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Living the Liturgical Calendar as a Family
By Lisa M. Hendey
As I watch my sons grow into faith-filled young men, it gives me great joy to reflect on the
role that our family’s Catholic faith has on their lives.  At sixteen and thirteen, Eric and Adam
have begun that tenuous walk into what will be their future lives as men and leaders of their
own families.  Praying for them each morning, I ask God for his aid in helping my husband
and I do our very best at equipping them to be all they can be in so many aspects of life, but
particularly spiritually.  After all, what greater gift can we as parents give our children than a
relationship with and love for a God who loves each of us unconditionally?

Our faith and the practicing of it have been at the core of their lives since before my boys
were born.  This felt natural to me, since I grew up as the eldest of five in a home where
family rosaries and devotions to patron saints were touchstones. Some families have reunions
at dude ranches or amusement parks.  My extended family gathers at sacraments, marveling in
the beautiful goodness of these outward signs of God’s grace.  In the past year, I have flown
across country to celebrate a marriage, a baptism, a First Communion, and the rosary and
funeral Mass of a beloved grandmother.  These wonderful rituals mark the circle of life in a
way that ties our Catholic faith to the passage of time and the beauty and dignity of every
phase of life.

If you were to ask my children to share some of their favorite family traditions, their
responses would be a testament to the living out of Catholicism in our home.  In the liturgical
calendar, the Church has given families the perfect tool for educating our children in the faith
and incorporating its traditions into our family lives.  In her book The Catholic Home, author
Meredith Gould shares, “Following the Catholic calendar closely can teach you more - and
more personally – about faith traditions than attending CCD [Confraternity of Christian
Doctrine, catechetical education].  And it can enrich your whole family’s sense of faith,
family and tradition.”

Every year, as our American society moves into the mode of stress and materialism in
preparation for the Christmas holidays, our family marks a new year’s celebration near the
end of November or early December with Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year.  With
the lighting of candles on our Advent Wreath and the counting down of days on our Advent
Calendars, we wait with hopeful anticipation for the coming celebration of God’s greatest
gift, Jesus Christ.  I have found that an embracing of the true meaning of Advent has helped
our family focus on the spiritual aspects of preparing for Christmas and has given us a
wonderful perspective on the holidays.  Of course, since our Christmas season extends to the
feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 8th, we have plenty of time to celebrate.

Following the Christmas season, our family and our church fall into the days of Ordinary
Time, which will resume again after the season of Easter.  Far from ordinary, the calendar
during this time is filled with opportunities to learn the treasures of our faith.  Sprinkled
throughout these months are the feast days of saints, role models of virtuous lives, and of
Mary, our spiritual mother and our advocate with Jesus.  Author Danielle Bean writes in her
book Mom to Mom, Day to Day, “Beyond the well-known observances of Easter, Christmas,
Lent and Advent, there are a wide variety of lesser-known feasts and special days to learn
about and celebrate together.”
ii   Each of my children has a special patron saint, chosen at the
time of their birth and celebrated annually on that saint’s feast day.  Learning about these and
other holy men and women has given our family spiritual role models to emulate in our own
spiritual journeys.

Another wonderful treasure of living the liturgical calendar and embracing Ordinary Time is
following the cycle of scripture readings during the course of the year.  Every three years, the
lectionary cycle is repeated giving us a complete overview of the four Gospels during the
course of the three years.   Our children grow up reading scripture both at the Sunday Liturgy
of the Word at Mass and at home.  With readings from both the Old and New Testaments and
weekly Psalms, the Bible becomes a living tool and a guidebook for life.

One of my favorite seasons of the Church calendar is Lent, the time of preparation prior to
the ultimate celebration, Easter.  Having often missed the mark on my own New Year’s
resolutions by the waning days of February, Lent offers my family and me the opportunity to
focus on spiritual resolutions.  Every Lent, we offer devotions of prayer, fasting, and
almsgiving, in an effort to bring us closer to God and to one another.  By the end of this
period of sacrifice and purification, our hearts are prepared to truly rejoice on Easter Sunday
as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Just as we grow and develop physically throughout the course of our lives, we must continue
to strive for spiritual evolution for our families and ourselves.  Living the liturgical calendar
and marking the celebrations and traditions of our Church has helped my family grow in faith
and intimacy with each other.  Blessedly, it is a journey that continues year after year.

i.  Meredith Gould, The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days
and Every Day (New York: Doubleday, 2004), p. 5.
ii.  Danielle Bean, Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living
(Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2007), p. 103.
Lisa M. Hendey, webmaster of
www.CatholicMom.com, resides in Fresno,
California with her husband and two sons.
Contact her at lisahendey@gmail.com.
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