Saturday, December 2, 2017

An Easy, No Mess, Kid-Friendly, Not-Crafty-Mom-Friendly, Last Minute Advent Wreath and a Guide to the Upcoming First Week of Advent

Advent starts tomorrow! And that means tonight is Catholic New Year's Eve, so break out the champagne!

If, like me, you are not quite ready to, um, get ready, I thought I'd share this quick and easy Advent Wreath that is our go-to every year now. 



We've had lots of different kinds of Advent Wreaths over the years, but I started making this one a few years back because the kids wanted to have one that we could keep lit during our school days, and regular taper candles burn down so quickly, and make it not unlikely that wreath branches, school papers, and toddlers will at some point during Advent . . . catch fire. 

Then I noticed these prayer candles! They make a quick, easy, pretty, real but less likely to burn the place down Advent Wreath.

Step 1: Get some jar candles. 




Ideally, three purple and one pink. But you can also get white, and tie ribbons around the jar, or paint the jar (but that's basically a REAL craft, and we're trying to avoid that, right? Right.).

Prayer candles are ubiquitous around here, and easily available in the Latin food section of most grocery stores. Also dollar stores, Walmart, Target, etc. They sell them at Target online as well. Aldi has the white ones.

If you can find them with no labels, you're in luck and can skip the next step.

2. Get the labels off.



Soak them for five minutes or so in COLD water. So you don't melt them.

Then using fingers and table knives, scrape the labels off.



Yes. Scraping pictures of Our Lady off DOES stress me out a tiny bit. I may have actually told Gus out loud to quit stabbing Our Lady in the face and just gently slide it off. But there's nothing officially inappropriate about removing a religious image from something. We just blow Our Lady, or whatever saint it is, a good bye kiss and git er done.

For the last bits of glue, steel wool works well.


3. Gather some evergreens.



There's a lot of symbolism involved in an Advent Wreath. The flames represent Christ as the light of the world, the four candles are the four weeks of Advent, and the four thousand years that the Chosen People waited for the Chosen One, the circle stands for eternity, as do evergreen plants. Pine cones and seed pods and berries represent new life in Christ.

So, we like to gather a selection of evergreens from our yard: rosemary, juniper, pines, whatever. We find as many little cones and seeds, and berries as we can and include those. If you don't have evergreens in the yard, you might be able to scrounge some from neighbors, or a park, or a local Christmas tree lot.

4. Arrange on a platter.




It's super fast to put together!




Just plunk down the candles, one, two, three, four, and arrange the greenery around them. This is something toddlers are great at helping with. I try to keep a semblance of a hole in the middle, for the circle-ness. 


5. Enjoy!





On the first Sunday of Advent, we bless the Advent Wreath with holy water. Then we say the Advent Wreath prayers for the first week each night of the week at dinner, or each morning before school if we won't all be home that evening. You can find the Advent Wreath Prayers here at Catholic Culture.

Using jar candles means our wreath lasts all season long, even burning it a couple hours a day. If we somehow burn through a candle or two early, I can just grab another one at the grocery store. And there's nothing to store (and FIND!) for next year. We just let the candles burn down to nothing on Christmas Eve and toss the jars (allowed even though they were blessed, because they have been used up).

Here's my first attempt at a how-to video. Note the super-professional portrait aspect ratio. Oops.



Stir Up Sunday


The first Sunday of Advent is also known as Stir Up Sunday, because the words of the old collect (preserved in our Advent Prayers for the week) are this:  O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.



The story goes that, as wives and cooks were in Mass, they'd hear the collect and be reminded that it was time to start the Christmas Puddings! I have never attempted a Christmas Pudding myself, but I do like to use Stir Up Sunday to make some loaves of quick breads like gingerbread or coffee cake that I can store in the freezer and give as gifts to our teachers and delivery guys. And I usually save a couple loaves for our Christmas Morning breakfast! There's one thing officially out of the way.

All the kids get to help with the stirring!

As Advent begins, we'll pull out our Christmas and Advent books, our Advent decorations, and our Advent calendars. We'll put the manger out for Straw for Baby Jesus.

And this week, we drew names among the kids for their Secret Santa partners. Rather than nine kids buying junk presents for each other, we have them each choose one sibling, and all Advent they do good deeds for that sibling and they buy one nice gift for that one sibling, to give on Christmas morning. They're still welcome to give homemade gifts to all their other siblings.

We also choose our saints for the year using Jen Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator or by randomly flipping through our four volume copy of Butler's Lives of the Saints. (There's a shorter, modernized version too.)

First Week of Advent


Also coming up for the first week of Advent are the Feasts of St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, the Immaculate Conception, and St. Juan Diego.

The kids will leave their shoes and letters to Santa out for St. Nicholas on the night before his feast day on December 6th. And in the morning they'll find some chocolate coins and a candy cane crozier, and a book or two.

On the feast of St. Ambrose, we'll usually do a candle craft of some sort, like these tissue paper candle transfers, or these pinecone fire starters, and we'll eat meat-free for the vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Immaculate Conception is a Friday this year, and you know what THAT means!


This post has how we usually celebrate. We'll go to Mass and have an all white meal for the day, like this yummy no boil Chicken Alfredo Bake.

And Saturday is the feast of St. Juan Diego, which is an excellent excuse for a taco night and some Mexican Wedding Cookies.

If you'd like to keep up with the feasts, these are all marked on my liturgical year wall calendar, available as an immediate pdf download here

Or as a wall calendar here. I've discounted the calendar 15% on my end, and there's also a 20% discount on top of that available from the publisher with the code BOOKCALSAVE (all caps), the code is good through midnight December 4th. If you missed that code, check here for the most recent one.


The Month of the Immaculate Conception


In fact, this entire month is devoted to the Immaculate Conception (of Mary, not of Jesus). I'm excited this year to have the calendar images to remind me of the traditional monthly devotions. And if you're also playing along with the images on your phone home screen and lock screen, George says: It's time to switch to December!



If you didn't get the images in the bundle, they're available in my Etsy shop now

Have yourself a happy little Advent, everyone!

Related Reading . . . 

THREE REASONS I LOVE ADVENT


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Do Catholics Need the Elf on the Shelf?

I had every intention of not wading into the Elf on the Shelf debate, because it's really not a matter of faith and morals, and is therefore something about which good Catholics are free to make their own choices, and follow their own consciences, and disagree. But it's been a while since we've dug into the mailbag around here, hasn't it?

I've only been asked if our family does the Elf on the Shelf a couple times, and I've just replied that we don't without going into a lot of detail about why. But in the most recent instance, the wording of the question really got me thinking about WHY we don't do Elf on the Shelf, even though I'm in general a proponent of quirky holiday fun and even of baptizing secular traditions.



The question:

We haven't really ever done much to observe Advent, but my kids are getting old enough to appreciate traditions, so I'm hoping to start some this year. They have friends who do the Elf on the Shelf, and so I looked it up. I can't quite put my finger on why, but the idea of an elf watching you and reporting back to Santa seems like it doesn't match up with Catholic Advent. Am I off base here? Will my kids be missing out on something fun? Do Catholics need the Elf on the Shelf? Is there something we could do instead?  -Angie

The Answer:

I love how you put this question, Angie. Because we don't do the Elf on the Shelf, but I've never taken the time to formulate exactly WHY. Your question really has the two reasons why. First: the Elf on the Shelf just doesn't quite line up with what we teach our children about the world and the saints and Christmas, and second: we Catholics have so many other fun things to do that we DON'T really need the Elf on the Shelf to have a fun and whimsical Christmas.

Back story: the Elf on the Shelf is an American pre-Christmas “tradition” developed in 2004 by a couple ladies who wanted to sell you a book. Now, as a lady who has appropriated/rediscovered/made up quite a few traditions myself, and who has written a book about them, that’s not necessarily a problem for me. But while our family liturgical year traditions, old and new, have their roots in our ancient Catholic faith and their goal is to entertain and catechize . . . the Elf on the Shelf is a spy and a tattletale, and his goal is to intimidate children into good behavior (and probably to get you to buy more elf stuff).

The idea is that you buy the picture book and the stuffed elf doll. You set him up somewhere in your house or classroom and each day he watches the kids to see if they’re being naughty, and each night he magically flies off to report to Santa on the day's doings. He flies back and hides in a new spot, and the kids look for him again each day. Perhaps because we live in a fallen world, he is often found making messes or engaging in acts of questionable taste. And then, of course, you post a photo of it on social media.

In any case, certainly parents and teachers who do the elf thing are just looking to enjoy an entertaining game with their kids in the lead up to Christmas. The elf reporting back to Santa is just an offshoot of the longstanding naughty and nice list. But in our house, that’s not what we emphasize about Santa. We emphasize that Santa, like God, wants us to be good, but we know that we very often are not as good as we mean to be. We need God’s radical mercy and the graces he bestows upon us, undeserved, through the sacraments. I see that reflected in Santa’s desire for our good behavior, but his generosity in spite of our failures.

Rather than some sort of secret police elf spying on them and reporting back to Santa, what my kids actually have is a guardian angel, assigned to each of them by God. That guardian angel functions pretty much in exactly the opposite way as the Elf on the Shelf. Rather than spying on us and ratting us out, our guardian angels guard us and protect us and advocate for us to God the Father.

To me, the Elf on the Shelf is a perfect example of a secular attempt to find the shared community fun of liturgical living. I get where it’s coming from, but it’s all skewed somehow.

In our home during Advent, we do an Advent wreath, and Advent calendars, and Straw for Baby Jesus, we celebrate the feast days of St. Ambrose, and St. Nicholas, and the Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Lucy, and we do a nine day Christmas Novena. It's PLENTY! I definitely don't need a whole month of trying to keep up the wacky antics of a snitch elf.

And, in fact, far from being a cultural secular tradition that Catholics might well want to grab up and baptize, the *secretly moving through the house at night* thing . .  is actually predated by a Catholic tradition that existed for generations before the Elf on the Shelf was a whole aisle in Walmart. In the 1955 book The Twelve Days of Christmas by Elsa Chaney, she suggests a tradition that was old then: "If the Wise Men are making their journey to Bethlehem through the house, their resting places may be fixed just before night prayers begin." (EWTN library)

So that's how WE do it. Once Advent is over, and Christmas has begun, we do the Traveling Wise Men.



Now, we don't know much about the Wise Men with any sort of historical accuracy. However, Catholic tradition is that there were three, and that they were kings from Asia, Africa, and Europe, and that they were called Sts. Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

Despite what your kids might think if they've seen the movie The Star, it was a common ancient belief that a new star appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth (not before). St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, confirms as the traditional understanding of the Catholic Church, that the magi saw the star as it rose on the night of Jesus’ birth, began to follow it, and were able to travel quickly to their destination with Divine assistance (Summa Theologiae III q.36, a.6, ad 3). Tradition says they arrived on the thirteenth day, January 6th, when we celebrate Epiphany.

So, short story long, in the Catholic tradition, Wise Men depart not at the beginning of Advent, but upon the rising of the Star of Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve, when we put the baby Jesuses in the mangers of our nativity sets, we also put the Wise Men out, but a few feet away and facing in the opposite direction from the Holy Family. Each night, the Wise Men move (they’re following the star, so they prefer to travel by night) until they’ve circled the house (or the yard) and come back to arrive at the nativity set on the morning of Epiphany. Each day the kids get up and look for where the Wise Men have ended up. Occasionally, the Wise Men will forget to move during the night. This can be very troubling to the children. However, it just means that there must have been a sandstorm overnight, or one of the camels was sick, and usually they’ll manage to make their move during the day, but always when no one is watching. Some years there are more sandstorms than others, but, somehow, they always manage to reach their destination on time.

We have acquired quite a few nativity sets over the years. Not ALL the Wise Men get to make the journey. In our house, only the mantle set and the outdoor set move. If the kids want to know why, I just tell them that . . . . I don’t know why. But they are welcome to send their toy Wise Men on a journey if they’d like. Sometimes they do.

I really do enjoy our traveling Wise Men. It’s a fun family game, for a manageable time period. It has been practiced by Catholics for generations, allows us to learn a bit about the traditional Catholic understanding of the Wise Men, and is something that defines the days of Christmastide for us.

Speaking of Liturgical Living . . .



I've got a liturgical year wall calendar that features 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.

Oh, and getting Christmas shopping done before Advent is always a goal of mine. If it's a goal of yours too, I can help! Every downloadable image in my Printable Prayers shop is on sale for only $3, today through cyber Monday. I really never ever do sales, so grab this one while it's hot!

Related Reading . . .


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Five Ways My Phone is Helping Me Be a Better Catholic

Our phones, right? We use them for all the things, but also maybe feel like we shouldn't be? As much? Ever? I'm all for balance and temperance, but in our concern about the pitfalls of our phones, it's easy to lose sight of the GOOD that's to be had from those ubiquitous devices.


Here are five ways (plus a bonus) that my phone is helping me in my daily pursuit of a Caothic life amidst the bustle and distraction of kids and school and laundry and traffic.

1. The Angelus Alarm



I've been meaning to say the Angelus every day for the past five years or so, but since the church bells don't toll the Angelus around my house, I remembered to do it not nearly as often as I wanted to. I'd see it was almost noon, and mean to do it in a sec, then look at the clock again and realize it was after one and we were late for naps, and blah, blah, blah.

That totally changed for me a couple months ago when I FINALLY got a smart phone. I have the alarm set for noon every single day. And, since we all know that the phone is in charge and makes you stop whatever else you were doing to attend to it when it makes a noise . . . now the kids and I have an almost perfect track record of saying the Angelus. Bonus, I have it set to sound like church bells. So fun.

2. The Personal Liturgical Year Calendar



The first way we started observing the liturgical year in our home was the Three Special Days. It's been a devotion that has born so much fruit in our family. But HOW to remember three different days for eleven different people, in time to ask them what they'd like for dinner? iCal, that's how. I set up a calendar and entered each family member's birthday, baptism day, and name day, along with a reminder for two days ahead of time.

Once we were in the swing of that, I created another calendar with Holydays of Obligation, then Solemnities, then the fun feast days to which our family has a particular devotion, novenas we recite, etc., all in there recurring each year, with a reminder a couple days in advance.

It's a bit time consuming on the front end, but we've ended up with a perfect for us personalized liturgical year calendar. There are liturgical calendar apps, but in my experience they all have too few or too many feast days on there, and none have my kids' baptism dates.

3. Great Books (hands and eyes not required)


I used to read a TON, and I still love to read, but my season of life at the moment isn't all that conducive to cozying up with a book. But that doesn't mean I can't have great literature and the writings of the saints in my life. I've listened to hours and hours of really inspiring and edifying books lately, while painting the house, washing the dishes, folding laundry, and driving. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was my sewing companion last month. I'll even hit play on a random chapter of Introduction to the Devout Life or the Autobiography of Saint Therese while I'm getting dressed in the morning.

And speaking of dishes, I am a huge fan of the Fifteen Minute Rosary Companion podcast. A sit down family Rosary every night is our goal, but it's not always possible. Sometimes we need to combine tasks, and a dish-doing race against the Fifteen Minute Rosary clock is an excellent challenge.

4. Inspiring Emails



My two favorite daily Catholic emails come from Blessed is She and Read the Catechism in a Year. Blessed is She sends a link to the daily Mass readings, plus a devotion written to help process and implement those readings (some of those devotions are written by me!). Read the Catechism in a Year is an excellent way to do just what the title says. I did it a few years back, and am planning to start it up again in 2018.

Realistically, I won't get to them every single day, but SOME daily scripture and catechism reading is much MUCH better than none, and having them on my phone with a little unread blue dot or a little flagged orange dot is very motivational to me.

You can also sign up to receive new Catholic All Year blog posts via email, by subscribing over on the sidebar ---> If you're into that sort of thing.

5. Saintly Social Media


Social media has a reputation for being a combative and confrontational place. And I suppose that's for good reason. But I've been able to make it a happy place for me by curating pretty carefully who I'm hanging out with on social media. I unfollow but stay friends with acquaintances and extended family members who stress me out, I join groups of like minded folks with whom I can share Catholic fun, and ask Catholic questions, and I follow the pages of devout Catholic blogs and websites. However, if I wanted to actually be able to see the posts of the pages I chose to follow, I had to set up my feed according to these instructions.

Bonus . . .

6. While You Were Looking


I found out about the existence of traditional Catholic monthly devotions as I was researching my upcoming liturgical year in the home book, and I really loved the idea of focusing on ONE PARTICULAR important aspect of our faith each month. It feels so much more doable than just knowing that there are all these important devotions out there and feeling like I should be mindful of all of them, and so not actually being mindful of any of them.

As I was trying to figure out how to remind myself of the devotion of the month, I had the idea to create graphic images for each one. I incorporated them into my Liturgical Year Wall Calendar, (available for purchase as a pdf download here, or as a physical calendar here, check for current coupon codes from the publisher here), but then I realized . . . what's the first thing I look at when I wake up int he morning, and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep at night? It's usually my phone. I can bemoan that, or I can make it work for me! So, I created lock screen and home screen images for each of the monthly devotions.




They are 16:9 aspect ration to fit most all smart phones. I'm on my second month of using them on my own phone and they really have helped quickly recollect my thoughts to God and the devotion of the month each of the many, many times each day that I peek at my phone.

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

The set of images is available here.

 Every downloadable image in my Printable Prayers shop is on sale for only $3, today through cyber Monday. I really never ever do sales, so grab this one while it's hot!

What apps or sites or practices do you use on your phone that are helping your faith life?


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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've also recently created monthly devotion images, formatted as high resolution 9:16 smart phone lock screen wallpapers, 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 recommended to us by the Catholic Church!




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

They are available here.

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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 . . . Monthly Devotion Wallpapers!

24 monthly devotion images, formatted as high resolution 9:16 smart phone lock screen wallpapers, 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 recommended to us by the Catholic Church!






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

Speaking of Valentines . . . 

If you want to be prepared ridiculously far in advance for Valentine's Day AND are a crazy Catholic person who wants people to know that on Valentine's 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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