Thanks to Jess for asking me what my family does for Advent after Mass last Sunday. This rant is for you! …in a very roundabout way!
Okay, you’re married, have a young family and after stumbling across some Catholic mommy blogs you want to celebrate the liturgical year like Kool and the Gang.
You’ve bought some Tomie dePaola books, downloaded coloring pages, and attempted a new recipe but thus far your efforts only lead to tears of frustration and feelings of being the worst Catholic in the world. The kids don’t want to say prayers. They hate your crafts. You forget which Jesse Tree ornament you’re supposed to decorate today and then someone asks you why the third candle on the Advent wreath is pink and you retreat to the bathroom to breath into a brown paper bag because you don’t know!!!!
Now that you’ve calmed down and are alone (lock the door and ignore the screams) let me tell you what you can do now to get to the point where living liturgically is second nature.
1.Understand it takes YEARS to build up traditions and become familiar with the liturgical year, especially if you’re starting from scratch. I’m a convert. My husband, while Catholic, didn’t grow up with most of the traditions we now observe. Ten years ago we didn’t celebrate any of the feasts days in December that our kids now take for granted. (For the record, we had an Advent calendar and a felt Advent wreath the kids threw at each other.)
As I rattled off our family’s traditions to Jess I realized how far we’d come. To someone starting out, it can seem overwhelming but ten years ago, that was my family. Three kids three and under trying to deepen our faith, build a strong foundation for our children all while keeping the house and laundry clean. It hardly seemed possible then, but now after years of observance and even occasional forgetfulness, my older kids remember what’s coming up and take the lead with leading songs, reading books or helping in the kitchen.
2. Living liturgically happens year round; not twice a year. It’s easy for our family to mark Advent and celebrate Christmas because we live liturgically year round. Come December, we change-up a few things. We don’t radically switch gear. This time of year is jam-packed with opportunities but realize the Church’s liturgical cycle isn’t limited to the time between Advent and Easter. Learn to become aware of what’s on the Church’s calendar through either a missal, church calendar or daily readings’ website. Check out a few books written about liturgical year customs to see what Catholics around the world and throughout history have done to mark holy days and seasons. Eventually you’ll gain a liturgical mindset that helps you plan and prepare year round.
UPDATED: This might be the most bada$$ liturgical calendar available. I hope the monks don’t mind me saying that.
3. Make note of all the feasts and ideas for observing them, knowing you do not have to do them all. There’s lot of great posts out there right now about Advent with literature studies, devotional journals, videos, crafts and more. Look at the calendar and you’ll see lots of great feast days coming up. Survey your choices, pick a couple of key days or practices to focus on and save the rest for next year. Maybe try to say prayers around the Advent wreath every night and do something special for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You don’t NEED to also do the Jesse Tree, unwrap a picture book each day of Advent, bake St. Lucy cake, and make a nativity diorama. And a dedicated Advent devotional for you or the kids is great! But you can also just read the Mass readings for December or maybe the nativity narrative from Luke. Less is more if it means you’ll actually do it.
4. Now organize all your liturgical ideas so you can easily find them year round. We use a liturgical year binder and I have several boards on Pinterest to organize ideas I find online. I also set reminders in my iCal so feast days don’t sneak up on me. Remember to check these resources frequently!
5. It’s not about the crafts. So often I hear people say they don’t know how to celebrate a feast day or holy day or whatever because they’re not crafty. But if you think the church’s liturgical year is about crafts, you’re missing the point! It’s about conforming your home to the Church’s seasons, not shoehorning some crafts or baked goods into your busy schedule a couple of times a year. In my recent post for living liturgically with older kids, you notice that most suggestions work well with kids of all ages. Even if your family is young, you can celebrate Advent without crafts. You don’t need to hand make Jesse Tree ornaments or Advent candles. The Feast of St. Nicolas does not require cotton ball bearded toilet paper roll saints. You can make these days stand apart through other means. Go to Mass, say special prayers by candle light, buy special food or go out to eat, read a new story or bible passage; no glitter or glue required.
6. Get your friends and parish community involved. Host a playdate and read a story (crafts optional!) Invite a family over for dinner. Help organize a parish potluck. Sing carols or perform community service with friends. Because it’s easy to make a day special with friends and loved ones right?
7. Decide what important for your family regardless of past family traditions or societal norms. My family is very old school when it comes to celebrating Christmas. It took us many years to become comfortable doing this because the traditions we wanted to establish clashed with how most people, including extended family, celebrated Christmas. But thankfully because of our efforts, Advent is a real season in our house now, not just an early Christmas.
Yes, it’s hard being different sometimes, but we’ve established a habit of doing things our way. Just the other day Byron said he felt bad for people who say Christmas is over December 26th when really it’s just starting. Because we don’t overdo Christmas during Advent, it’s really something special for 12 days. But we had to work hard to make it feel this way for our kids. Decide what your ideal liturgical groove is and then work towards it no matter how against the grain it may seem to others.
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Thoughts? Suggestions? Leave them in the comments then don’t forget to link up below! Next Friday the 11th, Seven Quick Takes will be vacationing at Written By the Finger of God! I look forward to reading your posts this week and seeing what Anabelle has in store for us next week!