More Than One Way to Live Liturgically
March is the perfect month to highlight how liturgical living can be done in a multitude of ways. I think so often we get focused on what we see immediately in front of us, typically what is shown on social media because that is where most of us spend our time, that we forget there are other ways to arrive at the same destination. Celebrating saint's feast days is what is predominantly shown online as liturgical living. When that becomes the repeated message then we may automatically begin to associate those two things as one in the same. Of course saint feast days are a special and integral part of this lifestyle, but it is only a slice of the pie.
Think of it like this, the destination is a life of holiness and Heaven, the vehicle that we are getting there in is the liturgy, sacraments, and a liturgical life, and the roads that we take to arrive are many!
Calm Liturgical Living
I was recently told by Steph Weinert, God love her for this incredibly high praise, that I was "calm about my liturgical living." My heart was so happy to hear this, because it is out of a place of peace with Christ that joy comes forth. Everyone can, and should, approach a liturgical life in a way that makes sense to you as a person, your family, your friends, and your community. When we seek to attain things that are inorganic or inauthentic to who we are, our charisms, spirituality, devotions, etc. then we can deeply feel liturgical living as burdensome. Pay attention to your heart, when you feel that living the liturgical year is irritating or pesky then go back to your roots. At the heart of this year long practice should be praise of God.
Praise of God shouldn't be stressful, it should be revitalizing!
Let's look at March as our guide and apply these principles to all the months following.
The Natural Seasons
This month brings us the Ember Days, this is a three day period in each of the four seasons that are set apart for prayer, abstinence, and fasting. They are often referred to as a "little Lent" given the way it imitates the sacrifices we make in that season. They are beautifully woven into the natural seasons and cycles of farming and harvesting. This is a time intended to give thanks to God for the gift of creation and the fruits that it brings to us which play integral and important roles in the liturgical life of the Church. I encourage you to partake in the Ember Days as they are a deeply impactful in reminding us of nature, which we can oftentimes lose appreciation for in our busy lives. And what I'd like to share more about here is the connectedness that our liturgical living can have to the natural seasons. These two things are more woven together than you might think, the seasons were here long before the liturgical calendar. Let nature be your guide for how to honor and give glory to God day in and day out. This means that we can focus on and perfect one or two things for longer periods of time. For example, when we are in the months of winter seek to rest, practice more silence, and grow interiorly. Imitate the the plants and flowers, there might not be blooms on the surface, but there is always internal and unseen growth happening in the roots. When spring comes, allow yourself to imitate the rebirth of nature. Wake up early, seek to get more sunlight, and be a light of the resurrection for others through what you learned and meditated on in the winter months.
The Liturgical Season
I am currently writing this within the season of Lent and I think there is lots to be said for just focusing on the general principles and themes of the liturgical seasons. Lent is a seemingly obvious one to make this point with because when we Catholics get to Lent, it is all consuming. Everything we do, hear, and see in the Church and in our homes is geared towards helping us live this overall season. We do this in imitation of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness. To me this message is clear, if Jesus needed 40 days of focus, prayer, and fasting then I certainly need weeks, if not months, to grow and offer God the highest praise. I think it's curious that we don't approach other seasons this way. Upon second thought, I suppose as a whole we are fairly committed to actively living out the season of Advent, but even when the Easter and Christmas seasons roll around we tend to taper off. There's much to be said regarding our lack of ability for prolonged periods of joy and praise, but that will have to be written on a later date. For now, I encourage you to approach each liturgical season like we do Lent. Consider the guiding principles of that season and ask, "how can I give God praise, honor, and glory during this time?" Approach this as working out a relationship with God for the long haul. Much like a marriage that takes daily tending to, communication, attention, patience, etc. we need to have that kind of longevity with Our Lord. To better praise Him we have to better get to know Him and ourselves. The longer weeks and months of a liturgical season can position you to do that without the scramble of celebrating lots of smaller feast days.
The Month's Dedication
The monthly dedication is great for those that would like to zoom in a little closer. Perhaps you are going to focus more on the general seasons and you can stand for a little more oomf in your liturgical living. Look no further than the devotion of the month. For March, we are considering St. Joseph in all that we do. Instead of celebrating him on just one day, we can grow to be like him over the next four weeks. In practicing the monthly dedication I get the opportunity to make St. Joseph inspired habits, virtues, that I think will honor the saint more than even my delicious homemade zeppole. What I think of with this kind of approach to liturgical living is the commonly known phrase, practice makes perfect. Prayer, virtue, and a liturgical life takes practice and the more we do it, the better we become. It also allows space for creativity and less of a rush in accomplishing our liturgical living ideas. I don't feel like I have to fit all my St. Joseph ideas into just one day anymore because I know that I can sprinkle in things throughout the month with ease. We can do the 30 day Novena to St. Joseph, make Italian pastries for a St. Joseph altar, seek to emulate his virtue, etc. over the span of a month. If you have children this is the way to go, because kids especially need repeated experiences of things to get to know it more intimately.
For convenience here is the list of monthly dedications for 2023. These tend to stay the same from year to year but on occasion can and might change.
The Holy Name of Jesus
The Holy Family
The Holy Eucharist
The Blessed Virgin Mary
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Precious Blood of Jesus
The Immaculate Heart of Mary
The Seven Dolors of Mary
The Holy Rosary
The Holy Souls in Purgatory
The Immaculate Conception
Once we look to these three things, then we pepper in our saints. I don't go overboard with this, I look at the calendar and consider which saints me and my husband have more personal relationships with. For March I have chosen three: St. Joseph, St. Patrick, and Sts. Perpetua and Felicity. That's right, there are only three feast days that we are focusing on! We live liturgically for the other 28 days of the month with the natural seasons, liturgical seasons, and monthly dedication through prayer, reading, practicing virtue, going to Mass, regular confession, and spending joyful time together and with our community.
This creates a sense of balance in our house so that our interior joy can come out in a meaningful way. It also gives us the opportunity to create ongoing interior joy, this too is a virtue and one that I have to practice. I don't always "feel" joyful or "feel" like giving God praise, but regardless of how I feel He deserves it always. I have to allow myself time to cultivate this disposition in my heart though, I don't just wake up prepped for praise every day. We really have to know ourselves to be able to bring the liturgy into our daily lives.
I like to say that living the liturgical year should not be like a firework that goes off, everyone is in awe, and then it dissipates. More so it should be like a candle that burns steadily and slowly for Christ.