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In honor of one of our favorite Saints, St. Catherine Laboure whose feast is today, we have put together a coloring book. It is a free download and can be printed to use for your own family. You can find it here.
THERE is a whole school of thought that sniffs at the idea of encouraging Catholic customs in the home--or anywhere else, for that matter. Customs like the saying of the rosary together, the decorating of an altar in May seem to them too childish for consideration. For them the doctrines of the Church are sufficient, without these extras. And indeed the doctrines of the Church are enough for anyone. They are like straight, unwinding roads that lead into eternity; only on either side of these roads are hedges and ditches and meadows and all sorts of flowers. The ultra-catholic Catholic is not interested in these flowers or fields. Still, such things are to a road what Catholic customs are to the faith; they adorn it, enliven it, they help to keep one on the journey.
It is not strange that all sorts of devotional practices have sprung up around Catholicism, sometimes practices that may seem rather trifling until one realizes that customs cannot be worthless that have evolved from the faith of the people through many hundreds of years, sometimes through well over a thousand years. What family is there that does not use certain sayings and phrases that have significance only for those belonging to the circle? What family exists that has no peculiar customs, nicknames, rites, birthday ceremonies that outsiders cannot be expected to appreciate? Can anyone account for the curious rites they observed as children. Those rites are not necessary for family life, but they adorn it and enliven it. And since the Church is not an institution but a family that ranges from God and God's mother and thence to the saints and thence to the souls in purgatory and from them to ourselves, is it not astonishing then that spiritual family rites and customs have sprung up? It is surprising how few people think of this. But the parents who do enter into these spiritual family customs can give their children treasures, whose value they may not realize until eternity.
There is nothing forced in this idea: why does the church in her liturgy allot the various days to the honor of her saints, or to events in the lives of Christ and of Mary, if she does not wish us to celebrate them in some way?
These feasts of the Church are fixed, but the way they can be celebrated can vary--and does vary tremendously from place to place. With the passing of time the festivities and the customs of the day have also changed, still the essence remains the same. At Christmas, for instance, Jesus is the center of the day, and everywhere in the world Christians will show their love to the new-born Child in their own way, whether this be with carol singing, erecting cribs, hanging Advent wreaths, placing lighted candles in the windows, leaving empty places at the table for the holy Family, or by making it a special festive day for children, their own or other people's.
~ adapted from: "A Candle is Lighted," Imprimatur 1945. ~
It is with these thoughts in mind I will share those traditions that we do to help bring our Faith to life.
ADVENT - Holy Mother Church's way of teaching Her children to prepare for the coming of Christ, both on His birthday and on Judgment Day. To this family the Advent and Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year. We have many traditions that help make the season penitential as well as joyous.
My children as well as my husband and I are eagerly awaiting the first Sunday of Advent. It is on this day that we start our traditions. Besides the Advent Wreath with it's prayers and songs, we have another tradition called "Christkindl" (Christ Child). After our Mass prayers are said and our breakfast eaten I bring out a bowl which I pass around. In it are pieces of paper each containing a different name of one of our family members. The papers are neatly rolled up, because the drawing has to be done in great secrecy. Each person then draws a piece of paper from the bowl and looks at it in secret. (This tradition is a little hard when all the children are small because the burden of keeping track of each person's Christkindl falls on the mother) The person whose name one has drawn is now in one's special care. From this day until Christmas, one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to provide at least one surprise every single day--but without ever being found out. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of joyful suspense, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps you will find that somebody has made your bed, done your chores or has informed you, in a disguised handwriting on a holy card, that "a rosary has been said for you today" or a number of sacrifices have been offered up. (Note: I will type up on paper prayers like, 3 Hail Mary's or a decade of the Rosary, etc. and place them in the center of the Advent wreath for the children to use for each other. When it has been found by the Christkindl it is then returned to the wreath to be used again.) The beautiful thing about this particular custom is that the relationship is a reciprocal one. The person whose name I have drawn and who is under my care becomes for me the helpless little Christ Child in the manger; and as I am performing these many little acts of love and consideration for someone in the family I am really doing them for the Infant of Bethlehem, according to the word, "And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me." That is why this particular person turns into "my Christkindl." At the same time I am the "Christkindl" also for the one I am caring for because I want to imitate the Holy Child and render all those little services in the same spirit as He did in that small house of Nazareth, when as a child He served His Mother and His foster father with a similar love and devotion. Many times throughout these weeks can be heard such exclamations as, "I have a wonderful Christkindl this year!" or, "Goodness, I forgot to do something for my Christkindl and it is already suppertime!" It is a delightful custom, which creates much of the true Christmas spirit and ought to be spread far and wide.
We have a large manger (just the Infant's bed) that we set up on our domestic altar. It is empty and throughout the Advent season after our evening prayers are said, the children place pieces of hay into it for each good deed they have performed during the day. The more good they have done, the softer Baby Jesus' bed will be come Christmas morning. (Note: We use straw colored yarn cut into pieces instead of the hay that can be reused year after year.)
There is still one very important thing to do for Advent. Each member of the family writes a letter to the Baby Jesus mentioning his resolutions for the weeks of Advent and listing the wish for a gift. This "Christkindl Brief" (letter to the Holy Child) is put under the manger on our domestic altar for the Guardian Angels to take to the Christ Child. (I have kept these over the years and love to read them over again.)
It cannot be said often enough that during these weeks before Christmas, songs and hymns of Advent should be sung. No Christmas carols! Consciously we should work toward restoring the true character of waiting and longing to these precious weeks before Christmas. Just before Midnight Mass, on December 24th, is the moment to sing for the first time "Silent Night, Holy Night," for this is the song for this very night. It may be repeated afterwards as many times as we please, but it should not be sung before that holy night.
This year we will be adding yet another tradition or actually changing the way that we do one. We used to at the beginning of the school year have each child pick a Saint that they have to research, make a costume for, and tell about come All Saints Day. This year we are going to do things a little differently.
The following has been taken from: "Around the Year with the Trapp Family" and it is this tradition that we are going to adapt to our own.
"One of the old customs is to choose a patron saint for the new year of the Church. The family meets on Saturday evening, and with the help of the missal and a book called "The Martyrology," which lists thousands of saints as they are celebrated throughout the year, they choose as many new saints as there are members of the household. We always choose them according to a special theme. One year, for instance, we had all the different Church Fathers; another year we chose only martyrs; then again, only saints of the new world....During the war we chose one saint of every country at war.
The newly chosen names are handed over to the calligrapher of the family. She writes the names of the saints in gothic lettering on little cards. Then she writes the name of every member of the household on an individual card and hands the two sets over to the mother
In the afternoon of the first Sunday of Advent, the whole family meets in the living room. The Advent wreath hangs suspended from the ceiling on four red ribbons; the Advent candle stands in the middle of the table or on a little stand on the side. Solemnly the father lights one candle on the Advent wreath, and, for the first time, the big Advent candle. Then he reads the Gospel of the first Sunday of Advent. After this the special song of Advent is intoned for the first time, the ancient "Ye heavens, dew drop from above, and rain ye clouds the Just One...."
After our first gathering around the Advent light, and the singing of the first Advent hymn, an air of expectancy spreads over the family group; now comes the moment when the mother goes around with a bowl in which are the little cards with the names of the new saints. Everybody draws a card and puts it in his missal. This saint will be invoked every morning after morning prayer. Everyone is supposed to look up and study the life story of his new friend, and some time during the coming year he will tell the family all about it. As there are so many of us, we come to know about different saints every year. Sometimes this calls for considerable research on the part of the unfortunate one who has drawn St. Eustachius, for instance, or St. Bibiana. But the custom has become very dear to us, and every year it seems as if the family circle were enlarged by all those new brothers and sisters entering in and becoming known and loved by all.
Start a tradition or two with your families this Advent season, your children will learn to love and cherish them and it will help bring your Faith to life.
May you all have a very fruitful and blessed Advent!
Below you will find a printable file with the Advent Wreath Prayers:
Christmas is a liturgical season of great joy. It lasts forty days, from December 25 to February 2, during which the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, is celebrated as one continuous festival. The finale comes with His presentation in the temple. A season most dear to Christian hearts, Christmas is as distinct in the liturgy as Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost.
Four weeks of Advent are scarcely enough to "prepare the way of the Lord" for His coming to us as King. However, if we have used that season as a preparation, we are ready now to receive the Redeemer who will deliver us from sin in answer to our requests. Christ's coming must be, not a lovely idyll or a pastoral scene, but a reality accomplished in our lives and our children's. Forty days of rejoicing are not too long a celebration for so great an event.
The early Church selected December 25, the date of the winter solstice when God the Creator gives the sun an increase of natural light in northern hemispheres, as the day on which to celebrate the birth of the Sun of Justice, Light of the world. Radiating from the Divine Child are a galaxy of wonderful saints whose lives afford a continuing interest in celebrating the feast of His birth. Micheas, who lived in the days of Isaias, prophesied the birthplace of the Messiah: "Thou, Bethlehem, art a little one among the thousands in Judah; out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be the Ruler of Israel; and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity."
The name Bethlehem signifies House of Bread. To it at Christmas - comes the Savior, who is the Bread of Life. By our participation in this mystery the divine transformation takes place whereby He "reshapes the body of our lowliness after the body of His splendor." Our forbearers gave the name Christmas to the feast of our Lord's birth because they kept the "Christ Mass" as the heart of their celebrations. Following closely the liturgy of the Church, they centered their customs and wrote their hymns and carols on her practices of the season, adoration, love, joy, and gratitude. Those practices also increased their admiration for His Virgin Mother Mary, who gave Almighty God His human form. He had created heaven and earth by His Word, but His becoming Man depended on a creature's FIAT, Be it done unto me according to Thy Word. Mary consented. Our forebearers honored her in their great masterpieces because she is God's Mother. For the same reason the world in our day honors her as Queen of Heaven.
It is to our Lady that Christian families must look for help to reestablish Christmas as a season of festivities marking Christ's birth. Either we live the liturgical year with its varying seasons of joy and sorrow, work and rest, or we follow the pattern of the world. Nor is it an easy task to break with the world and the powerful influence of advertising. Their season of Christmas begins around Thanksgiving Day when stores display wares for holiday gift-giving. It lasts until December 24. Families, who would not dream of eating their Thanksgiving turkey a week in advance or of having their 4th of July picnic in June, give no thought to the fact that, when they awake on December 25, there is not a shred of Christmas left. Every present has been opened. Every carol has been sung. The tree has dried out Christmas is apt to be a dull day given to over-eating. There was no fast in Advent, so it follows that there can be no feast.
It is difficult to keep one's home dark in Advent penance; to keep a tree fresh outside the door; to refrain from singing carols until Christmas eve. We see their friends' trees shimmering with ornaments a week before Christmas. Their houses are bedecked with lights. Television and radio blare carols. Not only is it difficult to keep from celebrating beforehand, it is even more difficult to begin forty days of the Christmas season when all around people are concluding their festivities. How
then do families return to the spirit of the Church and begin the season of joy and grace on Christmas eve?
The simplest way is by keeping Advent. Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. It is a season of spiritual preparation, marked by eager longing for the coming of the Saviour through grace at Christmas, and for His second and final coming. It is also an ideal time to establish in our homes liturgical customs which will restore our children to Christ.
These age-old Advent practices help our children live closer to Christ and His Church during the pre-Christmas season. Time-tested and proven, the customs teach the doctrines of redemption and develop a generosity with God and a coordination of the family's spiritual efforts as effectively now as they did for our forebears. Their strong and living faith will be the heritage of our children if family religious practices, centered in the Liturgy, "The Normal School of Sanctity for the Laity," are established in our homes- Secularism has invaded our households. The Bishops of the United States have warned us that "The Christian must make his home holy - the Christian must realize the Christian ideal." Father Edgar Schmiedler, O.S.B., in his three excellent pamphlets, Your Home A Church in Miniature, says of family customs and blessings: "They are a relatively simple, but highly important, means of union between altar and home. They are a media for channeling from one great spiritual reservoir, given into then Church's keeping by Christ, the living and transforming waters of grace from the Saviour's fountain."
Children love to anticipate. When there are empty mangers to fill with straws of small sacrifices, when the Mary-Candle is a daily reminder on the dinner table, when Advent hymns are sung in the candlelight of a graceful Advent wreath, children are not anxious to celebrate Christmas before time. That would offend their sense of honor. Older children who make Nativity sets, cut Old Testament symbols to decorate a Jesse tree, or prepare costumes for a Christmas play will find Advent all too short a time to prepare for the coming of Christ the King.
Children, who love the beauty and simplicity of family religious practices, make the traditions easy to establish. As a rule it is best to begin with one or two customs and others in years to come. It is also highly desirable that families develop their own special customs, at least by adapting traditional ones to their personal circumstances. Once established, customs recall to older members of the family long forgotten practices of their own childhood. These have a special appeal because they belonged to our forefathers and link us to the wealth of national customs now fallen into disuse.
Celebrating Christmas in its season can be accomplished more easily when several families try it together. Frequently there are families who, if only for sentimental reasons, would like to keep the joy and surprise of Christmas for the eve. Christians of the Eastern rite wait until their particular feast of Christmas comes in January. We should likewise begin ours on its proper day. We also need time for our festivities. As difficult as it may be, we should decline invitations to celebrate Christmas
at the various parties sprinkled throughout the Advent season. The Church gives us a period of forty days for rejoicing. Instead invite friends and family to your own joyous celebration of Christ's birth during the many days following December 25th, when for others it is otherwise a disappointing and barren time.
If during Advent we open our souls fully, the Heavens will rain the Just One." St. Pius X, whose burning desire was to restore all things to Christ, might well become the patron of parents who wish to restore their children to Christ through these practices. Our Blessed Lady and St. Joseph too will send inspiration from the Holy Spirit, for theirs was a home where feast day cooking, family customs, family prayers and singing abounded, according to prescribed Jewish law. It is to them we must look for help in order to train our children "to live temperately, justly, reverently, in this world, awaiting the Advent of the glory of the great God."
May you all have a blessed and fruitful Advent Season!
Source: Advent and Christmas in a Catholic Home, Imprimatur 1950
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Below you will find coloring pictures of each part of the Mass. They are a part of our Mass Study Guide but I've enlarged them and added a short explanation. The pictures of the Mass were made into coloring pictures from a Catholic children's prayer book with an imprimatur of 1925.
"It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead." Maccabees, ii. 12,
And can we do no more for thee,
But lay thee in the tomb?
Bedew the grassy mound with tears,
Bid flow'rets o'er it bloom?
Dwell upon happy moments past,
When thou didst sojourn here,
And let the surcharged bosom heave
With many a sigh sincere?
Oh, loved one, yes, our Mother Church
Hath bade us do much more;
And taught, that praying breath, the soul
Wafts to the happy shore.
Then for thee richly be it spent,
Nor for bereft ones vain;
For wilt thou not remember us,
When thou shalt heaven gain?
Surely, for her below, thy heart
Was ever fill'd with love;
Which in its purity regales
The spirits blest above.
Sweet soul, that thou wast lov'd of God,
Wast faithful to his grace;
We doubt not, and have lively hope,
Thou soon wilt see his face.
But one so prized as thou wast here,
Could scarce all pure remain;
Nor would thy own humility
Plead nought of earthly stain.
Then, as the soul who heaven gains,
As heaven must spotless be,
Oft at a throne of mercy will
We supplicate for thee.
Who doeth this and owns not balm
O'er the reaved heart is shed?
And that " it is a holy thought"
To pray for the faithful dead.
Then, in the words of Holy Church,
We pray thou mayst be blest,
Loved spirit, with perpetual light
And never-ending rest.
Source: Catholic Hymns, 1847
Holy Mother Church dedicates the month of July to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ
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