Catholic 101: The Liturgical Year

Last week I wrote about not eating meat on Fridays (right now I’m enjoying some finger food consisting of Quorn sausage and plantain.)
It’s an enough well-known thing that it’s a mini-Good Friday, and Easter and Christmas are now part of popular culture as are other things like St Patrick’s Day in the country with allegedly more Irishmen than Ireland (have you ever noticed how everyone seems to be Irish in the US around mid-March?).
You are also probably familiar with festivals from other religions, too, so the concept of a liturgical year itself will probably be known to you. However, if you wanted to look up the official definitions it’s in the CCC (Part 2, Section 1, starting Chapter 2 and from 1163 for the liturgical year specifically, but the articles up to that are about the liturgy and it’s all very beautiful, but we’ll go back to the liturgy another time).

Some people will probably look at it and be like “Isn’t it boring? You’re doing the same thing every year” and yes, we are but no, it isn’t boring. We go through the same year every year anyway, many people even have routines day by day (shocking, I know). The beauty about the liturgical year is that it’s more like a spiral than a cycle (obviously this is not my metaphor and have no recollection or note in my notebook of who said it, it was Br. David of Worth Abbey quoting someone other than himself, I believe). So yes, you pass by the same place like in a game of Monopoly, but unlike Monopoly (unless you are playing some modification created by Sheldon Cooper) you go deeper into the mystery every year.

You think you know things but actually you don’t know things as much as you do, as things get revealed to you or speak to you differently based on your life circumstances. How many people stop celebrating birthdays because they are always the same? Very few, and they’re missing out.
I’m also a very reflective person, so for me going through the story of Jesus also means thinking about where I’m at with mine, both spiritual and secular. It’s a bit like the fact I treat party conference as the new NYE. And there are also the adjustments to be made for the holy days of obligation (*gasp*).

On March 1st I’ll be going to class with ashes on my forehead because I had the brilliant idea to select a course that happens that day without thinking in advance that it would happen. And it’s a course about Late Medieval London and the topic might end up being something to do with religion so it’s not even likely to go unnoticed. At least I don’t have to wear the sackcloth anymore. But yeah, the point is it does impact real life and your worldy obligations, or just things you want to do (I tried to go to solemn Mass at the Oratory for St Philip Neri’s day and to a Women in Leadership Network event on the same night, it didn’t work out too well…).

If you’re dating a non-Catholic it adds some strain to the relationship on top of the already omnipresent “Do you really have to go to Mass?” on Sundays. Or, alternatively, try spending the holidays with my parents, who seem pretty deliberate in not keeping me accountable if I fall asleep without setting an alarm on time for the 5pm one. I know it’s my fault, but it helps when people try to help you. The good thing about this, though, is that solemnities on Fridays mean we can forgo the penance for a day, which makes it really special because it’s guilt free steak on a Friday and it really tastes better than having it on a Tuesday, I promise. Solemnities are those days which celebrate the most important mysteries of faith. A few important saints like St Peter and St Paul get their feast day to the status of a solemnity, and not all of them are days of obligation, but most are and going to Mass if you can is always good.

On a lower level of importance than solemnities are feasts. These are more common and still celebrate things related to Jesus, Mary or saints that are more important than those celebrated in memorials. If you are really geeky, Fr Edward McNamara LC has written a lengthy article on the topic for EWTN. It goes into a lot of details about the liturgy, which is a topic for another time.

In the picture is my own diary that I very craftily turned into a liturgical planner when I decided not to get the Blessed is She one because I don’t fill in a full day a page view planner, and I didn’t want to deprive a sister who does it of a beautiful planner just because I’m attracted to all.the.pretty.things. So I hope the one I changed my mind about is now in good hands. There are also a book by the amazing famous Fr Steven Wang and a CTS booklet from my Walsingham goodie bag. This retreat isn’t part of the liturgical year per se (as it falls around the August Bank Holiday rather than a religious festival), but to me it really defines my year, even more than the feast days of my favourite saints.

Still, what I love the most about all the saints celebrated by the Church is being surrounded by all these amazing and inspiring stories and then you have those you like more than others and you remember their feast day and it’s like celebrating a friend’s birthday and if you’re anything like me that’s an excuse for cake. And margaritas for Our Lady of Guadalupe. What’s best than having an excuse every year to have margaritas?

I also love the community aspect of it. Catholic means universal, and everyone in the Church around the world is walking the same journey and you have this thing in common with so many people and I think it’s great. There are saints from all over the world and most cultures (I’m not sure if literally every tribal culture has a saint but major ones do!). You learn a lot about things that are so different from your living experience and you learn it alongside others.
It’s like a big family with added margaritas. You can’t not love that.

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  1. I must agree with The Catholic Gentleman that we face risks everyday from many different things and instead of avoiding them completely we should practice temperance and enjoy them in moderation.

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