Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Liturgical Living: Part One, Liturgical 101

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | May 06, 2022 | In The Liturgical Year

“Liturgical living” or “living the Liturgical Year” or “celebrating the Liturgical Year” is trending among Catholic families.

What is “liturgical living” or “living the Liturgical Year”? These are unofficial labels of popular piety, which are ways of living the liturgy and feasts of the Liturgical calendar in ways that might be more tangible and accessible, incorporating the different senses, since we are not just spiritual beings. This is often seen done with cooking, crafting, reading, playing, praying, etc. The faithful have been doing this for centuries, so living the Liturgical Year might be a culmination of older traditions and recipes mixed in with new fun ideas, and ideally intertwined with the liturgy of the Church.

It is wonderful that many families want to follow along the Church’s calendar and celebrate their faith more deeply within their homes. But I am also seeing a negative side. Peer pressure abounds—the obligation to celebrate in ways that can be photographed, recorded and posted on social media—picture perfect partying. All this exponentially increases mom guilt; Martha Stewart has nothing on this extra burden many Catholic mothers feel. I hear from many parents who step away and decide to do nothing because they cannot reach this new standard of liturgical living.

Commercialism and materialism have also crept into liturgical living. Just for Lent and Easter, my email and social media were so full of advertisements of supplies, crafts, books, subscriptions, and much more…on ways and things I could buy to enhance my liturgical celebrations at home, all offerings at low costs. It made me stop and realize how much liturgical living has gone commercial. What started as different moms giving a peek into their homes and how their celebrations look, is now a Catholic cottage industry. I’m not condemning it, but realizing that we need to take a step back and perhaps go back to basics and prioritize. Let’s call this Liturgical Living 101, a refresher course.

Back to Basics: Liturgical Living 101

It’s a common practice to go back to the beginning or go to the roots and reexamine, either personally, or as a company or apostolate or group. So often this is done at retreats (with the Ignatian 30 Day being the model), at the beginning of the new calendar year or new fiscal year or during the liturgical seasons of preparation, Advent and Lent. It’s a time to go back to one’s “mission statement” and see if the journey is still on track. So often we stray from the original plan, or get bogged down in details or add too many extras that have made us stray from the essential purpose.

For Liturgical Living, the sacraments are the starting point, with Baptism being the beginning. Baptism established a personal relationship with all three persons of the Blessed Trinity, and we become members of Christ’s Mystical body, and now sharers in the Church’s mission. Baptism starts our calling to love Christ and spread the Gospel.

And for many of us, the sacrament of Matrimony is a pivotal sacrament in our Liturgical living. It is through matrimony that we work together to help our spouse to heaven. The children we bring into the world we also help educate and make them saints! Matrimony creates the family, which the Church often refers to as the “ecclesia domestica” or domestic church, or church in miniature. I think we hear this phrase so often we forget to concentrate on its origins and meaning. This term, “domestic church” is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Lumen Gentium and Familiaris Consortio.

In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. 168 It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.” 169

1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.” 170 Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.” 171 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life (CCC, 1656-1657).

Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio elaborated on just what domestic church means in action:

The Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity....

49. Among the fundamental tasks of the Christian family is its ecclesial task: The family is placed at the service of the building up of the kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the church.

In order to understand better the foundations, the contents and the characteristics of this participation, we must examine the many profound bonds linking the church and the Christian family and establishing the family as a “church in miniature” (ecclesia domestica),114 in such a way that in its own way the family is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the church.

Thus the little domestic church, like the greater church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith.

Although as parents we are the “first heralds,” Pope St. John Paul II illustrates how the domestic church has to continually progress, using the strong words of “constantly and intensely evangelized.” As parents, we have much work to do. First, our mission is educating our children in the faith, and not just a personal way that we choose, for our family to be “a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church” is a very high standard. Secondly, this isn’t just a greenhouse where our work is kept under cover, but we are charged with being active in the Church: “The family is placed at the service of the building up of the kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the church.” It is a balancing act, with both hidden and active work within the Church.

But how is this connected with living with the Church’s calendar with feasts and seasons of the Liturgical Year? Familiaris Consortio zooms in on how liturgical living is actually a calling of our families:

61. There exists a deep and vital bond between the prayer of the church and the prayer of the individual faithful as has been clearly reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council.153 An important purpose of the prayer of the domestic church is to serve as the natural introduction for the children to the liturgical prayer of the whole church, both in the sense of preparing for it and of extending it into personal, family and social life. Hence the need for gradual participation by all the members of the Christian family in the celebration of the eucharist, especially on Sundays and feast days, and of the other sacraments, particularly the sacraments of Christian initiation of the children. The directives of the council opened up a new possibility for the Christian family when it listed the family among those groups to whom it recommends the recitation of the Divine Office in common.154 Likewise, the Christian family will strive to celebrate at home and in a way suited to the members the times and feasts of the liturgical year.

As preparation for the worship celebrated in church and as its prolongation in the home, the Christian family makes use of private prayer, which presents a great variety of forms.

Prayer and celebrations at home, woven with the seasons and feasts of the Liturgical Year, are the beginnings of a child’s introduction to the Faith, and the way children grow into fully participating members of the Church.

Popular Piety and the Liturgy

A key word that we must keep in mind is “liturgy.” It is included in the “Liturgical Year” and the phrase “Liturgical living.” The domestic church must always stay connected with the Church’s liturgy, as the Liturgy takes precedence and should be the root or at least the contact for all popular piety.

Together with the liturgical celebration, “summit and source of the life of the Church”, as Vatican Council II recalls, tradition also witnesses to a great many ways of private and communal prayer. It is the realm usually called “popular devotion” or “popular religious practice” or the “devotional”, which is very important for the spiritual life of the faithful. The Church has always been aware that devotion has to remain in contact with the liturgy, in which she respects the special character of popular devotion, since it is less guided by norms without falling into total spontaneity....

The primary place of the liturgy, “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows” (Sancrosanctum Concilium, n. 10). The Council also recalled that “the spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy” (ibid., n.12). In fact, to nourish the spiritual life of the faithful there are also the “popular devotions of the Christian people” (ibid., n. 13) (See Popular Piety and the Life Of Faith by Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez).

The Church has always encouraged the faithful to keep a balance and establish the harmony between liturgy and popular piety. We are celebrating 21 years of the document issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines. This document should be required reading by all the faithful, as it provides discernment with devotions, pious exercise, popular piety, popular religiosity, with corrections or cautions against some extremes. Above all it helps Catholics discern different rituals that are in keeping with the Church’s liturgy, and provides some recommendations of beautiful popular piety that can be adopted.

Symbiotic Relationship

I see living the Liturgy within the domestic church is a type of symbiotic relationship. The domestic church and the Church are working together in a mutual relationship, with both the Church and the family benefiting from each other.

The Church celebrates the Mass, the sacraments, the Divine Office…all parts of the daily living liturgy.

As the domestic church, we should be growing to be a part of this liturgy in our everyday living. The trend of liturgical living should always point to the liturgy, give glimpses of the liturgy, incorporate bits and pieces, and most of all, participate with the whole church in the liturgy whenever possible. We are helping our children grow up living the Liturgical Year, so that they will become fully participating members within the Church, fully practicing and praying with Liturgy of the Church. It starts as baby steps, but we are working towards helping our children to be full participating Catholic adults.

Speaking of the symbiosis, the Church provides all these wonderful gifts of Liturgy, but the domestic church also provides in this relationship. The work of the domestic church gives fullness to the Church, evangelizing the Church. Our family is part of the Mystical Body. What we do at home, even in the smallest ways, helps the life of the Church. In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd’s First Communion preparation we refer to the John 15 parable of the Vine and the Branches. We are all branches of the True Vine, and with our living the liturgy in forms of popular piety, we will bear fruit for the good of whole True Vine.

Sometimes we need to look more closely at why we do something, instead of just repeating rituals or adding extra celebrations without knowing the foundations. Our devotions and popular piety that we use in celebrating the Liturgical Year (“Liturgical Living”) should be connected with the liturgy and lead us to participate more closely in the life of the Church.


Coming Next: Liturgical Living Part Two, Back to Basics

See my previous post, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Part Two: Liturgy and Popular Piety, for further expansion.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year, or liturgical living. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: thecaribou9407 - May. 10, 2022 4:10 PM ET USA

    I hear from many parents who step away and decide to do nothing because they cannot reach this new standard of liturgical living. Wrong response! No need to get on the Instagram hamster wheel. Enjoy living liturgically, DIY fashion, with humility and joy. Wink gently to another at the materialism, and focus on the best, of Influencer advice, while leaving the rest! Adapt things. I made my own prayer journal with a regular notebook, as I need lots of writing space. Just an example!