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Reviving Catholic Family Traditions

The Church has an ancient storehouse of vast treasures, old and yet fresh as the morning dew. Most of us have forgotten them, these treasures which used to be in the daily lives of the simplest peasant in medieval Europe. The feasts and fasts, commemorations, processions, prayers, and hymns that make up the traditional liturgical year of the Church were the very soil for Catholic culture in that age. Multiple generations would assemble together and celebrate Michaelmas in the summer, children would go on procession for Martinmas at the waning of the year, and a whole host of other liturgical practices. Today, practically all of this has been lost for the majority of Catholics. Most Catholics don’t even know what they don’t know. My wife and I certainly didn’t years ago, and we are still digging.

And yet, in the midst of the crisis within the Church, with the antipathy of so many in the hierarchy toward the traditions and, seemingly, the Tradition of the Church, something is blooming. It is no secret that young families are rediscovering Tradition in droves. The enemies without and within the Church thought they had put away all of this “rigidity.” Diane Montagna, at the most recent Catholic Identity Conference, shared how a high-ranking cardinal was vexed that thirteen thousand people had signed up for the Chartres pilgrimage in France. Even with the latest motu proprio, I truly believe that this cat will not go back into the bag.

And so, mothers and fathers in their homes have begun to rediscover and try to bring back old traditions. Young, savvy moms share ideas on social media about the different practices they do, crafts they make, recipes they make to celebrate the saints and feasts of the year. Some parishes have been able to organize processions, such as to Our Lady of Fatima on October 13, the anniversary of the miracle of the sun. But, still, it is very hard in our modern, busy lives to keep up with all of this, and many are quietly discouraged and able to do very little.

My wife, Michaela, is one of those moms.  She and I have struggled to find things we can put up and use in our home to help make the liturgical year more visible to us and the children. We are oblates of the Traditional Benedictine Abbey we live next to, and the monks live the liturgy in such a profound way that we want to live it as well. But how do you do this with a bunch of little kids who won’t sit as still as monks do in their choir stalls?

So, Michaela has tried different things. She used to find a picture of the saint of the day from the web and print it out to put on the table and show the children. She has purchased a few things here and there that she could find, but nothing really stuck. Most of the things out there are unique and don’t always go well together. She is an artist, and for this to work, it had to be beautiful.

She decided to make something, a calendar. I don’t remember how this idea progressed, but before long what she began to make took a life of its own and has become what we now call, The Illustrated Liturgical Year. With the liturgical calendars that we all have now, you have a lovely image at the top and then a series of squares with space for notes and that tell you what you need to know about that day. It is more of an ordinary tool in the home for the adults.

What if you had something that was fully illustrated? Each day would have a full-color image of the saint, feast, or commemoration. The days could be shown together in a frame that itself looked like a piece of architecture. Those frames would be designed to reflect the liturgical season, and imagery could be in the borders that show other aspects of the liturgy that the Church calls us to meditate upon in that week and season. The illustrations would be framed in wood to symbolize the cross during Lent and Advent, then give way to gold inlays for Christmas, and bright white stone for the whole season of Easter! 

With something like this on your wall, the whole family could see at a glance something like an icon of icons with the divine narrative visible to see. The children would see a saint holding a palm and a sword and wonder why. You would notice clearly how Epiphany is more than just the coming of the wise men, it encompasses the Baptism or Our Lord and the Wedding Feast at Cana, both of which always fall during the season of Epiphany.

Our homes are meant to be workshops for sanctity, schools of holiness. St. Benedict’s sons have shown my family this. In any good workshop, you need tools, and those tools must be quality. Chief among the visible tools we have today are things like the Rosary, Icons, and a family altar. There is only one good answer for the storm and crisis that we live through every day now, and that is to take a firm hold on those tools, set the eyes of our souls upon Christ, and go forth boldly where He leads, for He has promised to guide us to Heaven, and He does not fail.

We want to offer the Church what we hope is a small but useful tool to help Catholics habituate the liturgical year into their daily lives. Much more will be required to accomplish that task, but we believe these illustrated calendars could help in a small way. Sophia Institute Press has seen fit to magnify our efforts and is publishing The Illustrated Liturgical Year in 4 volumes, starting with Volume 1, The Christmas Cycle, which is being released in time for Advent.  

This calendar is intended to be an annual calendar that is renewed each year. Go to Sophia’s website for more details, and begin to embrace the traditions that have been hidden for so many years.


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