Unhappy Halloween

I love autumn! This time last year, I spent a few weeks in America. Oh wow! The leaves, the pumpkin patches, the fall décor, the pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins, pretty porches…  America knows how to do autumn! It was beautiful.

We miss out on a lot of that in Ireland, and go straight to Halloween. In the ‘old days’, as kids, we’d throw on bedsheets, and go down to the neighbours’ trick or treating, expecting a few modest treats, and without the slightest thought of a trick.

Today, things have changed, and it’s not just because now I’m a mother, or someone who doesn’t watch films rated more than a 12. Halloween is no longer fun, it’s scary. Treats are bigger. So are tricks. Halloween has become humongous, super-commercial, sexier and scarier. More frightening than fun. Shops have gruesome Halloween displays in their windows, supermarket aisles are littered with broomsticks and blood. At the end of a recent shopping trip, I found myself waiting in line behind the cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. OK, obviously not Hannibal Lecter, but a young boy (perhaps 8 or 9?) with a Hannibal Lecter mask on. Speechless.

Reflecting on the Halloween madness, I didn’t know how to approach it with my daughter until today, when I read a friend’s social media update. It went something like this: “Can’t wait for Halloween to be over, roll on 1st November”. A little bell went off in my head. November 1st… All Saints Day… followed by All Souls day. But that’s what it’s really about!

So, while I don’t have an answer to the Halloween problem, I’m going to start by telling my little girl stories of the saints (so many amazing stories!), lighting candles, and praying for our family and friends who have passed away, during November. We’ll enjoy the season and do autumn crafts and saint crafts, collect leaves and conkers, and maybe even toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Hopefully, with God’s grace, we’ll keep the ghouls and zombies at bay and maybe, in a few years, she’ll  dress up as one of her role-models, or maybe even her favourite saint…

 

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Choosing a Patron Saint for 2016

One of the many things I love about the Catholic Church is the Communion of Saints. Sometimes,  I see life as a big soccer game, perhaps a World Cup final, with the Saints jumping out of their seats in the stadium, cheering on us mere mortals on the pitch. The saints are our role models, our examples of holiness, our intercessors before God. We ask them to pray for us, as one would ask a friend to pray for them, rather than praying to them (a common misconception).

communion of saints

There are so many amazing canonised saints (and many more uncanonised ones that we don’t know about). I have a few favourites -hi St. Therese, St Bernadette and St Elizabeth of Hungary! Last year, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and get to know a new saint. I had the idea to ‘adopt’ a patron saint for 2015. It is a great way to learn about the saint, and let the saint teach you a thing or two also, through learning about their own life, their spirituality and prayer.

How to Choose your Patron Saint

Pray about it. Listen. Is there a saint calling you? Is there a saint you’ve always been curious about and wanted to know more about? You could choose the patron saint linked to your occupation, location, hobby, or something you are struggling with physically, mentally or spiritually. There is a patron saint for nearly everything!

Alternatively, if you like surprises, check out Jennifer Fulweiler’s Saint Name Generator!

Your Year with your Patron Saint

Here are a few ideas of what

  1. Pray for your patron saint’s intercession daily. Saint Anthony – pray for us!
  2. Does your saint have a special prayer? Pray that daily too! Get a prayer card or print one off and put it somewhere you will see it
  3. Find out when your saint’s feast day is mark it on your calendar- plan to do something special that day, like go to Mass!
  4. Pray your patron saint’s novena
  5. Read up on your patron saint
  6. If possible, make a pilgrimage- it doesn’t have to be a big one! Maybe a local shrine, or even a church
  7. Put a statue or picture of your patron saint up in your home- you don’t have to go out and buy one, again you could just print one off the internet and put it in a nice frame

Have you ever adopted a patron saint for the year? Who did you, or would you like to adopt? What did you  you do during the year? I would love to hear from you!

 

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions.jpg

Three years ago, my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple. We shared each other’s Christmas traditions; going to a carol concert, going on “Crib Crawl” visiting the cribs in the 7 Churches in town, making Christmas cards, praying the Hail and Blesseds and making mulled wine.

This Christmas, our daughter is much more aware and excited about what is happening. We open the Advent calendar every morning, she looks at the crib figures, and reads Christmas board books. She is especially interested in the animals!

Recently, at play group, she had her first encounter with Santa Claus. She looked very unsure initially, and carried on playing for the rest of the morning, ensuring she kept at least 10 meters away from the man-in-red. As I observed the goings on, I chatted to another mother.

“Have you taken her to see Santa yet?”, the mother asked.

“Erm, no”, I replied. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about a visit to Santa.

“Well, now’s a great opportunity for her to have her photo taken with Santa”, the mother assured me. I must have looked unsure about it because she continued, “she has to have her photo taken with Santa”.

Really? Does she?

Maybe in a few years, we’ll see, but right now, I think she would rather push the toy pram around the play group and nibble on a rice cake. Right now, sitting on the lap of the man in the red suit would be her idea of toddler hell, and you could forget the photo!

But it made me think- it would be nice to have a Christmas photo tradition to look back on as the years go by. So, this year, we’ll begin a new tradition- a photo at the Crib. Santa can wait!

 

 

 

7 ways to prepare for Christmas simply

A simple Advent7 ideas

Christmas glitter and sparkle has been in our shops now for months. In the last few weeks, the Christmas songs have been turned up and people began wishing each other “Happy Christmas” on 1st December!

But wait!

Advent is a time for waiting, during which we prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ, our Saviour. I find it easy to be swept away by not only the consumer culture, and the idea of a Pinterest-perfect Christmas, but also by preparations; I want to have an Advent wreath, make Advent and Christmas decorations, celebrate the feast days, make my own Jesse tree… I am just realising that these things, celebrations and traditions are built over years rather than in a single Advent.

So, this year, I am living Advent simply. Here are 7 simple ideas (that don’t include glitter, baking or glue!) to help make the most of Advent;

  1. Prayer and reflection
    • Do you have a regular prayer time? Maybe now is the time to start
    • Do you do an advent reflection? This year, I signed up for Matthew Kelly’s Best Advent Ever. Its been very good so far- I recommend it!
    • Read a book. My reading list includes
      • Joy to the World by Scott Hahn
      • A Feast for Advent by Delia Smith
      • Advent and Christmas with the Saints compiled by Anthony F. Chiffolo
  2. Give up something
    • Simple as that. And offer it up! This year I am giving up coffee
  3. Prepare your home
    • Resist the temptation to put the decorations up straight away. See how long you can hold out- I am aiming for Gaudaute Sunday (aka pink candle Sunday or the Third Sunday of Advent!)
    • In the meantime, how about a “Advent clean”? Make a list and tick one thing off every day. Tidy the spare room, wash the skirting boards, and do those jobs that you put on the long finger!
  4. Donate to charity
    • While doing your “Advent clean”, its a great opportunity to declutter and donate to charity. Set yourself a target of things to throw out or give away, like one bag or 10 things a day.
    • Be ruthless- are there things you can give out that would make nice gifts? Do you have a cosy wooly jumper you no longer wear and could keep someone else warm?
  5. Get Christmas shopping done early
    • I did most of my Christmas shopping by 1st December. That way, I have more time for Advent reading and reflection
  6. Hold off on the Christmas music
    • I love Christmas carols and music. In Ireland, we have a station called Christmas FM, which my car radio is permanently tuned to during December. This year, however, I am making a concerted, although not grinch-ish, effort to avoid Christmas music until Christmas.
    • I recently listened to Haley and Christy of the Fountains of Carrots podcast discuss Advent music and the Advent playlists- a great idea
  7. Be Christ to others
    • It’s what we are called to do as Christians! With a to-do list as long as your arm, and the increasing hustle and bustle in town, take time to help someone in need, visit someone who is sick, in a home, or housebound, or simply give the gift of a smile to a passing stranger.

What are you doing this Advent? Do you feel overwhelmed by Christmas preparations? I would love to hear your ideas and comments 🙂

This post is part of the 7 quick takes link up at This Aint The Lyceum. Thank you to Kelly for hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liturgical Living for Beginners

LiturgicalLiving

Liturgical living. Its something I have been thinking about starting for a while, but I have never quite known where to start. As I pause to ponder liturgical living in our small family, I realise its something we have already begun; the Advent wreath on the kitchen table, lit every night, shoes outside the bedroom door on the 6th December for the feast of St Nicholas, pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, celebrating name days… These are things that we learned from our parents. They may not have called it liturgical living- these things were simply family traditions.

Today, Christianity is counter-cultural. Against the backdrop of today’s post-Christian culture, liturgical living is an important witness to our children, families and community.

This weekend, a new liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. I plan to begin anew, being intentional about liturgical living. While websites, blog posts and Pinterest boards are full of inspiring ideas, they can be a little overwhelming to a newbie like me. Here are 7 simple ideas for liturgical living for beginners, to get the liturgical living ball rolling!

  1. Mark your feast days on your calendar
    • Here in Ireland, the Dominicans produce a fantastic free calandar, with all feast days etc. printed on. Pick a calander up from your parish, and hang it where you will look at it every day!
    • Use the Universalis app, or add Universalis to you Google Calander (that’s what I did, its easy! Click the link at the bottom of the page)
  2. Choose a few feast days to celebrate each month
    • We began with our own name days, and pick a few of our favourite saints too. I also wish a happy name day to friends and family members, and use the occasion to send them a text, email or card.
    • Do you have a family patron saint? What about your parish patron saint? Celebrate them too!
    • Choose a novena to pray every month or so. Pray More Novenas offer a great, free, service, delivering the novena prayer to your inbox every day.
  3. Create an altar, or prayer focus
    • Don’t put it off, waiting to create the perfect space. Rather than wait, I put a statue of Mary, a few candles. a picture of St Therese and the bible on our mantelpiece- its a perfect prayer focus, and focal point for the room.
  4. Keep holy the Sabbath Day
    • Growing up, shops were closed on Sunday, there was no vigil Mass in my parish and Sunday was a day for worship, Sunday lunch, family outings and activities together. After I left home, things began to slip and, until recently, Sunday was a day for chores, shopping and finishing off work. We recently re-evaluated how we spend out Sundays, and have decided to be more intentional; to make Mass the focal point of the day, to cook something special, to avoid chores and shopping and to spend time together as a family.
  5. Pinterest
    • I already mentioned how Pinterest can be overwhelming! Don’t be put off! Start your own Pinterest boards for each month (I find searching by month narrows the search, making it less overwhelming and more relevant!)
    • Pick a few recipes, craft activities or colouring pages to do each month
  6. Don’t just go to Mass on Sunday…
    • How about making a regular weekday Mass, on your own or as a family? First Friday, Saturday morning, or a weekday Mass? Perhaps your parish has a weekday evening Mass you could attend together.
    • Pick a Saturday of the month e.g. 1st Saturday, to go to confession together. Mark it on your calendar- create an event if you have to! Celebrate your absolution by going for hot chocolate together afterwards!
    • Make sure you observe Holy Days of Obligation. There are slight variations depending which country you live in. In Ireland, there are 6 Holy Days of Obligation:
      • Immaculate Conception (8th December)
      • Christmas Day (25th December)
      • Epiphany (6th January )
      • St Patrick (17th March)
      • Assumption of Our Lady (15th August)
      • All Saints (1st November)
  7. Books
    • Read a book related to the liturgical season. As I write, we are coming to the end of November, and I have been reading Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI, and learning about some amazing female saints. Hopefully I will be able to share some of this stories with my daughter when she is older
    • Read the autobiography or biography of a saint who has an upcoming feast day
    • Buy a book for Advent or Lent. Magnificat Magazine publish excellent Advent and Lent companions
    • Don’t keep your bible tucked away! Leave it somewhere you see it, so you will pick it up more often

What tips do you have for liturgical living? I would love to hear your ideas and inspiration!

Thank you Kelly for hosting 7 Quick Takes! Head on over to This Aint the Lyceum for more quick takes