How to Observe the Church Year (by ignoring most of it)

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Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Almost exactly three years ago we became Catholic. One of the interesting aspects of Catholicism was the liturgical year with its feast days, fast days and memorials, etc. Growing up in the evangelical Christian world, as Caleb and I did, all of these special days and observances were new to us, but welcome. I looked forward to living out the liturgical year as a family along with the rest of the Church across the globe.

But then we never really did.

Yes, we went to Mass on days of obligation (holy days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass), and were vaguely aware of different feasts as they passed us by. Yes, we observed Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending in the Triduum and the great Easter Vigil.

And of course there is also the weekly rhythm of going to Mass on Sundays and observing the different weeks of Ordinary Time, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, as well as the special feasts that always fall on Sundays (Corpus Christi, for example).

But month after I month I look at my calendar (which I get from my parish each Christmas) and see the names…so MANY names of saints who are remembered on the days throughout the year. And there are simply too many to observe them in any meaningful way. Passing notice…maybe. But I can’t make THAT many cakes.

The shear volume of feast days (Or memorials? I’m not quite sure of the difference yet.) is overwhelming. What in the world do we do to observe a particular day, anyway?

I have looked for answers to these questions in books like The Little Oratory, The Year & Our Children and Catholic Catalogue, as well as websites and blogs. As much as these resources have to offer (and they do), I never feel like I come away with enough practical know-how to start observing anything with my family.

SO…I’ve come up with my own plan.

In order to observe the days of the liturgical year most important to us, I need to flat-out IGNORE almost the entire church calendar.

Yep! So that’s what I’m going to do.

There are just a few simple steps to my plan. They are:

  1. Observe our baptism days – We will celebrate the date on which each of us was baptized. For our family, two of us were baptized on the day we came into full communion with the Church, so that’s an especially special day.
  2. Observe our saints’ days – Caleb and I have saints whose names we took at Confirmation, and we have chosen saints for our children. We will observe each of their feast days.
  3. Observe holy days of obligation – We’re already doing this, but we’ll make more of an effort to make them special.

That’s 9 days plus 6 days of obligation = 15 days to observe as a family for the whole year.

That’s more like it.

Admittedly, I don’t have a super-duper ready-to-go way of practically observing all these days, but I hope you will stick with me as I go on this liturgical journey through the church year with my family and discover how to mark and remember some of the most important days and people in our lives.

Our anniversary of entering the Church (and two baptisms) is only nine days away, so I better come up with something!