by Kathleen Blease
I can't tell you how many times I have heard the question, "How do I help my children remain Catholic?" I can't tell you how many times I have heard mothers lament over their children forsaking the church for more worldly lifestyles and pursuits.
As my husband and I are raising our boys Catholic, I also have the same concerns and worries. Will there be a time when my boys decide to break away from what they think is just something that can be called "Mom's interest"? How can we all encourage our children to stay on the straight and narrow path and to realize that our Faith is not just another interest, such as gardening and cooking. Where do we begin?
A convert to the Catholic Church and a professor at the Franciscan University of Stuebenville, Ohio, Drake McCalister, offered some very sound advice. Looking back on my own experience, I can see that he is correct. Click here to watch his interview. His insights as an outsider coming into the Church gives us a special view of the beauty and wisdom of Mother Church.
Professor McCalister says that if parents were to follow the Catholic Liturgical Year, the feast days, and the holy days of obligation, one's family would be brought deeper into the Faith. For example, the Liturgical Year calls us back to the Church during Advent and Lent. If you feel you are getting off track (and we can all sense when we do), Advent and Lent is a time to come back. The Church makes this call to holiness to every ordinary man and woman twice a year, every year, and not just for a day or so; the Advent and Lent seasons are quite lengthy, giving us time to take our journey in meaningful steps. For me, they are often small but very helpful steps. If you are not off track, the two seasons then give you a chance to grow even deeper in the Faith, thus closer to Christ.
When my children were little, I based the Liturgical Year on simply Christmas and Easter, Advent and Lent. Advent was a time for shopping and baking cookies. Lent was a time for fish on Fridays. The Liturgical Year was something of a mystery to me. But something simple changed all that. I brought home a new calendar from our parish. I was thinking that my mother used a parish calendar as a family scheduler, and now that my children were school-age, it was time for me to do the same. And I actually read it! What's this? And what's this? What, the new year begins with Advent? What's a solemnity? How is that differ from a feast day? What are these feasts after Christmas? And the questions created a list.
With a little more research, I learned that beyond the calendar of feast days and such, the Liturgical Year included themes for each Mass. And throughout the year, the readings took us through the Old Testament and showed us how it is indeed Christ-centered. (Another revelation for me!) The year brought forth each and every one of Christ's teachings and the virtues we would gain from them. It is a bountiful schedule, and no wonder. The Liturgical Year is itself a vehicle that is instituted by the Bride of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church.
Is it easy to follow the Liturgical Year? It does take more than just following the calendar and taking a casual note of the feast day. First and foremost, we must embrace the fact that the Liturgical Year is a call to Catholics to shape our daily lives and schedules around our Faith--not the other way around. Also, we need to make our children aware of the value of the Liturgical Year, the value of each feast day, solemnity, season of preparation, and each season of celebration, as well as the daily readings and their themes. With the Internet, a plethora of information about each and every element of the Liturgical Year is at our fingertips. With this aid, we can bring Christ into our homes, into our daily lives.
To get started, you might want to visit the official site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where you will find valuable information, including a calendar of the daily readings. If you would like a PDF copy of their Liturgical Calendar for the Year 2011, click here. This guide will provide you with the entire year's readings, themes, feast days, and so on. It might look a little complicated, but don't let it scare you; just enjoy going over the materials and finding your way. You might want to couple this with your parish calendar. If you prefer to follow the readings just one day at a time, you can find them in this blog's right column. You can listen or read. I prefer to listen; it reminds me very much of Mass and feels peaceful!
Even if you can add only a bit of the Liturgical Year to your daily life, it will bring a helpful message to your children--that is, our Catholic faith is our life, not our interest, and we are deeply in love with it for good and happy reason.
This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!