OUR CHILDREN'S YEAR OF GRACE
Considerations for Use in the Home-School by Parents Who Wish to
Teach Their Children to Live Throughout the Year with Christ and
By Therese Mueller
Foreword by the Very Rev. Martin B. Hellriegel
"Thy children shall be as olive plants 'round about thy table." from
the Gradual of the Nuptial Mass.
PIO DECIMO PRESS Box 53, Baden Sta. St. Louis 15, Mo.
Nihil Obstat: WILLIAM J. FISCHER, Censor Librorum.
Imprimatur: JOANNES J. GLENNON, Archiepiscopus Sancti
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Advent Season
The Christmas Season
The Lenten Season
The Paschal Season
The Time After Pentecost
The world awaits a new order. Those that are not of this world pray
for the blossoming of the ancient, yet ever new order inaugurated
by the Prince of Peace and Savior of the world at 3 o'clock on the
first Good Friday afternoon.
This Christ order means: The LIFE, LOVE and PEACE of Christ,
bequeathed by our Divine Head to His Church, His Mystic Body,
His extension, His fullness. The more consciously and intimately
we live with the Church, the more we shall possess this order of
Christ in our lives and homes.
The purpose of this small, but great book is to pave the way for a
closer, holier and more vital union of the Home with Christ and his
The author, Dr. Therese Mueller, has drawn from her triple
treasure trove: her Catholic Faith, her Catholic education and her
Catholic home life. What she suggests she practices and lives with
her truly Catholic and inspiring family.
No father and mother, no preacher and teacher can read "Our
Children's Year of Grace" without being drawn deeper into the
"Year of Grace," the Christ Church year, whose purpose is to build
up the order of Christ: The LIFE, LOVE and PEACE of Christ, who is
Teacher, Savior and King of the world.
And by being drawn deeper into the order of Christ, we shall
become restorers, builders and apostles of the order for whose
return we long and pray: "Thy Kingdom come!"
Msgr. Martin B. Hellriegel.
St. Louis, Missouri.
Feast of St. Callistus, the lover of Christ's Order.
October 14th, 1943.
THE ADVENT SEASON
With the beginning of a new year of grace, we parents face the
responsibility of keeping our children in close touch with Mother
Church, for she shows us the way to a fuller understanding of the
sacred mysteries of our religion, wisely represented and
celebrated in the course of the liturgical seasons.
Then let us use in the "mother school" or "home school" everything
that helps our children to understand and to penetrate deeper into
their faith. There must be no exclusion of the little ones, for they
are still so near to the wisdom of paradise that they often express
things in simple ways more clearly than we do with many words.
So we tell the children that Advent means arrival, coming, and
emphasize that it stands first of all for the approach of the
promised Messiah, and secondly for the return of the ascended
Christ at the end of the world. Both thoughts are expressed in the
liturgy of the Advent and Christmas season, including the feast of
Epiphany, which not only celebrates the revelation of the divinity
of Christ (through the adoration of the magis, the baptism by St.
John and the miracle at the wedding in Cana), but also the final
revelation of his Kingship in the last judgment.
On the Saturday evening before the first Sunday of Advent we wind
a wreath of evergreen, pine needles, cedar branches, or holly, large
enough to hold four red candles, equally spaced, and suspend it
with four red ribbons (or purple ones if the candles are white) tied
on the spaces between the candles. We prepare the branches, cut
them to the desired length, attach the candles to a piece of round
wire or reed, and then do the winding and finishing in the living
room, while we talk to the children about the meaning of the
symbol: The circle represents the unceasing flow of sun years or
the sun itself following its prescribed course; the candles divide it
into time, which we can measure and count--four of them for the
thousands of years of waiting for the arrival of the Savior,
remembered on the four Sundays of Advent, as we prepare for
Christmas, the birthday of Christ. They represent also the
thousands of years mankind is waiting for his second and final
coming,--called by Christ himself "a little while." The finished
wreath we hang in the living room at a suitable place, where it can
be seen by all.
Then we open our missal and study the text of the Mass for the
first Sunday of Advent. And we reflect on the fact that the season
of Advent means more than the birthday of the child of Bethlehem,
more than just a sentimental remembrance. For the King of
Eternity is beginning his work of salvation by becoming man, and
by dying on the cross; and continuing it by being with us every
day in the sacrifice of the Mass--yet fulfilling it not earlier than the
last day of time, when he re-arrives as God and man on the clouds
of heaven, as lightning appearing from the east to the west, with
great power and majesty.
As death is the only door through which we can enter into eternal
life, so the day of judgment and destruction of this world is the
only way that the work of our salvation can be perfected, that we
can come into the glorious possession of the everlasting kingdom
of Christ. And as we should learn to love and should teach our
children to love the day of death so we should also bring ourselves
to hope and long for the second coming of Christ with the same
eagerness and readiness as the world waited for his first
On Sunday evening under the light of the wreath we recall all that
we studied and worked over the night before, the Collect and the
leading thoughts of the Epistle and Gospel. We sing our Advent
hymns, and especially the "Rorate Coeli," which after some
practice will become an essential part of our family prayers.
From the missal we choose a few ideas for each Sunday:
First Sunday: St. Paul's exclamation "now is the hour to rise from
sleep. To put on the lord Jesus Christ" (two very impressive
pictures to children of all ages.) Gospel of the end of the world.
Second Sunday: St. John the Baptist, the great saint of Advent, in
the testimony of Christ, the Angel to prepare the ways of the Lord.
Preparing the ways of the Lord is also our task, every day, but
especially in the Advent Season.
Third Sunday, Gaudete: Rejoice in the Lord, for the Lord is night!
Keep your hearts and minds in Christ our Lord--teachings of St.
Paul's letter to Philemon. Communion Antiphon:...take courage
and fear not: behold our God will come and save us--a consolation
for those who do penance. Gospel: the voice of St. John crying in
the wilderness, giving testimony of Christ: the one in the midst of
you whom you know not. Do we know him or do we not?
Fourth Sunday: St. John again raising his voice in the wilderness.
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley
shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low"..
. Again the picture of building a road. Let the children work it out
with drawing pencil or clay--they will never forget the meaning!
On the three Ember days in the third week of Advent the Church
shows us three great pictures to contemplate on: the Annunciation,
the Visitation and St. John the Baptist crying in the wilderness. Let
us fill these with as much life an understanding as we can and
then let the children in their simple, but direct manner play these
mysteries--not as a "show," but as a vital expression of their living
in them. The less stage and costume required, the more likelihood
that only piety and real affection will lead the play. Acted prayer--
that is what it should be, and what children like so much and
sometimes do so beautifully.
In the very beginning of Advent the Church celebrates the feast of
St. Nicholas, the great bishop, seafarer, father of the poor and
friend of children. So great was his regard for the welfare of his
flock, that in time of a famine he rigged out a ship to buy wheat in
a far off country; returning to haven after a heavy and dangerous
sea, he delivered the wheat to his starving people, but kept enough
to bake "sugarbread" as a treat for his little friends. He was so
concerned about each one of his flock, that he is said to have
thrown a purse with money in it through the window of a young
girl, too poor to get married. The legends are countless, which
deeply admiring centuries wound around his picture, and any time
since the fourth century, when he lived in Myra in Asia Minor,
there were countless followers imitating his example of
considerate and unselfish charity among the poor and the
children. It is St. Nicholas who teaches us all about giving and
sharing and surprising. Let us then in the spirit of St. Nicholas
plan our Christmas giving, transferred from his feast to that of
Christmas only because on that day we celebrate the Feast of the
most generous and the most abundant of all givers, God the
Father, Who gave us his only begotten Son. Only if our gifts are
compatible with the spirit of St. Nicholas and worthy to lay beside
the crib of Bethlehem, will they be real Christmas charity.
THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
THE VIGIL OF CHRISTMAS
The Advent time (in the narrower sense) is at its end: the
anniversary of the arrival of our Savior in the flesh gives us a right
and a cause for joyful remembrance and celebration. His arrival in
glory is still to come--who knows when?--and the Church's thought
of that Advent is woven like a red thread into the liturgy of the
season. Let us be aware of that.
"This day you shall know that the Lord will come and save us: and
in the morning you shall see his glory." This word from the vigil
Mass is like a preface written over a Christian's life: this day you
shall know, tomorrow you shall see. The short night of death only
separates our knowing from the glorious seeing and experiencing
of the eternal glory in God and with God.
In the narrower sense, however, this word should give our
Christmas vigil its face, its character. All happiness, all joy that
the Holy Night is holding for us, is sealed in it like a rose in the
bud--and is not the rose-bud before the full blooming the symbol
of high beauty? It is a day of preparation. Let us plan this day so,
that at least our being busy with the material things does not use
up our time and our energy entirely.
There will be a quiet hour in the light of the four candles of the
Advent wreath. This seems a little more appropriate than the
current custom of having the tree dressed and lighted several days
before the Holy Night. I am often tempted to ask people who have
their Christmas decorations up so early if they have also begun to
eat the holiday turkey and their Christmas candy. (And it might be
added, the practice of singing Christmas carols weeks ahead of
time is a bit premature. Surely, there are plenty of good Advent
songs!) Let us give everything its proper time, and the proper time
for the lighted Christmas tree is Christmas Eve and not earlier.
And after we look back over the blessed time of expectation--
Israel's, the Church's, ours--we lead the children out of the Advent
atmosphere into the "Christmas room," where we have prepared the
crib and the tree and the things we choose as the expression of our
Christmas joy and generosity and love for each other: the presents
to represent the present of all presents, God's only begotten Son as
an infant in the manger, Jesus who became our brother.
Whatever the traditional time of our Christmas celebration in the
home is let us take care, that the numerous presents do not
distract our and the youngsters' mind from the celebration at the
crib: singing together, reading the Christmas story, that is, the
Gospel from the shepherd's Mass, followed by the Collect and the
beautiful Lesson from St. Paul's letter to Titus:...we should live
soberly and godly and justly in this world, looking for the blessed
hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus
Christ...And then after parents and children have wished each
other a blessed Christmas and the graces of the Holy Night, comes
the time for exchanging presents.
Since the time of Saint Francis of Assisi people have built the
stable of Bethlehem in their churches and homes. Generation
passed unto generations a pious heritage of more or less artistic
statues and grottoes, and more than that, the knowledge of how to
make them and build them into the living room as an essential
part of it. We know of Tyrolean wood carvers who start with the
first Sunday of Advent to erect the widespread scenery of
Bethlehem and Jerusalem; we heard of a wise mother, who
nourished her children's Christmas longing with an "every day a
surprise" plan: each day in Advent she let them find a little
something, which belonged to the crib, building it up slowly, but
retaining--of course--the holy family until Christmas eve.
Cribs in the home have become far too rare a sight in this country
and it seems as if the "village" to be found under almost every
Christmas tree is but a poor remainder of the "little town of
Bethlehem" of our forefathers. (It is tragic that the centerpiece, the
essential part got lost, and the stage, the accidental, took over and
assumed the whole space). It is not too late for us to replace what
has been lost. All year round we can tinker and collect for the crib
that will be the real center-piece of our Christmas decoration. We
might even make the statues ourselves--perhaps especially the
statues, since those sold in stores are deplorably unworthy and
without dignity. You will be surprised how satisfying it is to make
something your self, make something which will be of honest
material and reflect the dignity of personal work. Any kind of
statues, whether carved in soap, wood or plaster, cut with a jig-saw
from flat board and painted, made from clay or with wire and
cotton and dressed in cloth--will be better and more dignified than
all mass-products. A broken bushel basket once served as our
stable, the truest we ever had as shelter for our hand made statues.
Let us never be ashamed of poverty, since it was Christ who chose
poverty for his birthplace! And if we start right now we might have
the holy family next Christmas, the shepherds following in another
year, growing with our crib until the three kings with their whole
train are present.
This is not liturgy, you say? But it is. It is the representation of St.
Luke's Christmas Gospel--from the worried arrival of Mary and
Joseph after the vain search for an inn, the first adoration by the
holy couple, the annunciation in the fields, and the coming of the
shepherds, to the solemn procession of the three kings who were
on their way all the time, to adore the King of Kings on Epiphany.
The liturgy, then, which we study night after night before the crib,
sees to it that we do not "get lost" in the concentration on the
childhood of our Savior, calling our attention on the day after
Christmas to the great martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Deacon, who
died praying for his enemies. on the third day is the feast of St.
John, the Apostle, "whom Jesus loved." A beautiful custom in some
old countries is the "drinking of St. John's love" on that day. Wine,
blessed with a special blessing and prayers is served in the home
before the main meal: the father lifts the cup toward the mother. "I
drink you the love of St. John;" she having answered: "I thank you
for the love of St. John," drinks to the eldest child and so on,
including guests and servants. The simple beauty of this ceremony
gives character and dignity to our family supper too, especially if
there is a John in the family, who celebrates the day of his patron
saint. A similar custom has been connected with St. Gertrude of
Holy Innocents. This is the day when we mothers fight back our
tears and Mother Church is donned with the vestments of
mourning. However, the infant martyrs triumphantly turn the day
into a feast for the children. From their glory all infants receive
glory, from their innocence innocence. Many a pastor invites on
that day the "infants and sucklings" of his flock to church, that
they may "perfect the praise of the admirable name of the Lord" in
their own manner and language and after that he dismisses them
with a special blessing. In convents and schools the youngest
becomes "superior" or "principal" for that day--why should not we
in the family too, give some credit to the youngest child on
account of the innocent martyrs, giving them a say as to what is to
be sung and prayed, eaten and played.
In like manner we meditate on the deep meaning of all the feasts
of this season: Circumcision, Holy Name, Holy Family, until on the
eve of Epiphany we change the arrangement of the crib: making
room for the arrival of the three magis or kings, carried in solemn
procession by the singing children to adore the King of Eternity,
and to offer their symbolic gifts.
Let us plan this feast day carefully, so that it regains the glory it
had in the olden times (the glory it still has in the liturgy!), when it
was not only equal, but even superior, to Christmas. With the
calling of the gentiles (and as we are the gentiles), we celebrate
gratefully our being called with the wise men to the adoration of
Christ. We are called to be not only witnesses, but even the tools
by which his divinity is made manifest to the members of his
mystical body, to each baptized person. This is not only the
greatest experience of our life but also our most obliging
To restore everything in Christ! In the light of the mysterious star
which led the three kings from their far away countries and tribes
to the crib in the stable we see even the things of our daily use in a
new light--at least our forefathers did, when for them Epiphany
was the great day of blessings in the home. The blessing of the
homes often is given by the pastors from the parish church door or
in the church steeple in the four directions if the parish is too
large to go from house to house. If the time is made known to the
parishioners, the family could gather around the home-altar or the
crib. While the pastor performs the rite over all the houses of his
parish, the father would say the prayers and psalms of the
blessing, going through all the rooms of the house, blessing them
with holy water.
Gold and frankincense are blessed in church in memory of the
symbolic gifts of the wise men; gold to be offered for sacred
vessels in the parish, incense to be burnt in the home if we wish,
during our family prayer. Blessed chalk is distributed to the
parishioners that they may write over the lintels of their doors the
initials of the three kings with the number of the "anno Domini":
19 K + M + B + 45, reminding all who enter and leave through that
door, that we too should be ready as they were to leave everything,
and to follow the star of the Nativity. We also must profess the
divinity of Christ, his kingship before an unfaithful Jerusalem, an
Three main sources of our daily food also are included in the
liturgical blessings of Epiphany: bread, eggs and salt are blessed
after the morning service and eaten with the holiday meals. Let us
ask our priests to renew these beautiful blessings. We can at least
reverently pray and perform the rites in our "Church at home,"
with the father reciting the prayers.
Epiphany, the word, means arrival, appearance, revelation.
Remembering the first revelations of Christ's divinity, the liturgy
turns our eyes to the second Epiphany, his Advent, when his
divinity is made known "to all flesh," when he appears on the
clouds of heaven. Not the birth in the stable, not the tidings of the
angels--given to a few simple shepherds only--but the splendid and
strange train of the three kings from the orient, who publicly
asked for the new born King, so they might adore him--made it
known to all folk in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, that this Child is
more than poor people's son.
Twelve years later the doctors in the temple heard words of divine
wisdom from this young boy, as he answered their questioning.
But many years later at the baptism in the Jordan, the heavens
opened and the voice of the Father came forth like thunder: this is
my beloved Son...and the Holy Ghost hovered as a dove over
him. (Gospel of Octave of Epiphany). This manifestation of his
divinity was made before a large crowd, and St. John the Baptist
"gave testimony that this is the Son of God." And still another
proof there was of divine power in the "son of Joseph," when at the
wedding at Cana he revealed himself in the first miracle. (2nd
Sunday after Epiphany). "He manifested his glory and his disciples
believed in him." Then we see the growth of his power and glory,
his love and his kingdom Sunday after Sunday; until the also rising
hatred of his enemies casts a shadow of the cross--in order that
there might be a victorious Easter morning.
Yet before we enter through the dark gate of Septuagesima into the
Easter sanctuary, we have the beautiful feast of Candle-mass or
Purification, with another procession in the home, since children
and all that are childlike at heart, so love them.
In the early morning we bring the candles to the Church to receive
the blessing--one candle for each member of the family (including
one for an expected child or godchild to be his baptismal candle)
and the two candles we keep always ready for the administering of
the Holy Eucharist in our home.
The rite of the blessing and the prayers of the procession are so
beautiful, that we should repeat them at home in the evening,
when the family members, who could not attend the morning
service are present. Each one carries his own candle lighted--
Baby's is put in a safe place and burns too--so we go singing and
praying, led by the father of the family, through all our rooms,
blessing them and our life and work in them for the coming year.
"Hear thy people, O Lord, we beseech thee, and grant us to obtain
those things inwardly by the light of grace, which thou grantest us
outwardly to venerate by this annual devotion." (Prayer preceding
The candles can be used often; not only on sick days, in sorrow, or
temptation, but on all feast days, anniversaries, name days, and
before important personal decisions.
The symbolism of light is one which the Church uses constantly in
her liturgy. Why should we not, too, make frequent use of this
beautiful symbol in our homes?
THE LENTEN SEASON
THE PERIOD OF PRE-LENT
With the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday we enter the period
of remote preparation for the celebration of the Easter-mysteries.
By sharing the passion and cross of Christ--only by sharing the
passion and cross shall we be enabled to partake in full of the
glory of the resurrection. And this resurrection with him and in
him is the very goal of our life.
In motherly wisdom, therefore, Holy Church introduces us to the
forty days of Lent, in a gradual manner, so that we are prepared
even by the changing color of vestments and the very tone of the
liturgical services, for the earnestness of the Quinquagesima.
The Christmas song, "Gloria in Excelsis," is henceforth allowed
only on feast days. The "Alleluia," angel given exclamation of
enthusiasm and jubilation, sung in numerous tones so frequently
in the liturgy of the Mass and the Hours, is silenced entirely.
Reviving an old custom we make a farewell celebration of the
Alleluia, singing it in all the tones we know from the year 'round
before we "give it up," the first Lenten sacrifice. Denying ourselves
the most perfect expression of jubilation in our prayers, we are
enabled to retreat deeper and deeper into the spheres of penance
and self abnegation. (Many weeks from now there will come the
great moment when the deacon approaches the Bishop with the
words: "I announce to you a great joy: it is the Alleluia." And the
priest sings it in three different keys before the gospel of the Holy
Saturday Mass, the choir repeats it jubilantly, and we all rejoice
again: "Alleluia: Glory be to him who is.")
Septuagesima Sunday. Two parables in today's Epistle and Gospel
make our introduction of Lent to the children easy: the one, of the
race--each one has to run so that he may receive the crown, and
must prepare for it in all conscientiousness; and the other, the
story of the householder and the workers in the vineyard. God it is
who gives us our place in the vineyard, whether our work is to bear
the heat and burden of the day or to have the short hour before
Sexagesima Sunday. St. Paul in today's letter to the Corinthians
tells us of the burden he had to carry. "My grace is sufficient for
thee," he was told. May it be for us too. We are to be a field for his
seeds, open, willing; God will do the plowing, will send rain at its
time--and the fruit must be a hundredfold. Fortunate are those of
us who live near to the soil which is now being prepared for the
spring seeding. Watching the work in field and garden we compare
what is done outside with the work waiting to be done within our
Quinquagesima Sunday. The epistle on charity is sufficient to
contemplate on for a lifetime. How beautiful a prelude to the
Lenten season! In the Gospel Christ himself foretells his passion--
are we too among those who did not understand what he said? Are
we too blind? Then let us cry out with the blind man, that our eyes
may be opened.
In countries with pronounced Catholic traditions and culture these
three days before Ash Wednesday are carnival days, a time of
plenty in food and fun and pleasure. Something like that should
also take place in a Catholic home, as it is good psychology to
experience and enjoy what we intend to "give up" (think of the
Alleluia farewell!) and helps much in a right start for Lent.
That does not prevent our having a solemn and silent procession
through the house, to gather the old palm from pictures and
crucifixes. Carefully--because it is a sacramental--we burn it as a
lesson on the "dust" we are and to which we must return. It means
much to the children if they can burn their own piece of palm as
an expression and confirmation of a Lenten resolution they made.
However let us take care that their resolutions (and ours) are not
just negative "give-ups," and "do-aways," but positive "build-ups,"
overflowing from a new abundant charity and love requiring
outward expression. So is fasting only one factor of Lent, needing
the compensation of prayer and good deeds--both of which rank
even higher, since there is no dispensation for these.
Let us also see that the little (or big) "pharisees" take the advice of
Jesus himself, and not look for a reward from men. There is too
much boasting about "giving up candies, and movies, and
cigarettes"--the children get the impression that they are growing a
visible halo because of these external things. Suggest to them that
they make of it a secret offering to the Most High, known only to
themselves and their parents.
THE LENTEN SEASON
Daily Mass is the real "Lenten sacrifice," and the studying of the
daily Mass formula on the evening before is the best means to lead
us the way the Church wants us to go. Work out together one or
two thoughts that can be easily remembered the next morning and
during the day. Let us remember that the Church has two ideas
woven into the Lenten liturgy: the preparation of the catechumens
for baptism on Holy Saturday, and the reconciliation of sinners
and their atonement. We prepare for the renewal of our baptism;
we suffer with Christ for our sins; we are buried with him in
penance so that we may rise with him to a new life in grace and
The Sundays of Lent are meant by Mother Church as a pause on the
hard way. They are a measure of relaxation and reward for our
effort, in order to gather new strength for the coming week.
Especially the "Midfast," the Sunday Laetare, is full of joyous
anticipation of a victorious Easter day, since in nature by that time
the sun has already conquered the darkness and the cold, and
spring has driven out winter. Let us foretaste the coming Feast,
and let us rejoice that we have reached and conquered half of our
Passiontide centers our thoughts and prayers around Christ the
Son of Man, the Agnus Dei, sacrificed for us. Palm Sunday is
another "Children's Day," the day when children marched waving
their palms and singing jubilant "hosannas" in Jerusalem. Let the
children therefore be present at the blessing of palm and the
procession in the church, let them walk around proudly with their
blessed palm through the house, adorning each room with the new
palm. Let us all have a little palm cross on our dress or coat to
remind us all through Holy Week that we must carry our cross in
patience if we wish to share Christ's glorious Easter victory. To
find all the hidden treasures in our Missal, a whole lifetime is too
short. And yet each year we should draw from this fountain
eagerly, as if we would exhaust the whole depth.
During the Paschal Days themselves surely we can do no better
than to urge our children to participate to the fullest in the
services of Holy Mother Church. They are so profound and
absorbing that even young children early learn to love them.
Easter housecleaning is more than just a custom: it can be an
outward reflection of the inner newness of soul. But it should be
planned carefully so that it does not intrude into the Holy Days
and disturb the recollection and concentration of the family
during this holy time.
The sacred liturgy of Holy Thursday will unfold in all its splendor
and magnificence in the bishop's church. Whenever it is possible it
might be good to attend these services in the cathedral. The
mandatum (maundy) alone--which is often only celebrated in
cathedral churches and monasteries--is a great spiritual
experience. And to witness the consecration of the holy oils will,
for once, make us "diocese minded," uniting us with all those who
are to receive--for life or death for strengthening or healing--the
sacred oils. The naturally more elaborate, more solemn
presentation of the liturgy, together with the strong language of
the mighty cathedral architecture, will never fail to impress us
deeply and lastingly.
We should emphasize simple meals during this week. Some day we
shall have one of only unleavened bread and wine. On Holy
Thursday, however, there is occasion for a more elaborate meal
since the Christian meal has always been sacramentalized in its
relationship to the Divine Banquet instituted on this day. And it
can be begun or climaxed with singing the beautiful "Ubi Caritas Et
Amor," made even more meaningful if there are guests.
But there is a note of simplicity to all that is done during the week:
there should be hours of silence, spiritual reading and
explanations of the Church services, to "bring home" the spirit of
the day. Where it is possible the family, especially the older
members, may attend the "Tenebrae" on Wednesday, Thursday and
Friday evenings. This powerful drama of the forsaken, betrayed,
crucified Bridegroom was composed by Mother Church for us to
take part in, and the dimming of the candles to express the
abandonment by the disciples one by one surely relieves any
"monotony" for all but the youngest children. Even they feel
rewarded if Christ's Resurrection is expressed by a loud clamor,
and not by the feeble sounds our so "refined" civilization tends to
Having attended Holy Week celebrations in many different places,
I am surprised to discover how strong a part memory plays. For
each day, for each rite there is one outstanding experience of the
past, which as it were, bursts through to the present. For instance,
I shall never forget one adoration of the Cross on Good Friday in a
large city parish.
The priest had explained that our coming up to venerate the cross
should not be just an act of pious compassion but a solemn
expression of our willing and abiding acceptance of our life's
cross. "Since not everyone is expected to receive Holy
Communion," he said, "so you are not all expected to solemnly
confess this readiness." For minutes the congregation was in deep
silence. Then, finally, a few old people and young children
stepped forward to lead the way. What followed was the most
sincere procession I have ever witnessed. This was adoration "in
spirit and in truth."
And then, one "Exsultet" twenty years ago in my home parish has
never been excelled. To me it was the very "discovery" of this great
hymn; and this experience rings through each Exsultet I have
heard since--and perhaps, if God wills, through the one I want to
pray at my life's end.
Experiences like these will all the more convince us that we should
build in our children a similar wealth of experience that cannot be
destroyed by rust or dust.
Holy Saturday is the baptismal feast of the Church. In the evening,
before the preparation for the morrow's great Sacrifice, we have a
solemn renewal of our baptism--all members of the family united.
Baptismal robes and baptismal candles should be displayed at the
home altar. Then follows the renewal of the baptismal vows, a song
of praise and thanksgiving for having received the gift of life. With
the new Easter water the father blesses each member of the family
and the whole house--and the garden and the fields if we have
them. (The children will be proud to bring home the holy water
from the Church. It is well to have a special container for it,
fittingly decorated with symbols of the sacrament of Baptism or of
the Trinity. The material required is merely an attractive bottle
and enamel paint.)
With the confidence that we are ready to participate in the re-
enacting of the resurrection we thank God for the grace of a Holy
Lent, a sacred spring.
THE PASCHAL SEASON
Easter Sunday is the day for our biggest celebration. With joyful
enthusiasm we prepare the home. There must be flowers and green
for it. Let the imagination of all the members of the family be used
so that the long kept back jubilation may break forth with
freedom. Whether we string oranges or paint eggs with appropriate
symbols of the season, or cut out in golden letters the "Alleluia"
and the "Resurrexit" to bedeck the dining room, the effect will be
good, and symbolic, the work of our hands. The Church desires
that Easter shall have the dominant place of the year, and we must
work to that end. (Christmas with its crib and tree is quite a
competition in the minds of our children!)
The mother's concern is above all, with the "centerpiece," the
basket of bread and eggs, Easter roast, cake and sweets and fruits,
all carefully arranged to be blessed by the father, when the family
returns from the participation in the paschal meal of the
Eastermass. Formerly these things were taken to church, and
blessed by the pastor, who together with the poor of the parish,
received a share from its content. We hope that it will not take
another generation to restore this beautiful custom. In the
meantime we content ourselves by reciting the prayers of this
blessing ourselves. The head of the family reads them, the others
answer, and thus the Easter-meal is reconnected in a special way
with the sacrificed and victorious Paschal Lamb received at Mass--
an echo of the old Christian "agape," wherein was expressed the
unity of all members in their common Head, Christ.
It is easy to understand why the Easter eggs--the egg is the symbol
of life in every language and culture--are carefully painted with
the symbols of Christ, his resurrection and victory. The early
Christians themselves used the symbol of the cross over the circle,
expressing the Redeemer's triumphant victory over the empty
grave. The chicks and bunnies used today, though of a lower rank,
also serve a good purpose, because they suggest new life, spring,
and fruitfulness, especially to the smaller children.
The magnificent "Exsultet" from the Blessing of the Eastercandle,
repeated before our baptismal candle on the home altar; the
alleluia sung according to all the tunes we know; the Sequence
from the Eastermass, the long-missed Gloria, the Regina Coeli--all
these add up to a beautiful and impressive Easter devotion in the
Let us not forget that the Church celebrates the Redemption for
eight full days, so that we will not be among those who came to
Mass frequently during Lent only to stop abruptly on Easter
Sunday. (Mass is still "penance" for them, and the time for penance
is over! The reason is that they are not aware of the beautiful Mass
texts for the octave.) All during the week we continue therefore
each evening to explain to the children, and to meditate with them,
on the Mass propers of the succeeding day. This fills us with their
high beauty, their fragrance of the final blossoming of all things at
the end of time, in, through, and with the glorified, risen Christ.
Then the octave day of Easter, the Sunday in "albis", will not find
us low-spirited, down in some lower region of Christian living.
("Low" Sunday--what a "low" name for a day so "high" in fame!) On
the contrary it will find us on the elevated plain that stretches
from the empty grave to the mountain of the Ascension, walking
with Christ and his Apostles for forty glorious days, days without
fear and hate, days with happiness and paschal cheer.
On this day two currents flow through the soul. There is the happy
knowledge that Christ, our Brother, has ascended to the right hand
of the Father to prepare eternal dwellings for us, and yet on the
other hand there is the painful realization that he whom we loved
has gone from us, leaving us alone in a hostile world, a world
which for us holds no better fate than it did for the God-Man, now
"First-born from the dead."
To us, too, is the angel sent: "Why wonder you, why are you
looking up to heaven. There is no time for staring at heaven
whither he has gone, no time now for wondering. Work rather that
he may find you and the world prepared for his coming on the
great Day. For you are not left behind as orphans, but rather are
you filled with Christ's Spirit, the Paraclete who will stay with you
until the end of the world."
After keeping faithfully the Rogation days, giving our prayers and
hopes and petitions to the ascending Victor of Golgotha, with Mary
and the apostles we join hopefully in the novena of preparation for
the coming of the Holy Spirit. Our need for him is extreme in this
hate and blood-filled time. The "Veni Creator" sung in Latin or
English to the choral melody is added to our family night prayers,
and we carefully explain it to the children, verse by verse.
Pentecost is not "just another Sunday," but the second culmination,
the highfeast that concludes the Easter celebration. Another task is
therefore ours,--to find a worthy expression of it in the home. The
symbol of the Holy Spirit (a simple folding cut in red craft paper)
dominates the home altar, and red roses are blooming in our
backyards now to glow radiantly beside it, symbols of love and
devotion. (One time we tried to express the Introit: "the Spirit of
the Lord hath filled the earth", in simple silhouettes. Under the
dominating dove with the seven gifts streaming forth from it, we
arranged the symbols of the universe, from sun and moon to the
monsters in the depths of the sea. It expresses the blessed
assurance that there is no sphere in the universe which is hidden
or cut off from the unceasing activity of the Spirit of the Lord. Deo
Gratias.) Let us listen to the Voice of him who breathes where he
will: in restored nature, in the prayer of a child, on the battlefields
of the world.
On the eve of Pentecost we gather for a two-fold celebration: the
birthday of the Church and the anniversary of our "personal
Pentecost," confirmation. Solemnly we vow love and faithful
obedience to her, our Holy Mother, through Christ our Lord, who in
the hour of the death of Christ went forth from his opened side as
the new Eve, mother to all that are born from the water and the
Holy Spirit. On Pentecost for the first time she opened the locked
doors of the "upper room," she was made known to the great
multitude of pentecostal visitors in the Holy City, as chosen by
Christ and fortified by his Holy Spirit to bring the message of the
Redemption to all mankind, until time is no more.
Then we recall the day when we were confirmed with the Spirit of
the Lord, the day when we were sent forth by the bishop to testify
for Christ in our everyday life. We repeat what happened and what
was said to us on that great day and ask God to renew in us the
grace and power of our confirmation.
Send forth thy spirit and they shall be created and thou shalt
renew the face of the earth, alleluia, alleluia!
THE TIME AFTER PENTECOST
The field has been prepared (pre-Lent), the seed has been sown
(Lent), we experienced the glorious resurrection of the dead grain
(Easter), we witnessed its growing, and at the "fullness of maturity"
the Spirit of the Lord came to it in the fruitfulness of pollen,
(Pentecost). Now we are patiently waiting and watching for the
growing and ripening of the fruit, for the great day of harvesting
with Christ in his glory.
Mother Church's colors are green, as the fields and the meadows,
strewn with the white flowers of virginity and the red ones of
martyrdom. Like the land-man Mother Church keeps on praying for
sunshine and rain, for the best for the souls and bodies of her
children, that they may ripen full and fair, worthy to be gathered
into the eternal barns.
Sunday after Sunday she leads her children to the fountain of
eternal life, so that they may eat and drink their daily need of
grace and divine help toward the final goal. Each Sunday is a
"Little Easter," a re-enactment of the great mystery of resurrection
from death, of new life out of the supreme sacrifice. With our
brothers from the early days of the church we must stress,
concentrate on the one highfeast, celebrated over and over again
on "the first day of the week," we must make it the center of our
religious life as well as of our recreation (re-creation!!) in the
spiritual as well as the physical sense.
To give ourselves, our life and love, our sorrow and cares, our soul
and body, our wishes and fears into the hands of the Father--
"through Christ our Lord"--that is what we are expected to do and
in return we will be filled with the abundance of Christ's grace and
love and perfection. We will be transformed over and over again
into "other Christs," we will be united with him, who gloriously
overcame suffering and death, who is awaiting us to give us part in
his glory, after we share his suffering here on earth.
As we make each Sunday a "little Easter," let us give to each
Saturday some thing of the spirit of "Holy Saturday"; an
atmosphere of happy preparedness and peaceful expectation of
the coming day of the Lord. That is a real family task and
worthwhile to work for. Whenever I am lonesome for the home of
my childhood, it is the "air" of the "Sunday Eve" I am longing for;
the smell of soap and wax and fresh linen, of a simple one dish
meal mixed with the promising odor of the cake for the morrow,
the tip-toeing through the "best rooms," locked for us children
during the week. "Moses take off your shoes, the place you are
standing on is holy" my father used to say, often with a smile we
did not see--to us it was just too true. It was as if the whole house
was alive with the expectation of something great and beautiful--
almost as wonderful as the Sunday itself!
Let us try to "steal" some hours from the approaching Sunday to
make our minds and soul ready, to "tune in" as the church bells of
my home town did, spreading peace and happiness over the roofs
of the old city--as Mother Church does, when she anticipates
Sunday with the Vespers on Saturday evening.
It is up to us to create a new "Sunday cult," an atmosphere in which
our children will grow up to a deeper, more religious
understanding of the day of the Lord.
The time after Pentecost is abundant with special feasts: of our
Lord, of his Mother, of his perfected brothers and sisters: the
All the Feasts of the Church Year depict for us the shining Light of
our salvation, viewed as through a prism. In the many colors are
the varied mysteries of our faith, the life and death of Christ, and
the life and death of those, who, while still on earth, were
transformed by Christ-in-them--now enjoying a heavenly
communion with him.
The Feast of Corpus Christi. Holy Thursday in glory and joy. This
is the feast of the first Mass, feast of the Eucharist, feast of the
sacramental Christ, who lives, works, suffers and dies with and in
each one of us, among his brothers and sisters still laden with the
hundredfold burdens of life. That they may understand it better,
let us tell the children of the Corpus Christi celebration in many
Christian countries, where the Hidden God is carried about the
fields and streets, through villages and cities, accompanied by the
singing and praying faithful who carry banners and flowers and
sacred symbols; along ways covered with green and flowers,
adorned with garlands and posters; by houses decorated with holy
pictures, candles flower-decked windows and doorways; with the
four big altars for solemn benediction built right into the living
quarters, or set up in the fields, carefully prepared by the whole
neighborhood. What a grand experience it is to go around with the
Lord in his triumph, showing him where our family, our friends,
our co-workers live! How thrilling to be one of a great multitude
The Feast of the Sacred Heart. The texts of the Mass alone on this
day are sufficient to correct the "too-human" attitude we have
toward the Sacred Heart, the soft, sentimental, feministic air we
project on the image of the most holy, most virile love (divine and
human), that was ever embodied in any heart. Mother Church leads
us to the Cross (grown-children and small-children) where the
Sacred Heart is pierced with a lance, after having suffered the
death of all flesh to redeem all flesh from death. Here is the best
Sacred Heart picture, one that does not allow sentimental feelings
of romance and sympathy, but impels us to reverence, co-offering,
self-abandonment, sacrifice. In such a picture we see Christ
bleeding from countless wounds, healing the wounds of all
centuries. There is no room here for false mysticism or cheap
The Feast of the Most Precious Blood. (July 1.) The Church
emphasizes on this day the redeeming and healing power of
Christ's Blood, shed once and for all time, for all mankind, and all
generations--the Most Precious Blood that fills daily the hundred
thousand chalices on the altars of the Church.
The Feast of the Transfiguration. (August 6.) We are given a
glimpse of the splendor and beauty that is waiting for us too, after
we have shaken off the garment of our mortality. Like Peter, James
and John we too would like to build our tabernacles--but the time
of our probation is not yet fulfilled. Gratefully rejoicing in the
knowledge of our calling to share the splendor of Christ in eternity
we go on to fulfill our mission in life.
The Feast of Christ the King. For the time being we have to fight
his fight against the powers of evil and darkness, we have to suffer
at the hands of his enemies,--but in the end we know that
victoriously he will come "on the clouds of heaven" to judge the
world; to take home his faithful servants to the eternal banquet.
The Lord is King--even when he dies like a "criminal" on the cross.
He is King now and for all history, though his followers be many or
few, for his majesty and dignity do not need our recognition of
From the Feast of his Kingship it is but a short time to the Last
Sunday of the liturgical year, when the gigantic picture of his final
coming on the day of judgment is put before our eyes. The world
is in ruins, living and dead are awaiting the verdict, in terrible
majesty his Kingship is evident from one end of heaven to the
other--to the joy of those who believed, to the horror of those who
denied and blasphemed.
Interwoven with the feasts of our Lord are feasts of our Lady.
The Visitation. (July 2.) This is the touching feast of love and
charity between the two holy women blessed with the knowledge
of the mystery of the Incarnation; the feast of the Magnificat
(which should be prayed more often in the family.) Let it be a real
Mothers' Day and show the children their part in it. Do we know an
expectant woman, who materially or spiritually needs our visit, to
help her with her work, to prepare in any way for the arrival of the
coming child? Let us go there and serve her, as Mary went to serve
her cousin Elizabeth.
The Great Day of the Assumption of Our Lady. Although in this
country we may have to work on this day, at home at least, the
spirit of a holy day can prevail, with all that belongs to it. Let us all
rejoice and be lifted up by the glorious mystery of the elevation of
the soul and body of the Mother of God, to the Queenship of
On a rural vacation in my childhood I learned how great a feast
Assumption Day is--should be, and I bitterly regretted that I was a
child of the city where no one seemed to know about the blessing
of wild herbs and flowers in memory of the "lilium convallium",
the lily of the valley (as the Canticle of Canticles calls the Bride of
God.) For days the children had hunted through hills and fields to
find the traditional number of wild-flowers (from 20 to 40 species)
which they carefully bound into a big bouquet. When before the
High Mass the herbs were lifted by their proud owners--to catch at
least one drop of Holy Water--it was as if hills and woods and
fields had entered the church to testify about the empty grave of
Mary. And before dusk the families had distributed the blessed
herbs between house and stables, pantry and fields and gardens so
everything was united in the blessing that flowed down from the
Blessed One made Queen of Heaven.
Are we of the city too proud to admit our poverty and how much
we are in need of this very beautiful sacramental? Will we be
humble enough to bring the fruits of our garden, our find of wild
flowers from backyards and vacant lots to the blessing at church?
The Feast of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother (September 8), of
the Holy Name of Mary (September 12), of the Seven Sorrows
(September 15), of Mary's Motherhood (October 11), the
Presentation of the Child Mary in the temple (November 21)--all
should be celebrated at home with hymns and psalms and a little
while of contemplation on the story and the spirit of the day.
The Feasts of the Saints. There are more Saints in heaven than
stars in the sky--but how little we know about them! Why not have
a Saint-of-the-month study club at home? By choosing one Saint,
and gathering painstakingly whatever information we can find
about his life and work, we will be able to picture him to our
children, making him very live and real. And because it is
fascinating, the title will soon become the Saint-of-the-week.
Let us however be conscientious, depending not solely on the
nineteenth century accounts, that "romanticize" until the reality of
the Saint is done away with; nor indeed, on the modernistic ones
that lack dignity and reverence and have the slang "of the gang of
our block", under the apparent belief that children will like them
that way. I do not believe in that. If the real sources cannot be
sought, there is always the missal with its introductory remarks,
and the great Gospel and Epistle that have been chosen for each
Saint of the Church. In a year's time we shall have gathered quite a
wealth we will never lose.
By All Saints' Day then the "heavenly host" will be alive with well
known and beloved faces, not only of the patron Saints of the
family but of many more who have contributed to our religious
All Saints--how many of our forefathers and foremothers are
among them? Whether or not we know their names and number, we
know that they are one with us. (Some of them may not have yet
arrived at the eternal glory: it is our filial duty to help these
through Purgatory so that they may be all together around the
eternal banquet table--where we one day hope to join them.) The
litany of the Saints, said or sung, will soon be a favorite of our
family, and for a change we may say a litany of all the patron
Saints of the family members, whom we should greet every day.
All Souls Day is the proper time to make us and ours acquainted
with the liturgy of death, the office of the dead. Even children can
feel the majestic, earnest and consoling hope that swings in its
every verse. During the rest of November we can tell more about
the theme: death, its inevitable certainty, its character as
punishment, its transformation and sanctification through Christ's
victorious death on the cross. Let us tell the children stories: of
how Saints died and how sinners, how great men and women of
history, how our own grandparents and relatives left this world of
misery for the eternal fields of glory. We are strangers in this
world, our true home can never be here. Christ's kingdom is not of
this world. But we pray and work that his kingdom come, and his
glorious Advent on the clouds of heaven.
The ring is rounded again. A year of grace and growth is fulfilled.
God's charity may grant us another. Grateful and humble let us