When my wife and I first began participating in the Liturgical year and all of its feasts and traditions, we felt like we were exploring a gigantic and brand new world. There was so much to learn and do and it was all very fun and exciting. As we added new practices, our experience of the Christian story and faith deepened. All of our celebrations were joyful and never blemished by feelings of obligation.
Of course, we’ll never run out of practices to learn or saints to celebrate. But, as the “newness” has faded, there are times when celebrating has become a lot like work. Aside from the major feasts, seasons, and Holy Days of Obligation, we have baptism days, name days, favorite feasts, and a myriad of other celebrations over the course of the year. And we also have access to Pinterest and blogs. So we see other people with beautiful Jesse Trees and coordinated outfits for Pentecost and candles they made from wax they harvested from their own bee hives. Sometimes, this can all be a little overwhelming! So, if you also feel stressed out from time to time, here are a few things to remember:
- There is no “right way” to celebrate the liturgical year. The first Christians were from a surprisingly large number of people groups. They had diverse cultures with different foods and music. And they didn’t suddenly abandon all of these practice or combine them all in one giant cultural conglomerate. Neither did any of the thousands of people groups the Church evangelized over the centuries. And thank goodness! This is why we have such a wealth of recipes and practices with which to celebrate! But there’s no way you can make every dish or craft or say every prayer or sing every song. So don’t worry about it! Celebrate joyfully, keeping Jesus at the center of your observances and you will be doing things right.
- Celebrating should not stress you out. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Jesus said that). Similarly, the Feasts and events of the Liturgical Year are meant to glorify God, honor the saints, and edify the Church. If you’re doing so much that you lose sight of this, ease up a little. God didn’t send a divine mandate that you need to eat a goose on Michaelmas. You don’t get an indulgence for having the best Jesse Tree.
- Plan ahead. We usually become most stressed out when a feast we meant to celebrate sneaks up on us. And, yes, even an event that happens literally the same day every year can sneak up on you. So go ahead and use that calendar I know your parish gives out. Clearly mark Holy days of obligation, baptism dates, and other feasts that are really important to you and your family. Keep looking ahead and get ready.
- Join forces. There’s no need to do everything yourself. Cleaning the whole house and cooking a large meal can be a lot of work (yes, I know some of you already do this every day!). Check with friends who also love to celebrate the liturgical year and plan with them. Maybe you clean your house and make a salad while someone else brings the main dish.
- Feasting does not have to be extravagant. If you really love St. Anthony but didn’t get around to roasting that whole pig, don’t worry. You don’t have to skip the day just because you don’t have a six course meal ready. Go ahead and eat whatever you have. Just add a story time with your kids to talk about the saint and spend a little time in prayer. Thank God for that saint and ask him to make you more like him or her.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Since we literally wrote a book on the liturgical year, I want to make sure we’re being transparent here. We are not having extravagant meals and coordinated feasts every day. We forget things, we get busy, we burn stuff. And so does everyone else! Also, just as there are different seasons in the year, there are different seasons in life. When we had one child, it was a lot easier to plan our feasting. These days, it’s a little more difficult. If you’re working outside the home and don’t have time or money to plan something big, it’s obviously going to be a lot more difficult for you than someone who stays home. And if you’re a stay at home mom who’s doing everything on your own, it’s going to be way more difficult for you than someone who can afford help with laundry and house cleaning. So don’t worry about it! And don’t compare. Once you’re Catholic, you can’t be any more or less Catholic. There are not extra points for matching your tablecloth to the liturgical colors. We joke sometimes about people being “really Catholic” because they have a large family and seem to be doing “Catholicy” stuff all the time. But this is a joke. You aren’t any less Catholic because you didn’t post pictures of Saint themed cupcakes on instagram.