Welcome to the Catholic Catalogue Book Club! We’re reading The Catholic Catalogue, by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating.
One of the fun things about being a parent is to see how excited my kids get about holidays. (They come by it honestly; I put up Valentine decorations for most of February and have more Christmas albums than pairs of shoes.) And I’ve found that you don’t have to go all out in your celebration to make an impression on your kids. Even simple things like a traditional meal or a favorite decoration create fond memories that your children will talk about eagerly as the day rolls around (good news for a craft-challenged mom like me).
Simply having a special day to celebrate a special event or person is exciting, and this is as true for adults as it is for kids. Life as a mom can sometimes feel like a lot of sameness, one day marching after another; holidays shake us out of that by making us realize how much there is in life to celebrate.
And one of the nice things about being Catholic is that the celebrations go on and on. Even the part of the year we call Ordinary Time is full of days where we honor special people and events of our faith.
In The Catholic Catalogue, Melissa Musick and Anna Keating dedicate a section of the book to Summer Ordinary Time and one to Autumn Ordinary Time, highlighting some of the special days of the liturgical year. I loved these sections of the book because they provide succinct, thoughtful explanations of these unique days and offer ideas on how a family can highlight and celebrate them.
Some of the chapters presented material that was new to me. I am well-acquainted with John the Baptist, but I’d never paid any attention to his feast day on June 24. I had also never heard of the European tradition of celebrating the vigil of his feast day by building bonfires, or by lighting candles on rafts and sending them into a river, lake, or ocean. As the authors explain, “The light recalls the One whom John, and the whole world, awaited. When we kindle St. John fires on the night-shadowed shore or send lit candles onto the ocean waves, the dark water is illuminated.” This is such a gorgeous, vivid way to think about John’s unique role in priming the world for the life and ministry of Christ. And think about what an impression this ritual would make on the mind and heart of a child! (If you don’t have a body of water nearby, or if fire makes you nervous, the authors present helpful variations of this ritual.)
My kids love celebrating the Fourth of July with a local parade and a backyard lunch with the grandparents. One thing I didn’t know is that July 4th is also the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, known for her work for the poor and her focus on social justice. The authors address the two holidays in the same chapter, showing how we can celebrate both as a way of recognizing that we are not only American Catholics, but part of a global church as well. By acknowledging this saint on the day of our national independence, the authors explain, we affirm that “the Catholic Church is not a national one. It does not belong to any particular people or land or tribe or language. As you have a beer today, drink one in honor of St. Elizabeth, and make her story part of the celebration.” (I could so totally get my husband on board with this suggestion.)
In the section on Autumn ordinary time, the authors dedicate a chapter to All Souls Day, paying particular attention to the holiday of Dia de los Muertos, celebrated in Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Haiti, and other countries. In many of these cultures, the day is celebrated by tending to and spending time at family graves, often with abundant food, flowers, candles, and celebrations. This chapter got me thinking about how I can take a day to celebrate the dead family members and friends who are so much a part of my life. I always give a few thoughts to All Souls Day each year, but why has it never occurred to me to go to my grandparents’ grave on that day and leave flowers? Even a home shrine dedicated to family and friends who have passed away, set up with the help of my kids, would be a great way to honor their memory. These loved ones are still a cherished part of my life, and are some of my favorite intercessors; I love the idea of dedicating a day to reflect upon them in a more formal way.
These are beautiful sections of the book, and I’m grateful to the authors for working so hard and so thoughtfully to put these feast days on our Catholic radar. Who knows? By taking time to highlight these special days, we may be creating new traditions that feed our kids’ souls … and our own as well.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Summer can sometimes feel endless, with kids on vacation and the normal routine suspended. What do you do to create “special days” during that time? Would you consider adding some new traditions centered on special feast days?
- What are your favorite autumn holidays? How do you celebrate them? Are there things you’d like to try this year that you haven’t done before?
- What are your own unique passions and gifts? Do you love art, cooking, music, sports, writing, gardening? Think of how you can develop new traditions that incorporate these strengths, and use these in your celebrations of the special days of the year.
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 Three: Seasons of Life (#61-73). For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Catholic Catalogue Book Club page.
Copyright 2016 Ginny Kubitz Moyer