Happy New Year! I got this mailbag question and typed up the response a couple weeks ago, emailed my reply to the questioner, and set the post to publish today. And then I got to thinking . . . and I ended up spending every spare moment I had since then creating the Catholic All January Printable Booklet that includes all the prayers, songs, Bible readings, blessings, and devotions, that we use in our home and that I recommend in the Catholic All Year Compendium! And now it’s also available as a paperback book on Amazon, and I’m very excited about the whole project! (If you already bought the book, see here.) So thanks, Cassie!
I’ve been hearing so much lately about “liturgical living.” But, being a convert, married to a convert, coming from a family of converts, sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed at all the Catholic things I’m not doing and now feel guilty about. I’d love to start some of these traditions with my family, and especially to incorporate the liturgical year into my prayer life, but how do I do it?
A: Dear Cassie,
Ooh, good question. I have a blog post that talks about the basics of what liturgical living in the home looks like for us, and how we incorporate the seasons of the Church calendar, saints’ days, and anniversaries of sacraments into our family life through special meals, stories, and conversations.
Prayer is an important part of those observations as well.
But first off, welcome! Whatever you may have heard in the media, “Catholic guilt” is neither required nor encouraged. There are some things that all Catholics must do (and not do), but most prayers, devotions, celebrations, and sacramentals are just tools we can use to grow in personal holiness. We get to use what works for our temperaments and circumstances, and we don’t have to feel badly if we can’t do it all.
The liturgical calendar offers us an opportunity to consider the lives and examples of the saints, to learn about events in the lives of the Holy Family and the early Church, and to focus our prayer on different devotions throughout the year.
Here are five ways we incorporate prayer into our liturgical living:
1. For each saint whose feast day appears on the Universal Calendar, there is a collect prayer (pronounced KOL-ekt) which ends the introductory rites for the Mass in honor of that saint. Saying this prayer is an excellent way to remember the feast day in your daily prayers, even if you’re not able to make it to daily Mass, and there is a partial indulgence attached to its use. You can find the daily collect prayer (when available) here, but if you’re in the US, Canada, or many other countries, today is a Holy Day of Obligation, so you’ll hear it live at Mass!
2. For each month of the year, there is a different traditional monthly devotion. (I have a wall calendar and a set of phone wallpapers that can help you remember them!) For instance: October is the month of the Rosary; November is the month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This month (January) is devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus. I like to find a short prayer that we can add to the end of Grace Before Meals, to stay mindful of the particular devotion all month long. For January, we use The Golden Arrow Prayer.
3. Many feast days recall events that are described in the Bible, like the Transfiguration, or the Baptism of the Lord. Reading those passages from the Bible during personal prayer time or together as a family is a great way to become more familiar with them. On January 3rd, for instance, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Appropriate Bible verses for the day include Luke 2:21, Philippians 2:9-11, and Colossians 3:17.
4. Asking God’s blessing on the people we love and the things we use throughout our days and years is an important and meaningful way to pray. Various blessings are traditionally associated with different feast days. Coming up this month is the traditional blessing of homes for Epiphany on January 6th. (Available in printable booklet form here.)
5. The Church encourages us in particular prayers and practices by offering indulgences for their use. Indulgences can be plenary (full) or partial, and are subject to the usual conditions. See more on indulgences here. Many indulgences are associated with particular days of the year. There are TWO available today! In honor of the beginning of the new calendar year, we recite the Veni Creator Spiritus, and in honor of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we recite the Litany of Loreto.
Having our prayer be liturgically-focused (and our liturgical living prayer-focused) helps us work in these great prayers and practices and devotions at least SOME TIME each year. They’re all excellent, and important, and it would be fabulous if we could get to each one each day, but that’s just not going to happen. Liturgical living helps us tie particular prayers and practices to particular months and feast days, and helps make sure that these very important devotions and intentions and prayers get included during each year, and get repeated year after year. And if circumstances in one particular year conspire to keep us from getting to them, well, they’ll come around next year and we can try again.
New Year’s Blessings,
p.s. Here’s more on the traditional prayer for today!
The Veni Creator Spiritus is traditionally prayed at the beginning of things. There is a plenary indulgence available, pursuant to the usual conditions, for its recitation on January 1st (and on Pentecost, the anniversary of the beginning of the Church).
Veni Creator Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o’erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.
Public recitation means in a church, family, religious community, or group of friends.
The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence include having been to Mass and received communion within three days before or after the action of the indulgence, sacramental confession within three weeks before or after, being in a state of Grace (Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism), not attached to sin (this doesn’t mean you don’t commit the same sins often, just that you don’t LIKE the sin), and praying for the intentions of the pope. If all of these conditions are not met, the indulgence becomes partial, which is still pretty great.
Indulgences can be applied to oneself or to the soul of a deceased person, but not to another living person.
And finally, a free gift for the year and a dollar download for the month!
Each month I recommend a different prayer, based on the traditional monthly devotion for the month, to add to the end of your family’s Grace Before Meals. So, I created prints, available in color or in b&w, of the Grace Before Meals and Grace After Meals prayers. Get them free here.
I’m hoping to create a new print for each prayer, each month, that will coordinate with these prints! This month’s prayer is the Golden Arrow, for the month of the Holy Name of Jesus. And I’m offering it for just $1 all month long! Get them for $1 here.