Monday, November 20, 2017

Catholic Indulgences: what they are, when they are, and why you should care (as of the 1999 Manual of Indulgences revision of the Enchiridion of Indulgences)

Indulgences! So much opportunity, so much confusion and misinformation. And that's just among Catholics. It's really difficult to even find any information at all online about the most recent version of the Manual of Indulgences, a 1999 revision that replaced the 1968 version. So I'm about to lay it all on you: What indulgences are and what they are not, and a complete list of how and when and where to obtain all currently available indulgences. (If you find any errors, please let me know. I'll be happy to fix them.)



Part of the collateral damage of the long ago Protestant revolt and, more recently, all of the upheaval following the liturgical reforms after Vatican II is that many Catholics have largely forgotten about indulgences. Which is a huge bummer for us, because indulgences are a beautiful, charitable, and efficacious practice for kids and grownups alike. If you don't know what indulgences are at all, or if you've only heard negative things about them, you might want to take a look at the always excellent and thorough explanations given by Catholic Answers.

Primer on Indulgences

and

Myths about Indulgences

The tl;dr is that indulgences are good and just, and that the bad press they've received is due to misunderstandings or to abuses. Oh, and, if you're Catholic, you believe in them.
Indulgences are part of the Church’s infallible teaching. This means that no Catholic is at liberty to disbelieve in them. The Council of Trent stated that it "condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them"(Trent, session 25, Decree on Indulgences). Trent’s anathema places indulgences in the realm of infallibly defined teaching. (Catholic Answers)
Indulgences aren't a money grab by villainous medieval bishops, and they aren't a get out of hell free card. What they are is the way the Church can exempt a member of the faithful from the temporal punishment due to their sins, after that person has already been forgiven of the eternal consequences of sin through confession, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Say Johnny's playing baseball in the living room and breaks a vase. He might muster his courage and confess, and he might have true sorrow and contrition, and you might forgive him. You're not going to kick him out of the house (eternal consequence). But that doesn't unbreak the vase. The broken vase is the temporal consequence of vase-breaking. It must be replaced. The Bible teaches us that there are always both eternal and temporal consequences of sin.

So you might set up a payment plan for Johnny, and allow him to do extra chores and earn money to put away towards buying a replacement vase, as the temporal consequence. But then, maybe all the other kids in the neighborhood pool their savings and go in together to buy a new vase. Indulgences are like that. Our prayers and sacrifices and good works all go in together with the prayers and sacrifices and good works of Christ and the saints who have gone before us and can be applied by the Church where the Church chooses. Binding and loosing and all that.


But, just as importantly, indulgences should be seen as the way that the Catholic Church instructs the faithful on which prayers, practices, and devotions will be most beneficial to our souls.
An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. (CCC 1478)

The Bible and Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are the rule books/guide books. They cover in great detail all the dos and don'ts and the whys and why nots of our faith. The Manual of Indulgences is more like a playbook. It's specific things to do on specific days or in specific circumstances. While the prayers and practices recommended ALSO have indulgences attached to them that can be applied to ourselves or to the holy souls in purgatory, the fact of their being included in the manual shows that these are the prayers and practices that the Catholic Church believes will be the most beneficial to us.

Every one is a twofer.

We are gaining a reward: Hey, free vase! But at the same time we are growing in wisdom and prudence and, I don't know, reflexes, so we're less likely to break any more vases. And then our future savings can be applied to other kids in the neighborhood who break vases. I feel like this metaphor might be getting away from me.

Back to basics . . . The following are the indulgences available to Catholics as of the 1999 Manual of Indulgences. The suggested prayers are required to be an approved version/translation. For an expanded list of indulgences, and more details about conditions and specific actions required, and the full text of prayers, consult the book or ebook or the google books version.

The Usual Conditions for Indulgences

  • Indulgences can be plenary (full) or partial, and so remove either all or part of the temporal punishment due to sins.
  • Indulgences can be gained for yourself, or applied to the holy souls in purgatory, but not to another living person.
  • To gain an indulgence, you must be a baptized Catholic, not excommunicated, and not in a state of mortal sin at the time of the actions taken for the indulgence.
  • You must have the intention of gaining the indulgence, and perform the required actions in the required amount of time and in a devout manner.
  • You can gain many partial indulgences, but only one plenary indulgence per day, except that you can gain a second plenary indulgence at the point of death.
  • If the indulgence requires visiting a church or oratory, you should devoutly recite the Our Father and the Creed during the visit.
  • To gain a plenary indulgence you must be free from all attachment from sin, even venial sin.
  • You must perform the required actions, receive Holy Communion, make a sacramental confession, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
  • It is preferred that you receive communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father on the same day that you perform the actions, but within several days before or after is acceptable. These must be performed for each indulgence sought.
  • Confession should be made within three weeks before or after the actions for the indulgence. One confession can apply to many indulgences.
  • The usual prayers offered for the intentions of the Holy Father are one Our Father and one Hail Mary.
  • If all the conditions are not met, the indulgence becomes partial, rather than plenary.
  • Things that we are obliged to do, like Mass attendance, are understood to confer graces and are not enhanced with indulgences.

Plenary Indulgences 

  • Spend thirty minutes or more in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Participate in the Stations of the Cross, using fourteen stations, marked by at least crosses, progressing from one to the next.
  • Recite the five decades of the Rosary in a church, religious community, or family, or while listening live to the Holy Father's Rosary.
  • Read or listen to Sacred Scripture for at least thirty minutes, preference is given to reading.
  • Make a three day retreat.
  • At the point of death, pray, ideally before a crucifix or cross (requires that you have been in the habit of praying during your life).
  • Participate in a parish mission and its conclusion.
  • Attend a ceremony in honor of a new saint during the first year after canonization (available once).
  • For priests, and those in attendance, a priest's first Mass, and the jubilee celebrations for priests and bishops renewing their vocational promises.
  • Visit the church during a diocesan synod.
  • Assist during a pastoral visit.
  • Make a pilgrimage to one of the four Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome.

Plenary Indulgences Associated with Particular Feast Days

  • Visit a basilica, cathedral, parish church, or approved shrine on its titular feast day.
  • Receive the Papal Urbi et Orbi blessing (usually given on Christmas and Easter) in person, on the radio, on TV, or online.
  • Recite the Te Deum on December 31st in thanksgiving for the year.
  • Recite the Veni Creator on January 1st as a prayer for the beginning of the year, and/or on Pentecost.
  • Participate in special celebrations for days universally designated for particular intentions (like Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1st, or Day of Prayer for Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter).
  • Participate in the services of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: January 18-25.
  • Recite the Look Down Upon Me, Good and Gentle Jesus before a crucifix, after communion, on a Friday during Lent.
  • Recite the Tantum Ergo on Holy Thursday before the Altar of Repose.
  • Adore the cross on Good Friday.
  • Renew your baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and/or on the anniversary of your baptism.
  • Take part in special services held on Divine Mercy Sunday, or, before the Blessed Sacrament on that day, pray the usual prayers and "Merciful Jesus, I trust in you."
  • Participate in a Eucharistic Procession on Corpus Christi.
  • Recite the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Feast of the Sacred Heart  in a church, religious community, or family.
  • Use an article Blessed by the Holy Father or any bishop on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • Visit a basilica or cathedral on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • The Portiuncula Indulgence of St. Francis of Assisi: with a contrite heart, visit any church on August 2nd (or the first Sunday of August if the church isn't open every day).
  • Pray for the dead in a cemetery November 1-8 (applicable only to the souls in purgatory).
  • Pray for the dead in a church on All Souls' Day (applicable only to the souls in purgatory).
  • Recite the Act of Dedication to Christ the King on the Feast of Christ the King in a church, religious community, or family.
Free Printable! Click on the photo to open it in a new window, then right click to save it to your computer. If you've got the Catholic All Year Liturgical Wall Calendar (or any other calendar, of course!) just print this out and tape it to the back cover, so you'll know about upcoming indulgence opportunities.

Partial Indulgences

  • Use a properly blessed crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular, or medal.
  • Use pious invocations throughout the day, mentally or out loud (i.e. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," "Heart of Jesus, I trust in you," "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.")
  • Pray to the merciful heart of Jesus.
  • Perform charitable works or charitable giving.
  • Make a voluntary Christian witness to others.
  • Teach or study Christian doctrine.
  • Visit the Blessed Sacrament for any amount of time.
  • Recite a Rosary alone, or recite a partial Rosary. 
  • Make an Examination of Conscience.
  • Attend a monthly recollection.
  • Spend time in mental prayer.
  • Listen to preaching of the Word of God.
  • Visit a cemetery and pray for the dead any time of year.
  • Visit the catacombs.
  • Make the sign of the cross using the customary words.
  • Renew your baptismal vows at any time.

Partially Indulged Prayers

Click on the link for the text of the prayer.
So, there you go: everything you never knew you wanted to know about indulgences. Over the past few years, we've been slowly incorporating them more and more into our family's liturgical living traditions. My big takeaways in learning what I've learned so far about indulgences are . . .
  1. Attempting to obtain indulgences is like following a Vatican-approved training program for strengthening your faith, while at the same time getting the amazing free bonus of time out of purgatory. 
  2. Obtaining indulgences for the poor souls in purgatory is probably the single most charitable thing you could possibly do in your lifetime.
  3. If your goal is quantity: daily Mass, monthly confession, and a daily family Rosary including prayers for the Holy Father will get you a plenary indulgence (or at least a partial one, depending on the attachment to sin angle) every day of the year, in about an hour a day.
  4. If you are looking for a Whole Catholic Living approach: incorporating any or many of the yearly indulgences into your family's annual traditions is a beautiful way to share in the deep history and universality of our Catholic faith.
Speaking of Whole Catholic Living . . .


My liturgical year wall calendar features the available yearly plenary indulgences right in there, and all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home.


As the Church year begins with December, so does the calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here.

The publisher offers coupon codes, check for the most recent one here.

Or it's available as a pdf download here.

I'm also participating, this week only, in the first ever CATHOLIC Mom Bundle. It's twelve great digital products, focused specifically on Catholic motherhood and family life. It includes some really great products for Advent for the whole family, including beautiful O Antiphon artwork, and fun Advent calendars and activities for kids. It's also got homeschooling, self-care, and prayer life resources.

My contribution is monthly devotion images, formatted as high resolution 9:16 smart phone lock screen wall papers, and paired with coordinating home screen images. If my phone is going to be the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep, it might as well direct my thoughts to God and the monthly devotions recommeded to us by the Catholic Church!




The images are also high resolution enough to be cropped and printed as 5x7, 10x13, or 12x18 prints.

The bundle is almost a $200 value, priced at only $19, and available only through Sunday, November 26th.

Since I receive a commission if you purchase the bundle through my affliate link, as a thank you, you'll get a bonus of printable pdf Catholic Valentines or Advent printables! The Valentine choices are Love Like the Saints, Catholic Hearts, and Saint and Bible Quotes. You can see them and the Advent jpg images in this post. Just email me at catholicallyear@gmail.com with your purchase confirmation number or a screen shot that shows your purchase and let me know which bonus you'd like.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Stuff I've Been Meaning to Tell You: including calendar explanations and errata, crazy plans, and other fun announcements

First off, I have to say how excited I am that anyone other than me wanted this calendar. I just can't believe how many of you have purchased it and are looking forward to starting off the new Catholic year on December 3rd and observing the feasts and the fasts. And we'll be doing it TOGETHER. Yay!

You guys have had some questions, and I've made a few revisions, so I want to explain all of it. And if you make it through this, I've got some other fun announcements (Not pregnant. I should probably say that up here. Not. Pregnant.) and opportunities that I've been working on for you!

But first, in case you don't know what I'm talking about . . . on a bit of a whim, I created a liturgical year wall calendar.


It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.



As the Church year begins with December, so does the calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. If you'd like to play along at home on this liturgical year thing, it's available for purchase here. Thanks!

Check for coupon codes from the publisher here.

Also available as a pdf download here.

Now, to address your questions.

1. What are the Ember Days, Rogation Days, and Vigil Fasts marked on the calendar?

I wrote a post on Ember Days last week, and just updated it to include information about Rogation Days and Vigil Fasts as well.

ROGATION AND EMBER DAYS AND VIGILS: IN CASE YOU WERE STARTING TO THINK YOU HAD THIS LITURGICAL LIVING THING DOWN

2. What is the Catholic All Year Compendium and where can I find it?

The Catholic All Year Compendium is the liturgical living in the home book that I've been working on, lo these many months. It's got the stories behind the feast days, plus ideas for celebrating them that have made the liturgical year fun, educational, and inspirational in our home. I've marked with a little symbol all the feasts that I cover in the book, in case it becomes available before the liturgical year is over. However, it's still in the editing process, and is being published by a respectable publisher (Ignatius Press) and these things take time. I don't have a planned release date yet, but as soon as I do, I'll let you all know.

In the mean time, there are lots of ideas for celebrating various feast days on the blog, and I post about many of them with quick back stories and celebration ideas on the Catholic All Year Facebook page.

3. What's the deal with indulgences. Are those still a thing?

Yes. Yes, they are. They are a very cool thing. And I have a whole post on them, that will, hopefully, answer ALL your questions on them that should be up on Monday. So stay tuned for that.

I marked on the calendar the indulgences associated with particular feast days. I wanted to have a quick reference to see what they are, but there wasn't an option to add an information page to the calendar. So, I made this printable. I plan to print it out and tape it upside down to the back cover of the calendar, so that anytime I see the little indulgence symbol on an upcoming feast day, I can just flip up the back cover and figure out what we're supposed to do.

Free printable! Just click on the image to open it full-sized, then right click to save it to your computer.
These are the plenary indulgences associated with particular feast days, that are marked on the calendar:
  • Visit a basilica, cathedral, parish church, or approved shrine on its titular feast day.
  • Receive the Papal Urbi et Orbi blessing (usually given on Christmas and Easter) in person, on the radio, on TV, or online.
  • Recite the Te Deum on December 31st in thanksgiving for the year.
  • Recite the Veni Creator on January 1st as a prayer for the beginning of the year, and/or on Pentecost.
  • Participate in special celebrations for days universally designated for particular intentions (like Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1st, or Day of Prayer for Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter).
  • Participate in the services of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: January 18-25.
  • Recite the Look Down Upon Me, Good and Gentle Jesus before a crucifix, after communion, on a Friday during Lent.
  • Recite the Tantum Ergo on Holy Thursday before the Altar of Repose.
  • Adore the cross on Good Friday.
  • Renew your baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and/or on the anniversary of your baptism.
  • Take part in special services held on Divine Mercy Sunday, or, before the Blessed Sacrament on that day, pray the usual prayers and "Merciful Jesus, I trust in you."
  • Participate in a Eucharistic Procession on Corpus Christi.
  • Recite the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Feast of the Sacred Heart  in a church, religious community, or family.
  • Use an article Blessed by the Holy Father or any bishop on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • Visit a basilica or cathedral on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • The Portiuncula Indulgence of St. Francis of Assisi: with a contrite heart, visit any church on August 2nd (or the first Sunday of August if the church isn't open every day).
  • Pray for the dead in a cemetery November 1-8 (applicable only to the souls in purgatory).
  • Pray for the dead in a church on All Souls' Day (applicable only to the souls in purgatory).
  • Recite the Act of Dedication to Christ the King on the Feast of Christ the King in a church, religious community, or family.

4. Wait a minute, I'm looking at my calendar, and I don't have all these indulgences marked. Or the rogation days. What gives?

That's because I keep becoming aware of new feasts and fasts. I basically live in fear of the day when the book will go to print because I just KNOW that the very next day someone will send me a facebook message about some cool obscure custom or entire system of fasting days that I've never heard of. Because that's what's been happening to me like every other day recently. And every time it does, I scramble to revise the book draft and the calendar.

In the same manner, I was made aware that the document on indulgences that I was working from was out of date, so I made some changes to reflect the most recent indulgences available to us.

5. Isn't Christmas a Holyday of Obligation?

Yes it is. I'm so sorry. On the first draft of the calendar, I somehow left off the symbol for Holyday of Obligation on Christmas in both 2017 and 2018. But it is in fact an obligation in both and all years. In 2017, we have a Sunday Mass obligation on the 24th, and a Christmas Mass obligation on the 25th so if you prefer the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass, you'll have to go to two Masses that day to cover both your obligations (or go to the Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday the 23rd, then the Christmas Vigil Mass on the 24th).

6. Why is such-and-such a feast day not listed on the calendar?

Two possible reasons.

First, it might not be a universal feast. I've included all the universal feast day, plus the proper calendar for the United States. Some feasts are on the proper calendar of other countries, but not in the U.S., and I haven't included all of those, because I was working off of the USCCB liturgical calendar. I've included a handful of historical feasts that don't occur on the universal calendar, because there are fun traditions associated with them that I discuss in the book. That you can't read yet. Because it's not out yet. Sorry.

Second, it might fall on a Sunday this year. Feasts that are not solemnities that fall on a Sunday in a given year (or during the Easter Octave) get "bumped" for that year and don't appear on the calendar.

While you've got a pen out to make Christmas a Holyday of Obligation and add in indulgences and rogation days, I'd also suggest that you add birthdays, namedays, and baptism anniversaries for each member of the family onto the calendar. That's what we do, in keeping with our Three Special Days tradition. If you google your child's name saint's feast day and it turns out that it falls on a Sunday this year, I'd go ahead and write it back in. The bumping of the saint's day has to do with how the Mass is celebrated for the day, and isn't an indication that we shouldn't be remembering the saint (or the people named for that saint) on that day in our homes.

Okay, I think that's all the calendar stuff. Again, thank you for liking it and wanting to do this with me. So fun!

Next issue is . . . The Catholic Mom Bundle!



If you follow the big mainstream bloggers, you'll see that a couple times per year, they'll often contribute to a group of digital products that all get sold together at a big discount. And now, for the first time, there's a Catholic one!

It's twelve great digital products, focused specifically on Catholic motherhood and family life. It includes some really cool products for Advent for the whole family, including beautiful O Antiphon artwork, and fun Advent calendars and activities for kids. It's also got homeschooling, self-care, and prayer life resources. There are printables, and ecourses, and ebooks, and worksheets.




My contribution is monthly devotion images, formatted as high resolution 9:16 smart phone lock screen wall papers, and paired with coordinating home screen images. If my phone is going to be the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep, it might as well direct my thoughts to God and the monthly devotions recommeded to us by the Catholic Church!






They will fit almost all smart phones, not just iPhones, and the images are also high resolution enough to be cropped and printed as 5x7, 10x13, or 12x18 prints.

The bundle is almost a $200 value, priced at only $19, and available only through Sunday, November 26th.

Since I receive a commission if you purchase the bundle through my affliate link, as a thank you, you'll get a bonus of printable pdf Catholic Valentines or jpg Advent images! (See photos and links of the choices below.) Just email me at catholicallyear@gmail.com with your purchase confirmation number or a screen shot that shows your purchase and let me know which set of Valentines you'd like.

Speaking of Valentines . . . 

They're also in the Etsy shop, since I wanted to have them ready to go as my bonus gift. So if you don't want the bundle but do want to be prepared riduculously far in advance for Valentine's Day AND are a crazy Catholic person who wants people to know that on Valentines Day, I've got you covered.

There are three sets of Valentines in the Etsy shop.

Catholic Hearts

Love Like the Saints

Saint and Bible Quotes

 I've also got a couple Advent images, and a nativity coloring page.

O Come O Come Emmanuel Chalkboard {digital download}

8x10 Christmas Anticipation Prayer in purple {digital download} St. Andrew, Advent, Christmas Prayer
and in red here

For God So Loved the World {digital download} John 3:16 Christmas Nativity printable and coloring page

The St. Joan of Arc Women's Conference Update

The women's conference that my friends Micaela and Karianna and I hosted last month was a big success. We had over 120 women come and hang out at my house for the day. There were great speakers and amazing food and wonderful camraderie. I am truly grateful to all of you who came, and I hope to see even more of you next year!

We had a few mugs with our logo on them that really turned out super cute. In fact, we sold out of them pretty early, and there were some gals who didn't get to get one. So, I said I'd get them in the CafePress shop in case anyone wants to be mug buddies with George and I.


We'll be heading off again on camping Thanksgiving

Because when I say we like to keep it crazy . . . I mean it. We've borrowed an RV and are heading to the Sequoias and a Gold Rush Town. I'm going to spatchcock a turkey and see if it will fit in the oven of the RV, otherwise it's getting campfire cooked. I wish you all the happiest and coziest of Thanksgivings!

Last thing . . . the BIG announcement

I'm officially a regular guest on the Jennifer Fulwiler radio show! I'll normally be appearing on the first Friday of the month, to give you a heads up about feast days on the horizon. But for December, I'll be there on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

You can find the show on SiriusXM Channel 129, Monday – Friday, 2 – 4 PM Eastern. Excerpts from the show are available online here.

So, I think that's all for today. My goal with this blog has never been to sell you stuff, so please feel free to ignore any or all of it. I just share it in case it would be helpful to you!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Rogation and Ember Days and Vigils: in case you were starting to think you had this liturgical living thing down

I've been Catholic for forty-one years, actually making an effort for seventeen, a liturgical living devotee for eleven, and blogging about it for five.

And . . . I just found out about Ember Days.

As I was researching feast days for the Catholic All Year Compendium (my upcoming book, not sure yet of the release date, it's still in the editing process) and the 2018 wall calendar, I stumbled across a couple references to Ember Days and finally decided to look into them. I marked them on the calendar, and a few folks have asked me about them already, so I figured I'd give you a quick rundown of what I learned, and how I hope to incorporate them into our family life in the coming year.



  • The Ember Days are four sets of three days of penance, one set at the beginning of each season.
  • They occur on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the same week.
  • Wednesday is memory of Judas' betrayal.
  • Friday is in memory of the crucifixion.
  • Saturday is in memory of the tomb.
  • The individual feast days aren't involved with the penance, they're just reminders of when the Ember Days fall (although two of the feast days are penitential in themselves).
  • The winter Ember Days follow St. Lucy's Day (December 13th) and are offered in thanksgiving for the olive harvest, which gives us holy oils.
  • The spring Ember Days follow Ash Wednesday (movable, forty-six days before Easter) and are offered in thanksgiving for the flowers, which feed the bees, who make the wax, that gives us the altar candles.
  • The summer Ember Days follow Pentecost (movable, the eighth Sunday after Easter) and are offered in thanksgiving for the wheat harvest, which gives us the Eucharist.
  • The fall Ember Days follow the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th) and are offered in thanksgiving for the grape harvest, which gives us the Precious Blood.
  • If the feast day falls on a Wednesday, the Ember Days begin on the following Wednesday.
  • The penance is traditionally fasting on Wednesday and Saturday, and fasting and abstinence from meat on Friday.
  • Current fasting norms in the U.S. permit one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. 
  • Abstinence is binding from age fourteen. Fasting is binding from age eighteen to fifty-nine (except for those exempt for reasons of age or health).*
  • Until 1966, the Ember Days were a required observation for all Catholics (except for those exempt for reasons of age or health). 
  • Since 1966, observation is left up to the discretion of the local bishops.**
  • In the U.S., observation of the Ember Days is recommended, but not mandatory.***
So, that's the low down. 

There are often thirteen people living in our home, and only one is bound by the fast. The rest of us are too old, too young, or too pregnant and/or nursing (currently just the second part) to be required to fast. We already observe regular Friday abstinence from meat. But I feel like, with as much feasting as we do, I'd like to incorporate these voluntary days of penance into our family routine as well. So, my plan is to treat them like days of Lent, and recall the voluntary Lenten disciplines that we usually observe as a family for those three days of each season. For us, that's no treats, no snacks, no TV. Since the spring days follow Ash Wednesday, we'll already be doing them then. But I think the other three weeks will be a good reminder of the penitential spirit and detachment we work to cultivate during Lent, but shake off pretty easily come Easter.

It's a bit tricky to remember when the Ember Days will occur in a given year, since the Wednesday after a particular date is going to be different each year, and especially since two of the reminder feast days are movable in themselves.

But . . . I put them on the calendar, so I'm hopeful that this is the year Ember Days happen for us!

If you have experience observing Ember Days in your home, especially with a family, I'd love to hear about what you do.

Updated to add . . . 
Rogation Days!

The Blessing of the Wheat in Artois, 1857 - Jules Breton

Another category of now-little known days of penance are the rogation days. The major rogation falls on the feast of St. Mark, April 25th (but is unrelated to the Evangelist), and the minor rogation days fall on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before the Ascension. It's an unlikely time for extra days of penance, as it's during Eastertide, but they were offered to God during the spring planting season in the hopes that the wheat crop would be protected from natural disasters. Though often referred to as fasting days, during the Easter season, they would have been observed as days of abstinence from meat, but not days of fasting. It is traditional, on the major rogation day to recite the Litany of All Saints, and to walk in procession around the boundaries of the parish, blessing the crops.

For those of us who live where parishes are big and crops are few, we could offer our prayers and abstinence from meat for farmers and for the victims of natural disasters.

Finally, there are the Vigils.

There are historical fasts associated with the vigils of a few important feast days. In the U.S. they are the vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception (8 December), and All Saints (31 October). Fasting and abstinence are officially recommended on these days, as well as on Holy Saturday.

It can seem, well, crazy for those of us who grew up without any tradition of observing the vigils of these feast days. Especially for those of us in America who grew up celebrating Halloween and Christmas Eve as basically feast days unto themselves. But we have begun observing abstinence in our house on these vigil days, and it really has brought a sense of mindful preparation to those days. Fortunately Halloween candy is meat-free! 

Here's a peek at the calendar:


It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.



January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 



As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

This is the current coupon deal from the publisher, it's the best one I've seen to date:
Save 25% On Orders of Print Books & Calendars
Use Code: LULU25 (all caps)
Cannot be combined with other offers
Does not apply to ebooks or services
Ends November 16h at 11:59 PM

If you missed that coupon, check for the most recent one here.

Or it's available as a pdf download here.
* Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
** On rogation and ember days the practice of the Church is to offer prayers to the Lord for the needs of all people, especially for the productivity of the earth and for human labour, and to make public thanksgiving. In order to adapt the rogation and ember days to various regions and the different needs of the faithful, the conferences of bishops should arrange the time and plan of their celebration. Consequently, the competent authority should lay down norms, in view of local conditions, on extending such celebrations over one or several days and on repeating them during the year. On each day of these celebrations the Mass should be one of the votive Masses for various needs and occasions that is best suited to the intentions of the petitioners.
          -General Norms for the Liturgical Year Calendar, Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, 1966
 *** Vigils and Ember Days, as most now know, no longer oblige to fast and abstinence. However, the liturgical renewal and the deeper appreciation of the joy of the holy days of the Christian year will, we hope, result in a renewed appreciation as to why our forefathers spoke of "a fast before a feast." We impose no fast before any feast-day, but we suggest that the devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self-denial, penitential prayer and fasting.
          -Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence: A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 18, 1966

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

How to do Santa Without Lying to Your Kids

This is the time of year I start getting emails and Facebook messages from parents who are trying to decide how to handle the cultural traditions surrounding Christmas, and how to balance them with their Catholic faith.

There is genuinely a lot of worry that they'll get it wrong one way or another and drive their children away from the Church either by embracing the secular stuff too much or by eschewing it completely. The particular one I hear most often is the concern that when kids find out that Santa isn't "real" (although he is, technically, real) they will think that God is also not real.

I'm nine kids and fifteen years into my parenting journey so far, and can finally say that I'm starting to see how some of our parenting choices are turning out. I am in NO WAY a perfect parent. Or a perfect Catholic. But in all honesty, I am really comfortable with the balance we've found in this area. I'm confident that it's a historically Catholic approach.



In our family we do Santa, we don't lie to our kids, they do not report feeling betrayed, they haven't been denied a culturally-typical Christmas, and yet Santa doesn't overshadow Jesus. We're living the dream, people.

We do traditional American Christmas stuff like letters to Santa, and mall Santa photos, and milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve. Our little kids believe that Santa brings them presents. Our big kids don't believe that.

St. Nicholas is a part of our Christmas but we have not found that he dominates it, or overshadows "the reason for the season" as they say. My kids have moved from Team Little Kid to Team Santa's Helpers without any angst or trauma.



I've detailed in a previous post why I think it's okay for Catholic kids to believe in Santa, and how we answer various questions Catholic kids might have about his whole deal. But as I was responding to emails the other night, I realized that in that post I don't really mention the two big reasons I think our approach has been successful for our family. I think they explain how we can eat our cake and have it too, Santa-wise.

Quick aside here, I hope and pray that your kids and mine will bring a formed Catholic faith into adulthood, practice it their whole lives, and pass it on to their children and their children's children. I know that it is possible that they won't. I think it's very unlikely that the determining factor in how that goes will turn out to have been how we handled Santa Claus.

So, whatever you do: Be not afraid.



Here's how WE do it.
1. I don't insist to my kids that anything is TRUE, unless it's a dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.
2. We practice liturgical living in the home all year long.

And, unlikely as it may seem, those two go hand in hand.

St. Nicholas isn't the only saint my kids know and love. He's not the only saint around whom we have fun and exciting traditions. He's not the only saint we know who's got crazy stories associated with him.



In our home, in Advent alone, we also talk about St. Ambrose, the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Loreto, St. Lucy, St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. John of the Cross.

We tell our kids the stories of . . .

How a swarm of bees settled on the face of the baby St. Ambrose, so his dad knew he would be a good speaker. (The obvious reaction to bees on your baby's face.)

How Mary, from the very moment she was conceived in her mother's womb, was free from sin. She was pre-redeemed by Christ and was free from original sin at her birth and from actual sin for her whole life.

How Mary's home in Nazareth, when it was threatened with destruction during the Crusades, was picked up by four angels and flown to Loreto, Italy.

How Our Lady appeared to a humble peasant named Juan Diego and gave him an important job to do, and trusted him to do it even when he was pretty sure he couldn't, and tried to avoid her. And how she gave him roses, growing out of season, and imprinted her image miraculously on his tilma.

How St. John of the Cross was kidnapped and imprisoned by his own fellow Carmelite priests, and composed long, beautiful poems on scrap pieces of paper, by a sliver of light in his cell, before he boldly escaped from his captors.

St. Nicholas is in the mix too, and there are all sorts of great stories about him giving in secret to the daughters of a needy widower, slapping a heretic across the face at the council of Nicea, and saving three naked little boys from being served up as meat by an evil butcher.

But only ONE of those feast day stories, the Immaculate Conception, is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. If my kids and I profess to be Catholic, we must believe that story to be absolutely true.



All of the others, we Catholics are free to believe or not believe. There's historical record in support of some of the stories, like St. John of the Cross and St. Nicholas at the council; there are alternate explanations for some of the stories, like that perhaps returning crusaders carried Our Lady's home, stone by stone, to Loreto; there is physical evidence for some, like the fact that Juan Diego's tilma, with the image of Our Lady, still exists and you can go look at it. Regardless of plausibility, we don't HAVE to believe any of it. But these legends and stories are part of our Catholic cultural heritage. For thousands of years, Catholic parents have passed them along to their children as fun and inspiration.

The specific, exact point of all saint stories has always been to point to Jesus.

So, when talking about St. Nicholas, and all the saints all year long, I use words like "traditionally," and "the stories say," and "what I've heard is." If they have a specific concern about a particular aspect of the story -- flying reindeer, covering all that ground in one night, etc. -- together we brainstorm possible explanations. But I always maintain that I'm trying to figure this out as much as they are.

This position comes in handy when discussing other aspects of the faith, like the Trinity and Transubstantiation.



And it means that once they're old enough to be able to reason, they can be trusted to sort the True (the Resurrection) from the false (Santa brings their presents) from the rest (all the other amazing stories of miracles from the Bible and the lives of the saints). It also means they can appreciate that the story of the generosity of St. Nicholas the bishop, giving in secret to those in need, inspired their mom and dad to give in secret to them. And that they can in turn begin to give in secret to their younger siblings. It's a beautiful thing.

Updated to add . . .

I read St. Thérèse’s autobiography over my retreat this weekend, and was excited to see this anecdote from her childhood:

“I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child, which proves that my sisters still treated me as a baby. Papa, too, liked to watch my enjoyment and hear my cries of delight at each fresh surprise that came from the magic shoes, and his pleasure added to mine.”

That’s the recollections of a saint, raised by saints, which has GOT to put to rest the whole “Santa is dangerous to Catholics” argument.

One less thing to worry about, everyone!

---

All those stories are included in my liturgical living in the home book, but I don't yet know exactly when it's going to be published. In the meantime, if you'd like to keep track of ALL the feasts of Advent and the whole Catholic liturgical year, I've created a wall calendar to help you do it!


It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.

January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 


As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

Coupon codes are available from the publisher here.
This is the current offer!
Save 15% On Orders Print Books & Calendars
Use Code: LULU15
Cannot be combined with other offers
Does not apply to ebooks or services
Ends November 9th at 11:59 PM

It's also available as a printable pdf download here.

----

Related Reading

THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND THE BLASTING OUT OF THE BABY JESUS


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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Easy Family Activities for the Month of the Poor Souls in November

For Catholics, November is the month we remember the dead. 



On November 1st, we celebrate all the saints in heaven, who are our hope and help and inspiration. The rest of the month, we focus on the holy souls in purgatory. (They are also called poor souls . . . same souls, they are "poor" because they are suffering, and "holy" because they will definitely get to heaven some day, it's just a matter of time.)

We pray especially for the souls of our family members who have died, and aren't quite in heaven yet, but will get there with our assistance. And we pray for the souls who have no one else to pray for them. As Catholics, we believe that our prayers and sacrifices offered to God can help the souls in purgatory to get to heaven. It is something very real and important that even little kids can do!

Our family has a few activities we like to do each year, that we've found to be fun and meaningful. I thought you might like to join us. So I jotted them down.



1. Get Some Indulgences Applicable to the Poor Souls

There are some really awesome opportunities to gain plenary (or full) indulgences on November 2, and for the entire week of November 1-8th, that are applied to the poor souls in purgatory. The rest of the month (and the rest of the year) you can get partial indulgences.



I talked all about it in this post:

PRAYING FOR THE DEAD WITH CHILDREN

We visited our local cemetery today, to leave flowers on graves and pray for the dead, both at that cemetery, and our own beloved dead. The kids really do look forward to it each year. There are lots of cultures who do a great job of remembering their dead in a way that's tangible to kids, but I think that for most Americans, it's a foreign concept. Many of us tend to try to keep the idea of death and the dead far away from our kids. But it doesn't have to be like that. Catholic tradition is not to hide death, but to prepare for it, and to remember those who have gone before us.



Each day this week, we'll stop by once per day, and without getting out of the car we'll pray for all the poor souls. It take just a few minutes, but it really makes this month and those souls real to our family.



2. Pray Some Very Efficatious Prayers

There are two prayers that are especially good for this month.



Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory aka Requiem Prayer

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.



and the Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by St. Gertrude the Great

Eternal Father,
I offer You the most precious blood
of thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.



We pray these in addition to, or instead of, our usual family evening prayers.

3. Write the Names of Deceased Family Members on a Candle and Set Up a Family Altar

This is an activity that helps us remember our beloved dead all month long. And it's SUPER easy. I buy a plain large glass votive candle. They are available at dollar stores and in the latin food section of grocery stores around here. But a smaller glass votive candle holder or even just a glass jar with a candle in it would work just as well.



Using a sharpie, we write the names of everyone we can remember who has died, for whom we would like to pray. For us, it's family members, neighbors, and even celebrities who have died. In any year, not just this year. Then we place the candle on our home altar table, and all month long we keep the candle lit during dinner and our evening prayers.



If you don't have an altar table, a corner of a counter of the center of the dinner table would work, too.

We put any photos we have to go with the names on the altar table as well, and any Mass cards from funerals. It's a really beautiful way to help kids remember family members who have gone before them, especially those with whom they share a name!



And, just to be clear, this isn't any sort of ancestor worship. It's just a reminder of those that we have loved who have died. Either they are already in heaven, and they can offer prayers to God for us, or they're not yet in heaven and we can offer prayers to God for them.

4. Make Soul Cakes and Trade Them for Prayers

On All Souls Day, and any time this month, we like to make soul cakes. This recipe from Lavender and Lovage is very authentic, and very tasty, but it's in British. Here's a translation of measurements:

  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • A little milk (I use buttermilk if I have it on hand)


They really are not at all fussy to make. You put together the ingredients in a mixer or by hand, roll them out, cut them into circles with a cookie cutter or a glass, cut a cross in the top, and bake them. 

But if you don't like the look of those, any scone or muffin recipe can be your soul cakes.



The important thing is that you're meant to trade them for prayers. You don't take one and eat it yourself. You take one, offer it to someone else, and ask him to pray for someone by name. As in, "Please pray for George Dosé."

5. Make Eggs in Purgatory

A traditional recipe for this month is Eggs in Purgatory. There is a fancy version here at Bon Appétit that is super tasty, but involves things like rubbing the outside of a lemon on toast.



If that's not your jam, just pick your favorite salsa, dump it into a frying pan, heat it to bubbling, crack whole eggs into individual wells in the salsa, and cook them to taste with some salt and pepper. Scoop individual eggs onto pieces of toast with some salsa and serve with a salad. It makes a delicious breakfast anytime, but I love it for a meat-free Friday dinner.

I hope some of these traditions will be fun and meaningful for your family as well!

_________

If you'd like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I've created a wall calendar to help you do it!


It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.

January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 


As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

There's a special coupon code currently available from the publisher:

Save 10% On Orders of Print Products
Plus Free Mail or 50% Off Ground Shipping
Use Code: BOOKSHIP17
Cannot be combined with other offers
Does not apply to ebooks or services
Ends November 6th at 11:59 PM


Related reading . . . 

From this blog:

At the End, Charlotte Dies: a Reflection on Death for All Souls Day

Little Kids and Death: How Taking My Kids to a Traditional Funeral Didn't Freak Them Out

From around the interwebs:

Mary Reed Newland: Teaching About Death

Hallowmas with Harry: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Death and the Communion of Saints

20 Ways to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

What is an Indulgence?

The Doctrine Of Purgatory




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