A Catholic Feast Day for Grandparents
Q: I’m looking for ways to include my non-Catholic extended family members in our liturgical living, but without overwhelming them. I converted when I married my husband, and my parents are great, but I know they were disappointed and are confused by a lot of Catholic traditions. We have one four year old son (but are hoping for more some day) and my parents live close to us and really want to be involved in his and our life. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Welcome to the Church! We are so happy to have you. It can definitely be a little stressful to include non-Catholic or non-practicing-Catholic friends and family members in very Catholic celebrations and observations, but in our family we have actually had very good experiences doing it! Even stuff as crazy as inviting my cousins who were raised Jehovah Witnesses to participate in our At Home Nativity Play ended up being a fun experience for all. And we regularly include non-Catholic neighbors and coworkers in big celebrations like our St. Patrick’s Day Hooley, St. John the Baptist Bonfire, and Michaelmas devil pinata-bashing.
I make a point of being clear as to what guests can expect to happen at the event, whether by invitation or email or text. Just something like: “We’ll be doing the Christmas Novena (some Bible readings and very old prayers that trace salvation history through the Old Testament) after dinner all this week, followed by a little bedtime snack. Hope you’ll be able to join us for an evening or two.” Or, “We’re throwing a little bbq and joke contest in honor of St. Lawrence, who is said to have joked with his captors as he was martyred by being grilled on a gridiron. Bring something to grill and impress us with your best joke!” It still sounds lighthearted and welcoming (I hope), but no one should be surprised by crazy Catholic-ness after an invitation like that!
An especially good upcoming feast day for the grandparents to enjoy with you is the feast of Ss. Anne and Joachim. They were Jesus’ grandparents and in historically Catholic countries, this feast day is celebrated as grandparents’ day! Because she is the patroness of the Brittany region of France, traditional regional specialities like lobster or shellfish are often served, but you could easily substitute any favorite foods for a special grandparents’ meal. Keeping the saints involved can be as simple as a “Ss. Anne and Joachim, grandparents of Jesus, pray for us” after grace before the meal.
Another beautiful way to honor the saints and encourage family faith practices together, would be to suggest that you pray a nine day Novena to Ss. Anne together before the feast day. There are many available (here is one) and this Novena is often prayed by people hoping to be blessed with a child.