try!
If you are really interested in living more liturgically, here are a few blogs that talk about it in more detail:
Kendra at www.catholicallyear.com
Haley at www.carrotsformichaelmas.com
What do you think? I would love any ideas of things you do in your family, or things you think sound fun to try!