On Wednesday, I traveled to Colorado to speak at the monthly meeting of Silver Springs Legatus. Wonderful people, wonderful food, great conversation, and a really neat town. And I didn’t go home empty-handed!
First, the lovely Anna Keating presented me with a copy of the new book she wrote with her mother, Melissa Musick: The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life (Image, 2016).
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The two run the popular website TheCatholicCatalogue.com, and their new book gives Catholics a whole year’s full of suggestions for how to incorporate Catholic traditions and practices into your daily life.
There’s a whole generation of young Catholics who think they’ve been baptized into endless culture wars. We’re not denying the reality of issues that must be confronted and debated and struggled with or against, but we want to call them, and ourselves, back to the foundation of our faith, which is neither a political theory nor an ethic, but a daily life of prayer and work, fasting and feasting, of going out to encounter Jesus. Before we ever began fighting—and, granted, that began early—Christians were setting tables and welcoming guests, caring for the sick, burying the dead, receiving Eucharist, marking the hours of dawn and dusk, keeping prayerful watch through the night, honoring and remembering martyrs, just as we continue so to do 2,000 years later.
One reviewer describes the structure of the book well:
The book is divided into three main sections: Smells and Bells, Seasons of the Church Year, and Seasons of Life.
The first main section, Smells and Bells, deals with the things Catholics keep, wear, or use. This includes relics, holy water, vestments, scapulars, candles, and even daily prayer.
The second main section, Seasons of the Church Year, is subdivided according to the liturgical year. The subsections are Ordinary Time, Advent, Christmas, Winter Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Summer Ordinary Time, and Autumn Ordinary Time. Each of these subsections has between three to nine chapters on various topics. Some of these topics include the Liturgy of the Hours, feast days, and various traditions.
The third main section is Seasons of Life. The subsections are Childhood to Adolescence, Young Adulthood, and Adulthood. These are the sections that deal with the sacraments. There are also chapters about spiritual direction, pilgrimages, and vocations.
The tone is lively and encouraging, without making the reader feel panicked or guilty about not following every suggestion. It includes prayers, stories, and tidbits from history, and gives simple directions for how to enrich our lives with crafts, celebrations, rituals, song, and food. The Catholic Catalogue is less of a regimented meal plan and more of a smorgasbord: “Just look at the feast before us!” is the message. The book would make a lovely wedding gift for any Catholic couple.
I was also presented (and I apologize for not catching the name of the woman who gave it to me!) with a lovely steel cross, just the right size to hold in the palm of my hand. It’s etched with “JESUS” on one side and says “P – T – J – F” etched on the other side, for the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.
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The accompanying laminated card explains each virtue in a few lines, and the card and cross fit neatly into a linen drawstring pouch. It would fit into a pocket, a wallet, a pencil box, or a dashboard compartment. (The cross does not seem to be available for sale online yet, but I will post about it when it is. The company is Thomas Peters Designs in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)
A simple thing, but what if it went with you everywhere you go? So often, I begin the day with all the best intentions. I make a morning offering, and it’s all going great . . . and then the first time I’m challenged, it all goes out the window. Half the time, I don’t even realize I blew it until much later.
The steel cross and the book both have the same goal: to imbue our daily lives with reminders of what makes our life meaningful. Ideally, it should be hard to tell where our religious practices begin and our everyday life ends. One way to encourage more seamless incorporation of faithful practices in our lives is to surround ourselves with reminders of who we are and what we believe, every day and every place we find ourselves.
I’m working on filling the house, and even the car, with more religious items: little crucifixes, icons, statues I find at yard sales. I used to be terribly fussy, and would only deign to use the most tasteful and striking visual reminders of our faith. But now I’m casting a wide net. My goal is to make it hard to go anywhere or do anything and forget that I’m Catholic! I need all the help I can get.