Liturgical Living for Beginners


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



World Meeting of Families Diary: Day 2

Day two is the first full day of the congress. Before the talks began, we wandered around the exhibitors area to get a taste of what was there. There were big names I recognised such as Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic Match, Word on Fire, Priests for Life, and Retrouvaille, as well as religious orders and businesses I had not heard of, selling beautiful art, catechesis materials, DVDs, childrens toys, ornaments, t-shirts. The exhibitors hall is a really cornucopia of all things Catholic and I look forward to exploring it some more!

On my way out, I spotted the host of Ave Maria Radio’s Catholic Connection, Teresa Tomeo. I said hello to her but was so star struck I forgot to ask for a photo… Fortunately I bumped into her again later in the day and Teresa had a photo opportunity with her no. 1 Irish listener!

with Teresa Tomeo

Wednesday’s talks began with a key note address by Cardinal Robert Sarah, who spoke on The Light of the Family in a Dark World. He said the Christian family is called to testify that “love to the end is possible.”

“The world today needs saints with heroic witness to defend and nurture the family. By opening ourselves to God’s grace and his Holy Spirit living in us, our homes and families can allow goodness to enter the world.”

Following the key note, there were many break out sessions to choose from. We attended a session entitled Digging into Dignity: Promoting the Dignity of the Human Person by Prof. Teresa Stanton Collett. She described the challenging and inspiring ethic of human dignity and how it informs the entire spectrum of Catholic political engagement from support for measures to alleviate poverty and to provide decent housing, suitable education and health care, and opposition to abortion, euthanasia, torture, prostitution and human trafficking. She encourages Catholics to promote the dignity of the human person by writing letters to the editor and engaging in respectful dialogue to persuade others of the beauty and compelling attractiveness of the vision of man, the anthropology that underpins Catholic social teaching. She urged the audience not to succumb to the all too prevalent cynicism about politics and politicians.

After lunch, we attended the second key note of the day which was given by Prof. Helen Alvaré on the subject Creating the Future: The Fertility of Christian Love. She began by showing a short clip from the Humanum series from the Marriage, Culture and Civil Society film

Alvaré spoke about how movie-makers, song-writers and advertisers tap into our desire to be loved through the stories they tell, the songs they write and the way goods and services are marketed. She noted that one of the greatest punishments for man is that of solitary confinement. Yet, in contrast to this, a culture is being create where man is becoming increasingly isolated, living and working alone. She spoke of her generation as the ‘me’ generation, yet she rebelled against that. She learned from her mother and her grandmother the importance of self-sacrifice, the importance of putting others before herself and the importance of this in her own development as a person. It is in the family that one cultivates the habit of self-sacrifice- while waiting for someone in the bathroom or giving away a special possession. It is only after cultivating this sacrificial love in our families that we can be good samaritans and make a gift of ourselves to strangers.

The day ended with a second key note by Cardinal Peter Turkson. He gave a presentation on the holistic approach of Pope Francis in Laudato Si, linking the fundamental importance of protection of human ecology and protection of the earth’s ecology.

#WMOF2015 Catechesis: Love is Our Mission- The Meaning of Human Sexuality

World Meeting of Families 2015 logoThis month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of Human Sexuality


a) Why do Catholics enjoy and value the physical, tangible world so much? Think of anything beautiful, such as nature, bodies, food or art – why are these things so important in Catholic tradition?

Creation is a reflection of God’s glory. The catechesis reminds us that “the natural physical world bursts with spiritual goodness” and that the Catholic faith is a “physical” religion- the bible begins in a garden and ends in a feast.

A magnificent sunset, a delicate flower, a beautiful smile are all daily reminders of our maker. “In the sacraments, material things are consecrated and made visible signs of grace” (WMF catechesis). Water, bread, wine, the touch of hands are ways by which God’s presence becomes real.

b) What is the purpose of creation? Is the physical world a blank slate, which we’re free to rule and exploit to our own desires?

Creation is an overflowing of God’s love who made us to share in the eternal exchange of the divine love of the Trinity. We are stewards of creation. In performing our role, we practice the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

Due to original sin and concupiscence, we sometimes, like the bad stewards in the bible, exploit creation. Part of creation is the ecology of humanity itself. As part of God’s creation our bodies have innate dignity. “We do not always love as we ought, but God’s pattern of love protects us and calls us back to our true natures” (WMF Catechesis).

c)Things like rest, food, pleasure, and beauty are attractive. But sometimes we have deeply felt desires and appetites beyond what is good for us. How do we know when a desire is legitimate and good? How can we cherish and enjoy creation and our bodies in daily life?

 Media and marketing are permeated by “selfism”. The slogan, “because I’m worth it”, is a succinct summary of the attitude that pervades our “me” culture. This outlook can conflict with the Christian, who makes a sacrifice of himself to help and love his neighbour. Therefore it can be difficult to discern what is genuinely legitimate and good, when our culture is telling us the opposite, to “treat yourself” and that “you can have it all”.

Aristotle said that the best activities are the most useless.  In contrast, when it comes to our relationships, when we desire someone lustfully, we are looking at them in a utilitarian way. We use the person for our own gain, a means to an end, treating them as an object, rather than seeing them as person with dignity, deserving of reverence and respect.

We don’t know when a desire is legitimate and good. Because of our fallen nature, we justify our behaviour, and even make virtues of vices. We need to reject the selfish temptations that the culture proposes.

There is a joy and serenity in enjoying the things of this world without being consumed by them. We need to keep our gazes and hearts fixed on God. We receive grace through the sacraments and cultivate a personal relationship with God. Through knowing Him, we discern the ways of virtues and with His grace, we have the strength to follow His ways.

d) Why do you think Catholic practice traditionally includes feasting and fasting? Celibacy and marriage?

In Matthew’s gospel, a follower of John asks Jesus why the Pharisees fast, but Jesus’ disciples feast. Jesus replies that the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn while the bridegroom is with them, but that a time will come when he will be taken away from them and they will fast (Matthew 9:15-16). The Church, “in the course of the year… unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from his Incarnation and Nativity through his Ascension, to Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord” (CCC 1194). The celebration of the liturgical year requires fasting and feasting, as we remember Jesus’ life. It was, and still is for some Catholics, tradition to fast on Fridays, the day Jesus died, and all Catholics celebrate his resurrection on Sunday.

In celibacy and marriage, we can live out our God-given masculinity or femininity in generous, self-giving ways. “Both ways of living look to God’s covenant and receive the fact of being created as male and female as occasions of joy … The discipline we impose on our love… honors and reveals the true meaning of love, created in the image and likeness of God”(WMF Catechesis).

#WMOF2015: Love is our Mission- Created for Joy

World Meeting of Families 2015 logoThis month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 1: Created for Joy

World Meeting of Families 2015 Preparatory catechesis Love is Our Mission The Family Fully Alive Questions and Answers

a) What is it about Jesus that makes him trustworthy?

Jesus is trustworthy because he is the Son of God, who gave his life for us, for our salvation. In last Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-35), Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?”. Peter answered, “You are the Christ”. This is what we believe as Christians.

b) What things in your life distract you from Jesus? What would help you become more familiar or even intimate with him?

There are many things that distract me from Jesus! To-do lists, emails, social media, the internet and tiredness are my top five! I know I should spend more time reading Scripture, because it is by reading Scripture that one comes to know Christ. It can be overwhelming- Where do I start? Is there a good Catholic bible study to follow? Where will I find the time?

For now, I read the daily Mass readings at the earliest time possible, which is usually no later than my toddler’s midday naptime. Naptime is like gold dust, and sometimes it is hard to sit down with my Magnificat when I have a zillion things to do while the toddler sleeps, but I figure God is the maker of time so if I give mine to Him, he’ll look after the rest!

As a new(ish) mum, finding time to sit in silent adoration is a challenge, but something I hope to be able to return to. In the busyness of life as a mother, I could become more familiar with God by looking for Christ in everyone I encounter each day, from my husband, daughter and family, to the people I meet during my day- other mums, children, acquaintances and shop assistants, recognising their dignity as sons and daughters of the King, even if they don’t see it themselves as made in the image of God, and think they have no higher purpose.

c) What does it mean to be “created in the image of God”? Is it possible to understand human identity without God? Why? Why not?

Being created in the image of God sets us above the animals, and gives us dignity as children of God. I’ve heard a saying that goes, “God has no grandchildren”.  It means we are all his sons and daughters, no-one is greater than the other. He doesn’t have favourites. We are all called to have a relationship with God.

Saint John Paul II said,

Being a person in the image and likeness of God thus also involves existing in a relationship to the other ‘I’

We are created for relationship with others and with God. It is impossible to understand our human identity without God, because He created us for love, for this relationship. Without him, the key to our existence is missing.

d) “Love is our mission” is the theme of this catechesis. What does “love” mean in your life? How might a mission to love affect your choices, priorities and ambitions?

In my life, I think of the love I have for my husband, my daughter, my parents, my family, my friends and for God. I have come to realise that love is more than emotion.  It’s a decision, and one must make the decision to love every day. It isn’t always easy and it often requires sacrifice, or making a gift of yourself to the other person.  In our culture, many people are trying to find themselves. Yet, all too often, the quest for self-discovery ends in failure and frustration as people search in the wrong places. The answer lies in our own families and communities-

Man “cannot fully find himself except through sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et Spes 22)

A Snapshot of Ireland’s Changing Culture

A snapshot of Ireland's changing culture: same-sex marriage, euthanasia, abortion, gender Talking About FamilyWhat does the future hold for the island formerly known as the Isle of Saints and Scholars?

Last month saw Ireland become the first country in the world to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. 62% of voters supported a constitutional amendment  to introduce same-sex marriage. This was a wake-up call to many people, home and abroad, who still viewed Ireland as a Catholic country. There have been many factors that have contributed to this change in identity and culture in Ireland. The aim of this post, however, is not to examine why a supposedly Catholic country voted definitively in favour of same-sex marriage.

This post is a snapshot of Ireland’s changing culture. It outlines six other items in the news in the last month which didn’t gain as much attention as the marriage referendum, and may have even passed some people by. Yet, they point to a radical cultural shift which is transforming the island and impact the family.

FacebookCustomGenderSelector1 May: Irish Facebook users can choose from 71 gender identities on Facebook (The Irish Times)

Users can now choose up to 10 of the 71 terms to accurately describe their gender identity. Gender theory is the denial of biology and promotes the idea that gender that this is infinitely fluid and malleable.

21 May: The Ashers Bakery Ruling (The Belfast Telegraph)

In Northern Ireland, Ashers Bakery, owned by Christian couple Daniel and Amy McArthur, were asked to make a cake for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The customer (a volunteer member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space) wanted the cake have a picture of Bert and Ernie (the Sesame Street friends who have been hijacked by the gay community who portray them as a homosexual couple) and the words “Support Gay Marriage”. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Northern Ireland. As same-sex marriage is against their beliefs, the owners declined the order. On 21st May, a judge ruled that “this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification”. This is not direct discrimination, but now raises major concerns about religious freedom in Ireland.

marref results22 May: Marriage Referendum

Ireland voted in favour of amending the constitution to include “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.

24 May: “Dr Death” holds a euthanasia workshop in Dublin (The Independent and Newstalk)

Dr Philip Nitschke held a workshop in Dublin on “end of life options”. He is famously known in his native Australia as Dr Death, and claims to be the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, voluntary, lethal injection. He successfully campaigned to legalise euthanasia in Australia and helped four people die, before the ruling was overturned.

The following day, Dr Philip Nitschke was on national radio station, Newstalk, sharing his chilling ideas with Pat Kenny. The podcast of the interview is available online.

25 May: Labour party promise abortion referendum (Newstalk)

The Monday morning after Friday’s marriage referendum, Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin appeared on Newstalk and promised a referendum on the 8th amendment if Labour are elected in the next general election.

caitlyn2 June: Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlyn Jenner (The Irish Times)

The unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner to the world brought the issues affecting Irish transgender individuals to the news headlines

3 June: Gender recognition bill (The Irish Times)

The Gender Recognition Bill was first published in 2014. It came to my attention this week when the Bill was changed. Under the 2014 Bill, a person who changed gender would have to divorce their spouse, if married. The 2015 Bill has dropped the “forced divorce” clause. Furthermore, the Bill adopts a “self-declaration” approach to affirming gender identity, as individuals will no longer have to have a supporting statement from a psychiatrist or endocrinologist.

This short video paints a bigger picture of the question of gender identity and the issues surrounding it in Ireland.

7QTs: Surviving My First Year of Motherhood

7qts surviving my first year of motherhood talking about family blogWhile my baby will always be my baby, she will turn one and officially become a toddler tomorrow. Where does the time go? Here are seven quick takes on a few things that have helped get me through this first year as a new mum!

  1. Spiritual Life

Since I became pregnant, I turn to Mother Mary a lot more. She’s my role model in a whole new way.  When my little one was born, taking her to Mass seemed like a big deal. It was huge. And stressful! But, we’ve never had a huge drama and have only had to leave the pew a few times! Deo Gratias! Phew!

  1. Post-natal Pilates

After pregnancy and giving birth, I wondered if my body would ever be the same. Thanks to post-natal Pilates, my body feels a lot stronger. I would definitely recommend it to any new mum!

  1. Couch 2 5k

NHS Choices Couch to 5k

My couck 2 5k programme

Baby weight falls off some women. Not me. I had to work. Very hard. I decided to do a couch 2 5k programme, because it’s easy to get up and out, and I could do it with baby. I bought a second hand jogger buggy, so I wouldn’t have to wait until my husband came home, and wouldn’t be able to use ‘it’s dark/ cold/ wet’ as an excuse. It’s worked really well and I am hoping to do my first race this summer!

  1. Not stressing

As a FTM (first time mom), there is a lot to learn, and a lot to worry about. In addition, people like to chime in with their opinions and unsolicited advice, often conflicting the books / the professionals / the internet / each other. It can be so confusing! I am learning to not worry about things to the nth degree, and am learning to trust myself!

  1. Meal planning and batch cooking

Even having a huge bowl of salad or prepared veggies in the fridge is a big help!

Even having a huge bowl of salad or prepared veggies in the fridge is a big help!

Motherhood has made me be more organised. Time is a luxury! I am learning to meal plan and have started experimenting with batch cooking. It’s definitely the way forward!

  1. Cheating

Take shortcuts! For example, if time is of the essence at meal time, don’t worry about cooking something fresh or defrosting something pronto. Use store-bought baby food. It’s not the end of the world!

  1. Groups

It took me a while to get connected to some local toddler groups. Some mums swear by them, and go to a group every day of the week. I am not one of those mums, but I do know which group is on which day, and that I can drop in whenever I like.  That works for us.

I could have made a longer, better thought-out list, but these are my quick takes! Do you have any tips for new mums? What would be top of your list?

Thanks to Kelly for hosting 7QTs! For more quick takes, hop on over to This Aint the Lyceum!

My First Mother’s Day

Umbert the Unborn Pro-life cartoon
Umbert the Unborn

This time last year I was 8 months pregnant. My husband bought me flowers and a mother’s day card thanking me for, among other things, the excellent womb service I was providing to our baby (see Umbert the Unborn for an explanation)!

I remember initially feeling a bit odd about receiving the gift and card. I didn’t have a baby in my arms and the world referred to me as a mum-to-be, but I was in fact already a mother.

When does motherhood begin? When the baby is in mama’s arms? At the start of active labour (as some insurance companies state)? At the first kick? At conception? When the mother decides?

Saint John Paul talks about motherhood in the period between conception and birth.

Mary’s words at the Annunciation – Let it be to me according to your word – signify the woman’s readiness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life. (MD 18)

From the beginning, motherhood is linked in a very real way to the sincere gift of self. From the self-gift of avoiding contraception and being open to life, to all the little ‘gifts of self’ a mother makes before her child enters the world; taking prenatal vitamins and having a healthy diet to ensure baby is getting the nutrients she needs (oh the amount of oily fish I ate!), staying fit by going for a walk instead of lying on the sofa, the physical discomforts, which I won’t even begin to describe…

Western culture has little respect for the child in the womb. If I was a mum-to-be, then what was growing in my womb? A person-to-be? No. The little person in my womb was created in collaboration with God. I had said “yes” to life. A baby was growing and a soul had formed that would last for eternity. There’s nothing ‘to-be’ about that! So, while this may be my first mother’s day with a baby in my arms, I’m going to count it as my second!