Most non-Catholic Christians, unless they come from a liturgical tradition such as Orthodoxy or Anglicanism, only celebrate two major religious holidays per year- Christmas and Easter. And while there has been a revival of the observance of Lent in some Protestant Churches, it’s still a drastic change for converts to Catholicism, once they realize that the liturgical calendar is literally full of feast days; there’s a saint, and usually multiple, for every day of the calendar year. That, plus the added observance of Holy Days such as the Annunciation and the Immaculate Conception, means that for Catholics, the calendar is practically exploding with opportunities to incorporate faith into daily life.
For a lot of new Catholics, the liturgical calendar means a whole new way of weaving faith into their everyday routine. For parents, it provides a lot of fresh opportunities to teach children about saints, and dive more in to seasons like Advent and Lent without jumping straight into Christmas and Easter. With that in mind, this week we’re asking our members and readers:
How has embracing the liturgical calendar impacted your faith life?
What are some of the feasts and observances that have become particularly special to you? How has the cycle of holy days and seasons helped you grow in your Catholic faith?
Here’s what some of our members and readers had to say:
“When we were Baptists, our year revolved around a mostly secular calendar. The only times when our calendar was given over to Jesus were Christmas and Easter – and the Christmas celebration, as an example, ended on Christmas day. In that way, we still went along with the commercial celebration of Christmas. We lost the joy of the full celebration of Christmas from December 24 to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
As a Catholic family, the liturgical calendar helps us grow in our relationship with all the Saints as we surround ourselves with the celebration of the life of Christ from the anticipation of his birth (Advent) to the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe (the end of the Church year). In the words of our 7 year old son: ‘Jesus is the King of the whole universe? Woah!’ Yeah, son. Woah. May each of us recapture that sense of childlike wonder as we meditate on the lives of Jesus and the saints.”
Adam Janke, Vice President, St. Paul Street Evangelization
“One of the beauties of the liturgical calendar is how it is constantly inviting me into the heartbeat of the of the Church. It is interwoven into our appearances, our rest, our family interactions, and even our diets. It causes us to look inward and choose repentance, regularly purge sin from our lives, focus on spiritual growth and service. It’s perfect: enougth rest, work, celebration, and seeing beauty in the ordinary. As a mother, it’s a simple way to teach these principles to my children as colors change with hymns, readings, and reflection on the lives of the saints. As a convert, I don’t know how I lived without the liturgical calendar. As a Catholic mother, I am immersed in it.” 'As a convert, I don't know how I lived without the liturgical calendar.' - Jessica McAfee Click To Tweet
Jessica McAfee, EpicPew.com
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to be Anglican. It was my spiritual heritage, and I loved the liturgical aspects of it, but I left Anglicanism because of the theological and moral waywardness of its teachings. I ended up being in some very anti-liturgical, but very devout, Protestant congregations.
A couple of years before coming across the writings of the Church Fathers which propelled me towards the Church, I found myself longing for the structure and definition of liturgy again. I found myself trying to do the Liturgy of the Hours and longing for the feasts and festivals of old which marked the calendar. Of course I looked towards Anglicanism again, but found it just as dry and barren as I had so many years before. Imagine the joy I found when God pushed me into the Church. It was like twice-joy, for not only had I found the truth of the Church and the true faith, but I was once again blessed by the rhythm and security of the liturgical season whose practice stretches back into the ages and ties us to those who practiced it long ago.”
Jennie Fraser, CHNetwork Community Forum
“Liturgy, and the Church Calendar in particular, was one of the major draws for me when I made the decision to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. I’ve long loved the rhythms of the Church Calendar, even as a Protestant, and the way they unveiled truths about reality. I particularly love the non-identical repetition involved. Every year begins again with Advent and yet this Advent is not the same as the last, not precisely. This is true not only because it begins on a different date each year, but because time continues to move forward, but not in a line, rather in a spiral. Thus we continue to return to the same spot each year, but on a different level, ever moving closer to eternity.
I would love to see some of the old feasts such as Lamas or Plough Sunday return so we can better see how the Calendar takes up the agricultural year, but still what we have makes the connection between the seasons (whether Northern Hemisphere or Southern) abundantly clear, if only you have the eyes to see.”
David Russell Moseley, Letters from the Edge of Elfland
“I love Lent and Advent – the time of preparation for Easter and Christmas really helps me focus on and think about the events in a deeper way. And I love the reminders of saints’ days, particularly the saints I’ve come to appreciate most, like St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Joseph. The whole cycle of the liturgical calendar helps me remember to look beyond the happenings in my own life and to focus on the things that are eternal.”
Jeri-Lynn, via the CHNetwork Blog
“The Liturgical Calendar has impacted my faith life in several ways. First, it helps me feel connected and more fully engaged in the life of the Universal Church. The thought that people all over the world are celebrating the same holy days and remembering the saints together is absolutely beautiful! Getting to know the saints throughout the year inspires me and reminds me I am not alone on the journey. It also provides an opportunity to share with my children about the saints as I am learning about them. They will often ask me, ‘who’s the saint of the day?’
Second, as I read the daily Mass readings and prayers I am comforted to see that spiritual ups and downs on the journey are the common experience of all believers. The readings and the liturgical seasons reflect that truth.
Finally, staying connected with the liturgical calendar offers opportunity for deep reflection and repentance as well as joy and celebration! I am forgetful. I need reminders continually of God’s goodness and my deep need for Him. That’s what the Church through the liturgical calendar offers as well.”
Rachelle Parker, From the Churches of Christ to the One Church
“This is s great question! I have been a life-long Catholic and had a spiritual awakening in my 40’s. The liturgical calendar guides my faith daily. I look forward to which of our saintly brothers or sisters to learn about or ask for prayers. It has given me a much broader view of the church and who we are.
It has opened up a love for our Lord, our Blessed Mother and the church that has carried me through many trials. With the different colors of the liturgical seasons I feel so much more a part of the Church… it even influences the way I dress at times. It is a rich deep ocean of beauty that I feel as if I am only beginning to appreciate.”
Diane G., via Facebook
“Living the liturgical calendar is like breathing with the lungs of the Church. Especially as a mom of young children, I lose track of things pretty easily, but I know that I can pick up the Mass readings, pray the Divine Office, or celebrate the daily feast and be at once in union with the prayer and mind of the universal Church.
In our home we celebrate ‘name days’ or the feasts of Saints that we or our children were named after (in birth or at Confirmation) or with whom we have a special relationship. I also keep an eye out for liturgically-colored fabric or scarves (purple, pink, white, red, gold, etc.) at garage sale or thrift stores, so that I can decorate our prayer area or dining table with the season’s colors. The visual cue reminds me throughout the day of the season and inspires me to lead my family in that way.”
Teresa Grodi, Catholic Faith Journeys
“I know for me personally, once I discovered there were more feasts on the calendar than just St Patrick’s Day, I started looking literally every morning to see which saint, or groups of saints, were designated for that date, and resolving to know more about them. Getting into feasts and seasons was one of the most tangible ways for me to learn the ropes of living like a Catholic. I thoroughly enjoyed researching how different saints and feasts were celebrated historically and in different cultures, and even if it was as simple as just saying “St. So-And-So, pray for us” at mealtime that day, it was a major upgrade to my daily prayer life.
And I think it satisfies a very human need to make each day have its own individual personality- why else would we see so many dumb pseudo-holidays springing up over the past few years? Every day on Twitter, it seems another one is trending- I mean, for crying out loud, over the past few days, we’ve had #NationalRicePuddingDay, #InternationalCatDay, and we just came off of – no joke – #SneakSomeZucchiniOntoYourNeighborsPorchDay. The world is starved for the liturgical calendar.”
Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network
“It has been so grounding to be able to incorporate our Catholic faith into our family life through the liturgical calendar. As a convert, I’m still getting adapted to the frequency and organized pattern of feast days, seasons, and other Holy Days throughout the year, but I am so thankful for it! It’s such a firm foundation to stand on, for our own personal faith walk, and for teaching our children about the important celebrations within the faith, and also about the many Holy people who have gone before us.”
Lorelei Savaryn, This Catholic Family
What about you? How has discovering and embracing the liturgical calendar as either a new Catholic, or a returning Catholic, impacted your faith life? Please share in the comments below!