Back in 2016 some friends of ours gave my husband and I a book called Happy Are You Poor. Saying that this book changed our lives is an understatement. In this book, Father Thomas Dubay challenges the reader to look beyond superfluities and dig deep into the idea of a sparing-sharing way of life. He makes you question what you are wearing, what you are eating, what you are drinking, and what you are thinking. It had such a profound impact on me and my family that we decided to take a few baby steps into the realms of gospel poverty.
To start, our family took a good look at our food intake — with a heavy emphasis on the desserts and candy. It was normal for us to have cookies or sweets every night after dinner and sometimes even after lunch! But after reading the book we concluded that we needed to cut back. But how? After some praying and thinking, we had a divine revelation.
If you look at a Catholic calendar, you will find each day has a saint or a special religious event. If you look closely you will see that some of the saints and events are in a normal font. We chose to celebrate the feast days on Sundays and the days that were highlighted in bold.
So what goes into this Feast Day celebration, one might ask? Well, a few things, actually. We all sat down and discussed what we considered to be the superfluities in our lives – besides the sweets. For the adults, that ended up being alcohol. For the kids, that ended up being video games. Once we did our honest appraisal, we agreed to give up those things during the week and to only have them on our Feast Day celebrations. When our Feast Days rolled around we allowed ourselves to have desserts after lunch and dinner; the kids could have one hour of video games (more if they were super helpful, kind, or obedient); and the parents could partake in the indulgence of the grapes and grains.
Now, I can imagine that there are some questions that need to be answered so I will address them as well as I can:
- Did you stick with it?
- What were the benefits?
- Why should I do something like this?
The answer to the first question is for the most part. There were days when we caved. When the stresses of life were too overwhelming, you can bet your sweet Cabernet that there was wine in my glass by the end of the evening. Then we would run into the problem of going over to a friend’s house for dinner and they were serving dessert. And it wasn’t a Feast Day. We would end up going with the flow of it and having the dessert, but then of course as soon as we got home the kids would pipe up and say, “So since we had dessert and that kind of makes it a Feast Day can we play video games?” Sometimes the technicalities were obnoxious.
However, we stuck with it even though there was backsliding and whining and general malaise in regards to the periods of abstinence. It wasn’t until October of 2017 (right around Halloween) when we decided to call it quits on the whole Feast Day thing. All through November and December we indulged like kings and queens. It was disgusting and everyone could feel it, which leads perfectly into the second question.
By the time January rolled around, everyone was ready to get back on the Feast Day bandwagon. We were sick of never having anything to look forward to. Every day was a Feast Day and that made candy, video games, and alcohol anything but special. And therein lay the secret of abstinence. When we went without, we yearned for those special things. Without the periods of abstinence, we didn’t appreciate the things that used to be so special to us.
(And if some of you are linking this to the Catholic Church’s teaching on NFP you can go ahead and go there because that’s where I’m heading next to answer the final question.)
In this day and age, what could possibly teach our children temperance? How, as Americans who have everything they could ever want, learn to say ‘no?’ We realized that when we observed the Feast Days, it was teaching our children how to desire things appropriately. It was giving them the opportunity to instill virtue in themselves. And all the while my husband and I were teaching these things to our kids, it was instilling virtue in us – especially in regards to the theology of the body.
And it doesn’t stop there. I’ve only mentioned one half of the Feast Day – the part about giving things up. What I haven’t mentioned yet was what we did to fill that hole and emptiness that came from decluttering our souls. And that hole-filler came during Prayer Time. On the night of the Feast Day, my husband would research the saint for whose day we were feasting and would teach us about him or her. Not only were we learning the virtue of temperance, but we were studying the people who lived out this same virtue. The kids’ curiosity about the saints piqued and we started learning about saints who fell outside of our special Feast Days. Now we celebrate St. Teresa of Calcutta and Saint John Paul II (the saints of our time). We celebrate St. Teresa of Avila (my confirmation saint) and St. Francis (for our dog Ladybird).
As you can see, Feast Days are an all-around great way to strengthen your family’s faith. But I don’t want you to live vicariously through us. I challenge you to try this out as a family. It has been nothing but beneficial to our family’s walk with Christ. This can be a neat addition to the fasting and abstinence to invigorate your Lenten journey.
Do you have some great family faith-walk ideas that you would like to share? Comment below!
Copyright 2018 Kelly Tallent