Live the Liturgical Year
The Liturgical Year
The Liturgical year is the Church Year. Just like we have the seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, the Church also has seasons. The order of the Liturgical Year is: Advent; Christmas; Ordinary Time; Lent; Easter Triduum; Easter; and Ordinary Time. Each season is marked with a specific color. Advent and Lent are purple; Ordinary Time is green; Easter Triduum is red; Christmas and Easter are white. These colors are reflected in the vestments the priest wears as well as the color of the altar cloth and decorations.
Advent marks the beginning of the Liturgical year. It begins four weeks before Christmas. An Advent Wreath is displayed in the church with 3 purple candles and one pink candle each representing the 4 Sundays of Advent. It is a time of waiting and readying our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child on Christmas. During Advent we reflect on the meaning of Christ our Savoir coming into the world and how He conquered sin and transformed death into life. It reminds us that Christ will come again in Glory. We do not know the day nor the hour of His return, yet we must be ready for Him.
The Gospel of Luke is a great tool to use in your families during Advent to help your children to prepare for Christmas. If you open to the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, there are great stories to read to your children during this time. If they are old enough, allow them to act out these stories and they will remember them with great clarity.
Acting out the Gospel Stories in Luke:
During Advent, allow your children to put on a play acting out several Gospel stories from Luke. You can quickly write a script for each actor simply by reading the stories.
1) The Announcement of the Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25)
2) The Announcement of the Birth of Jesus or “Annunciation” (Luke 1: 26-38)
3) Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39-56)
4) The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1: 57-80)
5) The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 1-20)
You can use cousins or the children of friends to be in the plays as well. This is a great way to help your children to think deeply about the joy of our Savior being born into the world.
Scraps of material can be placed over the children’s heads and tied with a rope to make a quick costume, if you like. Simply fold a piece of material in half. Then, make a slit large enough to get your child’s head through. Next, drape the material over your child’s shoulders and tie it around the waist with a piece of rope. There you will have an instant costume. You can even add a head piece or a long narrow piece to make a stole. Your children will love dressing up in Biblical costumes and putting on a play. What’s more is that they will really remember and internalize these Gospel stories.
A Family Advent Wreath:
Display a family Advent Wreath during Advent. Light the candles according to the week. During the First Week of Advent, light one purple candle each night and pray your nightly prayers around the wreath. During the Second Week of Advent, light two purple candles each night and pray your nightly prayers around the wreath. During the Third Week of Advent, light two purple candles and one pink candle and pray your nightly prayers around the wreath. During the Fourth Week of Advent light all four candles: Three purple candles and one pink, and pray your nightly prayers around the wreath.
Young children love an Advent Calendar. Advent Calendars are generally cardboard or wooden scenes with 25 doors on them. The children are allowed to open one door each day in the 25 days in December leading up to the birth of Jesus on the 25th. They are very excited about opening a door each day and revealing what is behind it. At our house we have a wooden Advent Calendar. There is a scene of a stable in the center with 25 wooden doors that open all around the frame. Inside each door is something to add to the scene in the center. It might be a star to place in the sky; or a donkey to add to the stable; or a shepherd, king, or lamb. Eventually Mary and Joseph are added. Finally on the last day, Jesus is laid in the straw. All of these items are magnetized and the children can place them wherever they like slowly building the scene.
Display a Nativity Scene in your home during Advent. Allow your children to help you set it out. Many Nativity Scenes are very expensive with nice porcelain figurines. But you can also purchase Nativity Scenes for young children that are made of plastic and come with plastic characters. In this way your children can play with the set and act out the birth of Jesus. This is a wonderful way for them to role play and think deeply about the importance of the birth of Our Lord. Children’s Nativity Scenes are available at most Christian Book stores during the month of December and cost only about $20.00.
Christmas should be a time of great joy in your home. First and foremost go to Mass as a family. Talk to your children about the birth of Jesus and how He came to save the world from sin and death. Make Christmas Cookies together. Use cookie cutters that are religious in shape such as angels; stars; and Christmas Trees. Stress the importance of Jesus at Christmas and try not to make it all about Santa Clause.
Make a Birthday Cake for Jesus:
Make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day or Christmas Eve. Use any recipe you like. Using icing from a tube, write “Happy Birthday Jesus” on the top of the cake. This is a great way to help drive home the point that it is Jesus’ birthday we are celebrating on Christmas. In a world that has become so commercialized on Christmas it is hard to focus your children’s attention on the true meaning of Christmas. This is one way that will help. You can even use a special cake recipe that is only used on Christmas for Jesus’ birthday cake. When eaten only once per year, this cake will be extra special and sure to be a tradition that is handed down to the next generation.
Read Christmas Stories:
Read the Christmas story and any other story books that have to do with our Faith at Christmas. Keep in mind that Christmas is not just one day. The Christmas Season of the Church is actually 12 days long, hence the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If you visit a Christian book store or go online looking for Christmas story books, you will find several that you and your children will soon treasure. Here are some books you might want to purchase: “The First Christmas” by Carol Heyer; “The Real Twelve Days of Christmas” by Helen Haidle; The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.
Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying just before He began His public ministry. When He had fasted and prayed for 40 days, the devil appeared to Jesus and tempted Him three times. Each time Jesus resisted his temptations and focused His attention on God. This can be found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4 verses 1 through 11 and the Gospel of Luke chapter 4 verses 1 through 13.
We, like Jesus, fast and pray for 40 days during the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we take to prepare our hearts and souls for Easter, the day that Jesus arose from the dead. By His cross and Resurrection Jesus has truly set us free. He has conquered sin and transformed death into life. We need this season of Lent to turn our minds and our hearts toward what should be most important in our lives, God. So we perform acts of penance all through Lent. We practice penance in order to gain control of our earthly desires and keep them in check. By depriving ourselves of some things we enjoy, we become practiced at controlling ourselves. Then we are better able to control ourselves when we are tempted to do wrong. We also spend more time in prayer during Lent; growing closer to God while turning away from all the distractions that the world offers us. We give alms to the poor especially during this time, realizing that we have more than we truly need. Sharing what we have with others helps us to become less selfish.
Fasting and Abstaining:
Remember to observe your Lenten obligations as a family. Abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent. Fast and Abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. During Holy Week, attend the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross. Both are usually at 7pm in the church.
Teaching the Purpose of Lent:
Teach your children that the purpose of Lent is for us to grow closer to Jesus and to purify our souls so that we are ready for Easter. They should pray more during Lent just as you are praying more during Lent.
Children can give up something for Lent, but help them to understand that whatever they give up should help them to grow closer to Jesus. For example, giving up fighting with a brother or sister; arguing with parents; or gossiping, is far better than giving up chocolate. These things actually help us to grow closer to the Lord.
Giving up food is fine as long as we understand why we are doing it. Giving up food helps us to control our desires and keep them in check. Our souls need to be in charge of our actions. It is easy to let our bodies and our desires become the boss of us. So giving up something that we really enjoy can help us to practice control over our bodies making us stronger when we are tempted to sin.
Random Acts of Kindness:
Children should also plan to do extra good deeds in the home during Lent. This can be helping around the house doing things that they normally don’t or going around doing random acts of kindness for others. One thing that is nice to do, as a family during Lent, is to place each family member’s name in a small container and allow everyone to draw a name out. Whosever name is drawn out, that person does random acts of kindness for all during Lent. Do not reveal the name of the person you drew out until Easter. It is fun to sneak around doing kind actions without getting caught. It also makes family members feel really good about giving to one another.
Stations of the Cross During Lent:
Make it a point to attend Stations of the Cross during Lent. Stations of the Cross are offered each Friday evening in the church at 7pm during Lent. On Good Friday, Stations of the Cross take place at 3pm. We offer both “outside” and “inside” stations for you to attend. Teach your children to seriously meditate upon the stations and to think deeply about what Jesus did for each of us. His suffering is made deeply known to us during the Stations of the Cross. It is important that we are grateful for His sacrifice and do not take it for granted. Children who begin to think deeply about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us are able to see that our sins caused His pain. It helps then for you to open up a dialog about how we should try very hard to not sin at all for love of Him.
There are 34 weeks of what we call Ordinary Time in the Church Year. This does not mean that these weeks are ordinary. Instead it means that we count the weeks making them ordinal numbers.
This time is filled with the feast days of the saints and many days of liturgical celebration. As a family you can celebrate these days easily by highlighting each day and bringing the saint or feast day to the minds of your family members. Simply display a saint card for the saint whose feast day is being celebrated. Cards for this purpose can be purchased in a complete set from Loyola Press. They come in a box set already in the correct order entitled, “Saints Kit.” Each card has a picture of the saint and information on his or her life. You can purchase this on the Loyola Press website for about $70.00. The cards are high quality and will last for as long as you need them.
This is a perfect way to help your children to live their rich Catholic Faith and learn about the saints. Children love to pull out the cards and set up a small table each day to honor the saint being celebrated.