Times and Seasons
By Anne Marie Austin
Rituals and traditions may seem obsolete, opaque, or pointless nowadays, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Human life is full of traditions. Traditions often help us to enter into the present moment: it does not feel like Christmas until the first snow falls, or you have eaten this family dessert, or you have listened to one particular song. As a Catholic Christian, tradition is a hugely important part of faith; there is an official universal calendar marked with seasons and special days of feasting and fasting. This calendar is beautifully designed to promote spiritual growth, balance, and daily joy.
Sometime around eighth grade, I learned about a book, The Catholic All-Year Compendium, by Kendra Tierney. In this book, Tierney fleshes out the idea of liturgical living, or living your life in rhythm with this calendar. She offers many creative ideas for doing so, and narrates how she worked to intentionally start new traditions in her family to celebrate the many rich feasts of their faith.
Her book fascinated me, but I never went further with it until the fall of my sophomore year. My high school principal was repeating an announcement that I had heard many times that week: “If you are interested in starting a club, come talk to me before the club fair.” Suddenly I thought of Tierney’s book. I turned to my best friend and asked her, “What if we started a saint club?” She was unsure, but encouraged me to start one if I was excited about it. That night (after field hockey practice and an efficient round of homework), I outlined the basic structure of club meetings and made a poster for the fair. I named my club Feast Day Fridays. Ten of my peers signed up!
Each week, I made a slideshow featuring the saints whose feast days fell that week on the church calendar. I briefly talked about each one’s life and patronage. We prayed together, often asking a saint of the week’s intercession, and then ate food, played games, or made crafts—all themed to the saints or season in question. Often, the ideas were adapted from Tierney’s book, but I made many of them up myself as well. In this way, heading the club helped mature my creativity and logistical skills.
There are many aspects of a full celebration, including music, art, food, decorations, games, and prayer. Music on Feast Day Fridays covered a wide range, everything from Handel’s Messiah to the Hillbilly Thomists to Michael Bublé. We sang hymns ourselves, too; music is a powerful way to lift our minds and bodies to God by offering the gift of our voices—or at least by “making a joyful noise”! The joy music brings is key. I also always included religious art in my powerpoints for Feast Day Fridays. Art is another vital way to ponder the mysteries of the faith and the beauty of the lives of the saints.
Food is fun. I don’t think any of my peers would deny that the themed food at almost every Feast Day Fridays meeting greatly increased their enjoyment of the club. Here is a partial list of the foods and drinks we chose for our meetings throughout the year:
- Jan. 23: tropical fruit juice for the memorial of St. Marianne Cope, who worked in the leper colony in Hawaii
- June 23: grasshopper pie (okay, it was actually mint chocolate chip ice cream cake!) for the Eve of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
- Sept. 15: lemons for the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
- Sept. 23: Rice Krispies™ treat hands with cherries in the middle, for St. Padre Pio’s stigmata
- Oct. 13: a round yellow cake with sparkling candles for the miracle of the sun at Fatima
- Dec. 6: chocolate coins for the feast of St. Nicholas
- 12 Dec. Mexican hot chocolate for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I also tried to decorate the space as often as possible, because a fitting atmosphere can make it easier to enter in. We strung up Christmas lights around our high school on the memorial of St. Lucy (December 13) and hung blue decorations everywhere for the Nativity of Mary (September 8). We got still more elaborate for St. Ambrose (December 7) and made Advent candles from sheets of beeswax, which we lit at every subsequent meeting during Advent.
We also played games and undertook projects together as a club, building up camaraderie. We enjoyed playing trivia-style saint bingo for Catholic New Year’s, and Marian title musical chairs for the Nativity of Mary. We went for a rosary walk for the feasts of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), and had a pool noodle fencing tournament in honor of St. Anthony, Hammer of Heretics on All Saints’ (Nov. 1), as well as many other games throughout the year.
It sounds fun, sure; but, one might ask, why is this important? Liturgical living is important because it is a great way to grow spiritually. Learning about the lives of the saints, their heroic virtue and close friendship with the Lord, can inspire us to imitate them. It also promotes turning heart, mind, and soul to God on a daily basis, pondering the good, true, and beautiful. Liturgical living provides fun, faith based traditions that open conversations, and allows for greater entrance into the wonderful rhythms of feasting and fasting with the Church—an expression of unity among Christians all over the world.
Anne Marie Austin is a high school junior at Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, singing, spending time with her family and friends, and playing sports. She is considering studying nursing, literature, or theology in college.
Each time we administer the CLT, top-scoring students from that date are offered the opportunity to contribute an essay or piece of creative writing to the Journal. Congratulations to Miss Austin on her outstanding score! If you enjoyed this piece, you can find more from our top students here—and be sure to join us for our podcast, Anchored. Have a great weekend!
Published on 24th March, 2023.