Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Put Your Party Hat On - Five (Favorite) Reasons We Love to Celebrate the Lives of the Saints

Charlie having a ball at our annual St. Patty's Day party.
We're pretty big partiers in this house. You should know that by now about us.  We get a little crazy with food and love and presents on birthdays, new babies are celebrated daily for at least a good six months, then there's sporting victories and end-of-the-season parties.  We like to have good grade parties and shin-digs for excellent performances at recitals, and that's all on top of the normal holidays. So, if that weren't already enough to raise the roof, why not add the feast days of the saints to the party calendar??

Some people, especially non-Catholics, may think it's a little bit hoakie to celebrate the life and achievements of a bunch of dead people.  I get that.  Sort of.  But, if the squeemers and doubters came to our house and dined with us, and read about the lives of the saints with us, and raised their glasses with us, I bet the keys to the kingdom that those people wouldn't hate it. Hoakie? Maybe.  Hate? Naaah.
When our homeschool life began, so did the seriousness of our acceptance of the responsibility to teach our children about Christ and the Church.  As Catholics, in the recitation of our wedding vows, we make the promise to be the primary catechists of our kids.  It was natural, then, for us to choose to incorporate church history and biographies of the lives of the saints into the boys' education.  Now, remembering the saints is  just a part of the rhythm of life for us - there is no separation of our Faith and daily life.  Our daily life is our Faith, it's living it, learning it, and striving after it every day.

Here's 5 darn good reasons to consider celebrating the lives of the saints in your home too (if you enjoy a good St. Patty's Day brew or some chocolate on St. Valentine's Day, you're already on your way!):

1.  The saints weren't always saints.
The first time I thumbed through the Butlers Lives of the Saints as a high-schooler, I wasn't thrilled. The pages were filled with characters, mostly priests or nuns, who seemed to be bear the gene of automatic super-piousness.  If their lives seemed unrelatable and their holiness unattainable, what was the point of reading on??  Some of my reaction was a natural aversion to the way the book was written, highlighting only the achievements of the saint, and not the real life stuff, and some was due to my own immaturity.  Now that I've studied various sources on numerous saints, I feel quite the opposite.

It's comforting to know that while many of the saints were born with an unusually deep desire to live a virtuous life and to please God, even more of them battled temptations, lived worldly lives, made grave errors (hello, St. Augustine's "Confessions" is like the soap opera that fell in some holy water), they were arrogant, vain, jealous, deceitful, promiscuous and the list goes on.  But, in the end, they all chose Christ over and over again, and show us that it's never to late to say no to ourselves and yes to grace.  I think my kids can relate to that.  I know I can.

2.  You don't have to be a nun, a priest or a martyr to become a saint.
I used to think that was true. I thought, hey that's just a nice little group of holy nuns and priests over there, and I'm over here hangin' out in the "runner-up" category of married people. Wrong, again!  While there aren't as many written accounts of married saint's as religious saints, I believe there are countless married saints in heaven that we will never know about.  Marriage and the raising of children is a supreme sacrifice that has the beautiful potential to lead us to deeper union with Christ (which is the definition of holiness) if we embrace it.  The work of Opus Dei inspires me ever day to seek and believe the truth that our everyday work, whatever it may be, can lead us to holiness.  St. Josemaria, a priest, and founder the Work, was a great inspiration to, and advocate for, married people and their families.

3.  Saints can pray for us, so maybe we should get to know them before we ask for stuff.
Often times, when driving by a cemetery, I will spot a person or two sitting next to the grave of a loved one whom they miss very much.  But, chances are, they aren't just sitting, but talking to that person, asking that person to watch over them, to help them, to pray for them.  I think it's amazing the way the God has wired into us a desire to remain connected with those we love, even after they're gone.  That's not sentiment, it's real and natural experience of love and the longing we all have inside for heaven (whether we feel it or know it to be true, it's there).  We can ask the saints in heaven to intercede for us any time. Taking our special and most urgent requests to them, it is with faith that we believe that they will lay our needs before the Lord and pray for our acceptance of whatever the Lord's will may be.  I feel like I have an army of people cheering me on through life upstairs!

{Please don't mistake me, I'm not suggesting you bypass the Lord himself (as if it's possible to bypass omniscience.)  Of course you can pray directly to Christ! I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't, but it doesn't hurt to have a support group advocating for your every need, does it?}

4.  Saints exist outside of time and, yet, their writings are timeless.
This one comes on the heels of #1, but I cannot say enough about the personal writings of many of the saints, and the application to our daily lives, even though they may have been penned hundreds of years ago.  Don't believe me? Just read any of St. Paul's epistles in the bible - he address so many of the things we struggle with today, and gives us the supreme answer to the problems: JESUS.  Just a few other examples of Saints whose writings have won my heart are St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Faustina, St. Edith Stein, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. John Vianney, St. John Bosco, Blessed Mother Theresa, Blessed John Paul II and St.Bernard of Clairvoux.

5.  We can always use another reason to eat cake!
Seriously, if not for any other reason than to make something chocolate, then by all means honor them with chocolate!  We don't celebrate the life of every saint, but there's at least 2 or 3 each month that we never miss.  Sometimes I try to make the food specific to an aspect of the saint's life, so that the kids can make a connection, and other times, we just celebrate with something yummy.  For example, we honor St. Faustina, Blessed John Paul II and St. Maximillian Kolbe all together with Polish brats and sourkraut.  For. St. Therese's feast day, I make mini rose cakes, and for St. Patrick's day it's traditional Irish Beef and Guinness stew.  Many of the feasts have become traditions for our family, and the boys really love knowing what we will be enjoying for food and/or games and activities that day.  They look forward to it with great expectation!

My "go-to" resources for celebratory ideas (crafts, recipes, books etc.) are:
A Continual Feast (cookbook)

Recent Party Pics:
{More Feasting Ideas under "Faith"}

St. Therese's Feast Day (October 1):
Charlie loves to help me bake!
The table is set with roses and our favorite book about Therese.
Lemon rose cakes with lemon glaze.

Feast of the Guardian Angels (October 2):
The boys made angel wings from pretzels, white chocolate and sprinkles.

All Saints Day (November 1):
George: St. Paul
Andrew: St. Andrew
Henry: St. George
Charlie: St. Francis of Assisi


  1. I love seeing how other families celebrate our rich liturgical year. I believe the celebrations are an integral part of restoring a Catholic culture. Well done!
    ad Jesum per Mariam

  2. I loved this post. Though we are not Catholic our children attend a Catholic school and I'm more and more curious about the Saints and their importance in the Catholic church.
    Charlie is the most adorable little man. I love the pictures!

  3. You are awesome!!! I love the way you don't just read about stuff but really apply it to your life and celebrate it!!! The All Saints Day celebration looks super fun!!

  4. I hope to start including the saints more in our lives. Thank you for sharing.

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