Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gentle Learning: Yearly Rhythm

"The rhythm of the liturgical seasons reflects the rhythm of life - with its celebrations of anniversaries and its seasons of quiet growth and maturing." (Catholic Culture)

One of the most enjoyable ways of teaching religion in a Catholic family is to focus on the liturgical year. This provides many natural learning opportunities, allows the building of family memories and traditions, and helps to develop a sense of the sacred within daily life. The liturgical year is at the heart of what I am thinking of as yearly rhythm, though I would also include:

  • A focus on the seasons, with seasonal crafts, books, foods and decorations.
  • Traditional and secular celebrations such as Mothering Sunday and Bonfire Night
  • Jewish festivals (important for us as a Catholic-Jewish family)
The liturgical year is built on a framework of liturgical seasons - Advent reflective and a preparation for the celebration of Christmas, Lent a time of repentance and self-denial before the long, joyful season of Easter (not just one day, but fifty). Ordinary Time in between is punctuated with its own feasts and seasons - saints' days, Feasts of the Lord and of His Mother, reminders of the Church, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the angels, the Communion of Saints. The list goes on and on, and this richness can become a problem for celebrations at home - it is possible to become bogged down in a long list of saints and seasons one would like to celebrate and end up either overloaded or giving up. This is not rhythm!

For the year to have rhythm it takes a realistic approach, not an overambitious one. I have fallen into the trap of swinging between overambition and neglect too many times, and I hope I have now learned my lesson. With beautiful timing - just as I was thinking about this - Meredith of Sweetness and Light wrote about keeping the company of the saints. She gives a list of resources for celebrating the saints, reminds us to start small (that's right ... small, not overambitious!) and lists a series of baby steps to keeping the company of the saints:
  1. Identify Saints to be celebrated for each week and find a reading about them.
  2. Locate a holy card or image, statue of Saint and a candle (or several candles)
  3. Designate a prayer table or area in your home for setting up your display
  4. Plan one activity to start: Mass, cake, tea, craft, special meal or truly, any combination of these, for the Saints, the skies the limit, but remember to start small.
  5. Plan to say a prayer or begin a Novena to the Saint (or Mary) to be celebrated.
These baby steps could be used with any number of children of any age, from toddlers up. In the past I have tended to be quite successful at developing family traditions for the "big" seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and, with slightly less success, Easter - maybe I have shot my bolt by the end of Lent?), but have fallen apart in between. Meredith's simple framework will be a great starting point for filling in the gaps.

More on the practical working out of a yearly rhythm to come later.

PS. Credit to Meredith for finding the quote at the beginning of this post.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

Beautiful Kathryn, thanking you for the credits and linking my post. I love yours :) Blessings and happy feasting!