Many of the Church's feasts were celebrated in a childish, obvious even crude way. This ought to be a recommendation, rather than a drawback. When boys and girls drift away from their faith the reason almost always is that this faith has never been a reality to them. The popular celebrations that obtained so long in this country did indeed help to make the faith real then to those who took part; it could do so again.
It is no good approaching these celebrations in any condescending way. Admittedly it was childish to have processions with the statue of Christ, in which the Blessed Sacrament was encased, as it were, in a monstrance, childish to drop pieces of lighted rope from the church roofs on Whitsunday; equally childish is it now to go on maying expeditions in honor of our Lady or to make St. Anne's day the feast of grandparents. However, the Church has never been a society of an intellectual elite and there is the best authority in the world for believing that the kingdom of heaven is the province of those who have become like children.
Many feasts remain to be celebrated, which are not touched on in these pages. There are, for instance, all the festival days of the early bishops, monks and abbesses, people like Dunstan, Samson and Hilda, of the Celtic monks, like Columba, of the English martyrs, led by More and Fisher. These islands have produced innumerable saints and yet to most people their names mean almost nothing, instead of being an inspiration to them. How many of us know anything about St. Alphege, St. Ethelburga, St. Winifred, St. Teilo, St. Illtyd or St. Edmund? Who even knows with which parts of the country they are associated? Yet because these are native saints they are in a special way our possession and have a claim on us; and one could make a good beginning by attempting to celebrate the days of these and similar saints in one way or another.
Still more, the feasts of Mary call out for celebration; it was not for nothing that England was once known as the dowry of Mary--a title that has become so familiar to us now that we hardly stop to consider what is implied by it. With our Lady's feasts, as indeed with any feast, the closer the link with local surroundings the better. There are shrines and holy wells galore in this country.
Once they drew pilgrims from many miles away. Now they are merely place names in dusty books of local history. Why should not some attempt be made to bring back the honor in which they were once held?All this calls for warning though. It is worse than useless to decide to introduce such feasts and customs only from the outside, as it were. Then they would be no more than semi-superstitious devotions, mere pious frills that would do more harm than good.
Flowers and may blossom and altars for Mary will cut no ice if the instigator of these things does not at least attempt to practice equally Mary's love for others, her self-forgetfulness, her courage. You may enthrone a statue of the Sacred Heart in your home and keep a lamp burning continually before it, and at the same time keep burning equally steadily a fire of resentment or dislike in your own heart. In such a case the picture should be burned too. Candles at Christmas, family prayers, Easter gardens, cribs, all these ought to be the result of a real love for Christ, they should spring out of it like flowers out of the soil. The outward show must have some relation to the inward spirit; otherwise they are like a body from which the soul had fled, they are play acting and a farce. But when they spring from a genuine motive they really are adding something to the life of the great family, of which baptism has made us members.
Source: A Candle is Lighted, 1945