I am a cradle-Catholic.
I was born into the faith, and have been receiving the Sacraments since I was just a baby. I grew up in the faith, love my faith, and try my best to live my faith.
Yet one thing I’ve experienced as a Catholic (which you probably have too, especially if you are a new Catholic) is that there are always new things to learn and traditions that may be embraced.
One thing that I didn’t even really know about until a couple of years ago, is that the Church lives life according to the liturgical calendar.
Did you know there are liturgical seasons in the year? Honestly…I really didn’t. I always had a sort of awareness of a few of the seasons, but everything else kind of got lost in the shuffle of monotony or secular acculturation.
Since social media has opened up my life to so many other inspiring and beautiful Catholics out there, I’ve been exposed to what it looks like to live liturgically. There are a lot of families out there practicing the faith in their homes by living according to the liturgical calendar.
I never knew that some families lived this way! It’s such a beautiful thing!
Though seeing all of these examples of liturgical living has been wonderful, in some ways it’s been a bit defeating. Since I never lived this way, I sometimes found myself wondering: Am I a bad Catholic?
I’ve never baked rolls on the Feast of Saint Lucy. I’ve never hidden chocolate coins in my kid’s shoes in honor of Saint Nicolaus. I’ve never utilized a Jesse Tree to teach my kids about salvation history, celebrated Christmas through mid-January, or dressed up as a Saint. We don’t even have an at-home prayer altar or special spot for our rosaries!
In an effort to “catch up” and learn to live liturgically, I began making a conscious effort to implement the liturgical calendar in our family life. I started paying attention to the special feast days throughout the year and began putting forth the effort to have crafts and special meals ready for those days.
At first, I really enjoyed it! It was exciting to begin living life with the liturgy as our family heartbeat. Still, it wasn’t long before my efforts fizzled out. More often than not, I found myself overwhelmed with pressure I was putting on myself to live up to the “catholic standard” that I created in my head. If things weren’t perfect or if my kids weren’t interested, I honestly felt like a bit of a failure. I thought I’d never live up to the way other parents were leading their children in the liturgy. How did they make it all look so beautiful?
I decided to take a break, step back, and reevaluate. I figured if it was stressing me out in more ways than it was fruitful, then maybe living this way wasn’t actually a good thing for our family.
Since taking a break, I’ve had a lot of time to think about liturgical living and what it means for me and my family.
Something that really helped me was stumbling upon an interview Cardinal Burke once gave. In the interview, he spoke so beautifully about his liturgical life growing up in his home. He mentioned that, from a young age, Sunday Mass and regular confession were the heart of his faith and his relationship with the Lord.
I could definitely relate to that. Thankfully, my parents helped instill in me a great love for these two things by bringing me weekly to Mass and encouraging me to go to reconciliation often. These two things are what shaped my love for the Lord and helped guide me away from my sins.
This had me wondering what the point of living liturgically was all about, but Cardinal Burke helped clear that up. He explained that his experience with the Lord in the Mass and in Reconciliation was extended by the liturgical life in his home. He spoke fondly of the memories from his youth: the sacred images that his family honored; the seasonal decorations on their home altar; their blessed candles that they lit when they prayed together as a family. All of those things, he said, served to magnify the sense of God’s love in their home. He recalled how much joy it brought him and how it helped him develop a strong faith life.
As I listened to him speak of such things, I realized that’s what I want for our family. I want for our home life to magnify the sense of God’s love.
One thing that became clear to me was that I didn’t have the right intention at the heart of my efforts. Instead of focusing on the “big picture” of what liturgical living would mean, I was comparing my life to other Catholics and merely trying to keep up.
I know it may be obvious, but I feel it must be said: liturgical living isn’t about creating “instagram worthy” moments. It’s about bringing God’s love into the home. I don’t like to admit that this was something I had to work through, but I offer this in honesty because I think this is something all of us today are struggling with. There is so much pressure to be “perfect,” and to push out quality lifestyle content, but that’s not what liturgical living is all about. It definitely isn’t what the faith is all about.
If you’ve struggled with this in your faith life…Stop it. Take a step back. Breathe. Reevaluate. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing, and stop trying to live your faith through their lens.
I realized that the draw I felt toward liturgical living had much more to do with what it does for the home life than for cultivating a “pinterest-perfect” Catholic home. My true intention for striving to live liturgically is for our family to gain a deep sense of God’s great love. In addition to their experience of his love in the community of the Church, I hope they experience his love in our family life. What this means is that a) I can’t do it alone (I need my spouse to help lead) and b) I need to adjust my expectations.
I can’t get frustrated when our efforts for liturgical living look different and “less perfect” than all the other beautiful examples I’ve been exposed to; I can’t pretend that I have talents and motivation to do things that I’m either no good at or hate doing (i.e. crafts with lots of glitter, or anything to do with baking); and I can’t force my plans on my family just because I think it will be “good” for us. Why hadn’t I had a thorough discussion of my plans with my husband? Why did I think I could do it all on my own?
Creating a “little church” by living liturgically is a family affair. It involves a husband and wife coming together to deepen the sense of God’s love in their home. If this is something you want to do, sit down with your spouse and talk about it! What is your intention? What are your hopes? How will you both execute this together, as a unit?
Since talking to my husband more about this, I’ve found that there are certain things that will work for us, and certain things (that I expected to work for us before) that won’t work for us at all. What I’ve gained from talking more about this with him is the confidence that any liturgical plans we make will be centered solely on Christ–not on any false hopes or expectations I’ve created for myself.
The new liturgical year begins this Advent. As it approaches, I encourage you to begin thinking about these things. Have you put forth effort to live liturgically in your home? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? What does liturgical living mean for you and your family? Maybe you didn’t even know that there were liturgical seasons. Use this time to learn more about the liturgical calendar and to prayerfully discern with your spouse what would be fruitful for you and your family. Have a discussion about how you want to live it out in your home!
If you keep it all in mind with a heart of prayer, then as Cardinal Burke says, our homes may become “sanctuaries” where our family may grow in strength in their love for God.
Later this week I will be sharing with you the plans we have for living liturgically in our home. What are your thoughts about living liturgically throughout the year? Do you and your family have certain traditions you practice? Please share your thoughts and experiences!