Kendra Tierney

Catholic All Year

Q: What are the basic for living liturgically with young kids? I had a very loving attentive mother growing up, but she wasn’t as well formed in her faith when I was young. So I have no idea how to do it beautifully and in a way they will absorb it? Can anyone thoughtfully speak to this? I feel like I am coming from a blank slate but have a desire to do it for them.

A: I have a whole blog post on this topic here: http://www.catholicallyear.com/2013/10/baby-steps-to-living-liturgical-year-as.html, plus dozens of posts on how we celebrate individual feast days and liturgical seasons! I’m also currently in the messy middle of writing a book on living the liturgical year in the home for Ignatius Press, that will hopefully be done before baby number nine is born in July!

But in the interest of brevity, I’ll try to sum up the basics here. I didn’t grow up doing any of this either . . .

1. For me the main shift was a mental one. Just being aware that there is a liturgical year was an important step. So, I hung up the liturgical year calendar they give away free at church. Then, I tried to align major household tasks that repeat every year with a particular liturgical season. So, I didn’t do “spring cleaning” anymore, I did a “Lent cleaning” instead. We also do a big Advent Purge, where we clean out clothes and toys in anticipation of the baby Jesus’s arrival. We pick all the apples off of our apple tree and can/freeze them on St. Bartholomew’s Day. Etc.

2. I made an effort to be mindful of the feast days in a particular week when I was meal planning. I’m going to make dinner anyway, but if I plan ahead a bit that dinner can can have meaning. We eat pretty internationally anyway. I have recipes that I use regularly that are Spanish, Mexican, French, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Polish, etc. Then it’s just a question of knowing when the feast of the Mexican Martyrs is and making Mexican food that day and not Italian.

I also stopped serving desserts on non-feast days. It’s not like we NEED to be having desserts every night. Every Sunday is a feast day, so we have a dessert every Sunday, plus on days that we celebrate a feast. Treats really make things memorable for my kids.

3. We also worked on our library. We’re going to eat dinner every night, so I try to make it more meaningful, same goes for story time. I love fun, new story books but on a saint’s feast day, it’s just as easy to spend story time learning about that saint. There are some really beautiful and fun and informative picture books about the saints and I’ve enjoyed collecting them over the years. If we don’t have a book about the saint, I just pull some information up on him on the iPad and use it for dinner discussion.

4. We do things for the liturgical year that fit into our existing daily routine.

There are lots of great crafts and coloring pages available that would be a lovely compliment to any celebration of a saint’s day. But since crafts are not usually a part of our everyday routine, I don’t often incorporate those into our celebrations. Sometimes I do, and I did more when I had all younger kids and we weren’t so busy with school and sports. But I’ve found that just tweaking our everyday routine to be more French on the feast of St. Bernadette has been easier to sustain long term.

5. We started very, very small.

The first saints’ days we started celebrating were our children’s namedays. (We also celebrate baptism days and birthdays.) Then we added another saint here and there to which we had a particular devotion. Then I decided we should make a point of acknowledging every solemnity. And now, we end up celebrating a feast multiple times per month, and occasionally multiple times in a week! We often invite other families to share our celebrations, but sometimes it’s just us. I do NOT, however, attempt to celebrate every single feast. There are just too many saints on the calendar to hope to celebrate them all, so we still pick the ones that have the most meaning for us. Just more now than we used to.

6. We also observe the fasts and the seasons of preparation of the church, even our little kids. Since it’s something we do as a whole family, they can’t help but participate.

During Advent and Lent we eat more simply. I try to use those seasons to clean out all that food in the back of the freezer and the pantry. I don’t buy meat or processed foods, just dairy and fruits and vegetables and ingredients. We eat a lot of soups. We don’t snack.

We don’t watch TV or listen to the radio (this is easier to manage now that we don’t have only little kids). I don’t shop for things other than food and absolute necessities.

As much as we are able without being rude, we decline to celebrate Christmas and Easter before their time. So we mostly wait on Christmas treats and Christmas decorations (we have separate decorations for Advent, and Lent as well) and Christmas shows until Christmas has actually arrived.

That way, those seasons of preparation FEEL really different than the seasons of celebration that come after them. We really have that feeling of anticipation.

But boy do we enjoy those feast days that fall during Lent and Advent!

We also make a point of sharing our fasts with others, so the kids really do enjoy those as well.

Learn more about Kendra and her family at http://www.catholicallyear.com/