Tuesday, 06 September 2016 12:48

Living the Liturgy as a Family - September

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One of my very favorite things about Catholicism is the feast days! The feast days of the Catholic Church provide the faithful with rich, beautiful examples of the lives of the saints, as well as with wonderful opportunities for us to live and breathe our faith with joy and abundance.  Below you will find various feast days in September and ideas of how to celebrate these with your families.

Every month in the liturgical calendar has its own unique dedication. For example, the month of September traditionally honors our Lady of Sorrows.  Not only does September provide faithful families with a framework of introducing the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, but there are also several other notable feast days that, when celebrated, give us an even more intimate understanding of the love our Lord has for us, His children, on earth.

On September 8th, the Catholic Church traditionally celebrates the birthday of Our Lady.  This Feast day has become a particular favorite in our household.  We will usually decorate with blue streamers and balloons to honor our Lady.  My children find the decorating particularly delightful. However, I completely admit that my children are normal – they very much look forward to the one thing that defines most birthdays: the cake.  In years past, we have made an actual birthday cake or even simplified with muffins and tea.  Even more simple would just be to celebrate with some fresh blueberries, all keeping in the theme of blue for Our Blessed Mother.  In the morning, we usually try to go to Mass to mark this special feast day. We may pray a Rosary together, or other Marian prayers.  For my little ones, we will pull out a board book about our Blessed Mother.  The importance does not lie in the cake or décor, rather, it is in recognizing the gift that Our Lady is to us, given to us by Our Heavenly Father, as a model of sanctity for young and old alike.

While the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15th is not marked with cake and balloons, it is still a celebration.  We often go to Mass on this feast, and as a mother, I unite the sorrow and suffering that I have experienced in my own pregnancy losses with the sufferings of Our Blessed Mother.  However, our children know that Our Lady of Sorrows is not a feast of lamentation. Rather, it is an extraordinary example of courage, perseverance, obedience, and grace during Our Lady’s most intimate sorrow – the crucifixion and death of her Son.  Appropriately, we will pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary together and talk with our children, listening to their hearts, about the redemptive value of suffering.  While some may find this concept too “big” for children, it may surprise readers how intuitive children are concerning suffering.  In asking them open-ended questions regarding redemptive suffering, we encourage conversation and understanding…and ultimately, sanctity.  For my two-year-old, we may look at the Cross – at Jesus’s “boo-boos” – and talk about how those wounds made Our Lady sad.  Inevitably, our little one will want to make Our Lady happy with a “kiss” and a prayer.  For our older children, we may ask how they can unite their daily sufferings with those of Our Lord.  For example, if they experienced a harsh word or action from a friend, how can they respond more like Our Lady?  In bringing this feast to the individual levels of our children, it has become a poignant celebration for our family in September.

I would be remised if I did not mention the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the other archangels on September 29th.  This Feast is an important name-day for one of our children, and is celebrated with much pomp and circumstance, fitting for a warrior archangel.  We re-tell the Irish legend of the battle of the angels, recounting how St. Michael forcefully kicked Lucifer out of Heaven. As the legend goes, he proceeded to fall through earth, specifically through a blackberry bush in Ireland where he spat upon the berries, making them go “bad” after the feast of the archangels.  We will often purchase a small container of blackberries and recount this story while gobbling up berries before they go “bad”.  On a lighter note, dinner may include chicken wings (aka: angel wings) and angel hair pasta, and as an activity, our son may make a homemade sword out of cardboard and aluminum foil, symbolically emulating his patron saint’s courage, fortitude, and above all, obedience.  

Lastly, we end the month with the Feast of St. Jerome.  A favorite picture book of our family’s is entitled “St. Jerome and the Lion” by Margaret Hodges.  While St. Jerome is often admired for his intellectual prowess, this simple story fascinates young and old alike with a classic re-telling of a miraculous encounter the saint had with a lion – while subtly highlighting the important translation work he accomplished for Mother Church.

While there are so many wonderful feast days in September, I only chose to highlight a few.  Please go through the September calendar and find feast days that your family can celebrate and make their own.  You may be delighted to discover how even ordinary recognitions of feast days – like reading a picture book or gobbling blackberries – really do cement the lives of the saints into the minds of our children and make indelible impressions not only on them, but also on us as parents, too.  I will be the first to admit that I enjoy the birthday cake, stories, prayers, and conversations as much as my children do!  Sometimes, I think in celebrating these feast days with my children on their level, the Lord is really trying to reach my heart, as I am also his child. 

Let us use these feast days as great gifts given to us by Our Lord to draw us ever closer to our Blessed Mother and Heavenly Father.  May these celebrations point us to our Heavenly Home.

September Feasts:

September 3: St. Gregory the Great

September 5: St. Teresa of Calcutta

September 8: The Nativity of Our Lady

September 9:  St. Peter Claver

September 12: The Most Holy Name of Mary

September 14: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 15: Our Lady of Sorrows

September 21: St. Matthew

September 23: St. Padre Pio

September 24: Our Lady of Mercy

September 29: St. Michael and the Archangels

September 30: St. Jerome

By Maggie

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