Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Traditions and Church Celebrations

{"Church Year" painting by Lucia Wiley}

Lately I’ve been pondering the place of traditions and memories in the life of a family. I noticed that my fondest childhood memories involve some sort of habit or custom: Every June we went to the town’s fair...Every Thanksgiving morning we gathered for a football game in the snow...Every spring we washed the fence. Those predictable rhythms of the year gave my siblings and me reasons to anticipate things to come, and they built a spirit of camaraderie among us.

All humans love traditions, but especially children love traditions. The goal of the liturgical home is to capitalize on this in order to bring the life of the family into the rhythm of the life of the church. Over time, the rise and fall of everyday family life subtly syncs itself with the rise and fall of the major and minor feasts of the church year.

For example, I’ve heard of the idea of woodworking on St. Joseph's day. I imagine that many children would anticipate participating in a family’s annual woodworking project. There wouldn’t necessarily need to be a long lesson about St. Joseph during the project. Instead, year after year, the rhythm of the church year would pound itself into the heart of a child. One day, a guest comes to the house and notices the bookshelf. A child pipes up, “Oh, we made that last year for St. Joseph's Day. This year we might build a bench for the hallway.”

Season after season, the life of the family is immersed in the life of Christ, and the members of the family become true imitators of Christ. Because of this, one of the ways that our children mature in Christ occurs beyond their consciousness. Jesus quietly slips into their hearts over the course of the relentless repetition of the liturgical year. As Joan Chittiser writes, “The liturgical year is the process of slow, sure immersion in the life of Christ that, in the end, claims us, too, as heralds of that life ourselves.”

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