Catholic Catalogue Book Club: Part One: Smells and Bells (#1-12)



Welcome to the Catholic Catalogue Book Club! We’re reading The Catholic Catalogue, by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating.

Catholic Catalogue Book Club -

“Catholicism is an embodied tradition.  We bow. We bend. We touch and kiss. We bathe and annoint. We stand upright and lie prostrate.  We eat and drink. We light candles and fill the air with fragrant smoke. We sing and keep silence. We sit still and we get up to journey.”
(The Catholic Catalogue, Musick, Keating 44)

As a parish leader, parent or inquisitive individual the traditions and customs of the Catholic faith have probably sent you on a quest for answers that only led to more questions. As is often the case with traditions passed on from generation to generation, pinpointing the beginning of such can be elusive. Ah, but there is such beauty to be found in the practice itself as each gesture, spoken word and even unspoken word summons our attention to something greater than our own understanding.

I remember the first time I was asked to explain a tradition of our faith and the ensuing wild goose chase I endured in search for the nitty gritty details. It was my first year as a catechist teaching third graders. I thought for sure being a new volunteer I would be assigned as an assistant to the Catechist. Not the case. I desperately wanted to give the most accurate and thorough response to the kids as I possibly could, however the information eluded me. The Catholic Catalogue, by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating is a concise resource that I really could have used at that moment in time.

Offering an in-depth look into the traditions, customs, feasts and celebrations of the faith, The Catholic Catalogue is a user-friendly resources broken up into three major parts: Smells and Bells, Seasons of the Church year and Seasons of Life. I especially enjoyed reading Part One, Smells and Bells. Learning about the significance of sacramentals such as vestments, medals and scapulars as well as the historical use of candles, oil and incense in the life of a Catholic helped me differentiate between symbolism and talisman. The incense, candles and oils alert our senses to the sacredness of celebration and ceremony preparing believers in a tangible way for what is to come. While believers may be aware of the sacredness and special care taken of these sacramentals I found it especially helpful to learn of the historical significance. “Wearing a medal is an ancient Christian practice.” write the authors, further explaining that “sixteenth century, Pope Pius V began the practice…of blessing religious medals. ” (Musick, Keating 29)

Sharing traditional prayers as well as prescribed prayer times that can be said as a family or individually, Melissa and Anna offer support in building a more fruitful prayer life. For those interested in developing a more prayerful way of life or, those with specific questions about what Eucharistic Adoration is and why Catholics do this, Chapters 10 through 12 are for you. Readers come to understand that the goal of prayer is to cultivate a friendship with God and creates opportunities to encounter Him. We realize that it is “difficult to have a meaningful relationship with anyone if you never spend time together” (Musick, Keating 52) and so it is in these practices of Adoration and creating sacred prayer space in our home that we foster a fruitful prayer life.

The Catholic church is so deeply rooted in tradition and biblical teaching that it is to the advantage of active churchgoers to discover the why’s of our sacred habits. Melissa and Anna have prepared a comprehensive guide for all travelers journeying the life of Catholicism, be it to instruct the inquisitive visitors in our homes and churches or to further our own encounter with God. As for me and my wild goose chase down a rabbit hole, I surrendered my need to find the answers and decided to invite my parish priest into the classroom for some Q & A time. And for those conversation when a priest is not so readily available, I now have a concise resource I can share with others.


To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Which of these Catholic traditions mentioned appeal to to you and alert you to His divine presence?
  2. Who will you share this resource with?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Part Two: (#13-23). For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Catholic Catalogue Book Club page.

Copyright 2016 Gina Felter

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About Author

Gina Felter, wife, mother of five, adventurer and techie. She enjoys sharing her zeal for technology and has served at both the national and local levels in support of Catholic social media endeavors. Currently pursuing a degree in Computer Information Systems she embraces the intentional use of technology while being informed of potential vulnerabilities. Gina nurtures her soul in nature with an active prayer life enjoying outdoor adventures such as cycling, running and hiking. She invites you to learn more about her adventures at and welcomes your comments or inquiries at [email protected]


  1. Hi Gina, i am enjoying reading The Catholic Catalogue. I liked chapter 2 Holy Water and the sign of the Cross. I love the line: to make the sign of the cross is to say yes to God, yes to the blessed trinity, the passion of Christ and forgiveness of sin. It’s a reaffirmation of all we believe as christians. I just love this statement!
    I also enjoyed Medals and Scapulars. I have a miraculous medal that i wear and a cross also. I liked the historical aspect of these such items of when they were first worn by early christians. I am learning so much from this book!

    • Agreed Michelle. I highlighted “a way of ‘putting on Christ'” (Galations 3:27) in my book. This stood out to me because of the bible reference. I also liked discovering that other faiths also have this practice signing themselves. As much as our traditions and practices offer symbolic appeal they are biblical in nature.

  2. Hi I too am enjoying the book. I wanted to make sure this was the right location for the book club discussion. If not please let me know the correct place thanks.

  3. Patty Orlando on

    I don’t have your book but I think I want it. When I saw “smells and bells” , I thought “YES!” I always loved the incense in church. It reminded me of Christmas. And I definitely remember the bells.
    I did not grow up going to Mass on a regular basis and I missed a lot. I am working now to learn as much as possible!
    Thank you for your book! And thank you to Catholic Mom!

  4. Gina to answer your question, I tend to truly love sacramentals in our home. I have a pretty massive “collection” although unorganized, of holy cards and medals. I collect them to remind me of our spiritual friends, the saints. They are such a tangible way of praying through the intercession of these sacred friends.

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