The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day


For centuries, the Catholic Church has offered an abundance of splendid traditions that extend religious and spiritual practice into daily life. Now, Meredith Gould reintroduces these customs and rituals to modern Roman Catholics.

Using the liturgical calendar, The Catholic Home provides familiar and new ways to celebrate each season and its special days. Gould reviews major holy days, select saints’ days, familiar prayers, and suggests meaningful ways to prepare as a family for...

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Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day

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For centuries, the Catholic Church has offered an abundance of splendid traditions that extend religious and spiritual practice into daily life. Now, Meredith Gould reintroduces these customs and rituals to modern Roman Catholics.

Using the liturgical calendar, The Catholic Home provides familiar and new ways to celebrate each season and its special days. Gould reviews major holy days, select saints’ days, familiar prayers, and suggests meaningful ways to prepare as a family for such sacraments as Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist, and Matrimony.

This book includes a concise history of each ritual and clarifies the meaning behind it by highlighting celebrations of Catholic holidays from different parts of the globe. Your family will learn to make Advent wreaths, Jesse trees, St. Lucy’s crowns, King’s cakes, All Souls altars, traditional foods, and participate in family devotions.

Throughout The Catholic Home, Gould’s down-to-earth practicality and sense of humor give the activities she describes modern relevance no matter how ancient their origins. Excerpts from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church are included to illuminate Church doctrine on matters of faith and ritual. This indispensable guide will appeal to Catholics young and old and inspire beloved family traditions to be handed down from one generation to the next.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Catholic Home is clear, practical, and inviting; it will make every Catholic’s job easier visualizing how to bring the faith home.” —Frederica Matthewes-Green, NPR commentator and author of Facing East and At the Corner of East and Now
Publishers Weekly
Who better than a nice Jewish girl to tell Catholics how to celebrate their faith at home? Jews have always been known for a sensibly domestic-centered observance of their religion, and Gould, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism, speaks from a unique dual perspective. Having lived in a Jewish home, she knows about lighting Sabbath candles, but also remembers when Catholics kept holy water and statues in their houses. In her own home, which she affectionately describes as "the Hermitage" and "Julian of Norwich goes suburban," she has revived traditions that fell by the wayside after changes wrought by Vatican II, and also established a multitude of new ones. Readers seeking to reinforce Catholic identity on the home front will find plenty of ideas, among them a how-to for celebrating Christmas when it actually arrives, instead of weeks before, and making Halloween holy by embracing it as the eve of All Saints Day. Gould's writing is light and airy, even irreverent at times, but her ideas are well-grounded and refreshing. She wisely reinforces her suggestions with excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and uses the church's sacraments and elaborate calendar of feast days and liturgical seasons as the skeleton of her book, trotting out bits of history and legend for added interest. Gould's engaging enthusiasm will doubtless have readers asking, "Who knew Catholicism could be so much fun?" (Feb. 17) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sociologist and Catholic convert Gould (Deliberate Acts of Kindness, etc.) has written a varied and lively guide to the management of a spiritual year in a Catholic household, stuffed with folk traditions, sage advice, and a surprisingly unprudish sense of humor. Here she is on Easter: "Okay, so we stole most of our Easter stuff from pagans and druids who celebrated the vernal equinox with no shortage of riotous ritual. Before there was an Easter bunny, there was the sacred hare (osterhase). This overgrown rabbit was originally a pagan fertility symbol, for reasons that should be obvious. Easter lilies were pre-Christian symbols of fertility, specifically male genitalia. Would anyone really mind if we started calling our holy day `Resurrection Sunday'?" Gould's disarming candor does not prevent her book from being a very useful handbook for the liturgical year, essential prayers, and even the rosary. Highly recommended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385519076
  • Publisher: Crown Religion/Business/Forum
  • Publication date: 9/19/2006
  • Edition description: Updated
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 520,968
  • Product dimensions: 4.99 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Meredith Gould, Ph.D., is the author of four books, including Deliberate Acts of Kindness: Service as a Spiritual Practice. A convert to Catholicism, she brings a fresh appreciation of age-old customs and provides a framework for understanding the symbols and celebrations of her chosen faith. Dr. Gould lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and welcomes reader comments on her website,
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Value of Tradition

In addition to being shaped by its historical and cultural context, every religion has a set of informal practices that have emerged. These customs support liturgy, sometimes softening it to become more spiritually accessible. They provide yet another vehicle for expressing faith. Call your religion a "faith tradition" instead and notice how rituals become infused with meaning that, in turn, reinforces your identity as a Catholic follower of Jesus the Christ.

Since its beginning, the Church has recognized, sometimes with great dismay, the customs of people it has embraced and, put more bluntly, conquered. Around the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church took more formal notice of sacramentals--signs, symbols, and activities that serve to enhance faith and identity. These include actions (e.g., making the sign of the Cross, praying the Rosary, novenas, nonliturgical blessings) and objects (e.g., Advent wreaths, holy water, medals, rosary beads).

Unlike the sacraments instituted by Christ, the Church determines the use of sacramentals, promoting some and demoting others at different points in history. Perhaps you're old enough to remember when St. Christopher was unceremoniously removed from car dashboards. A goofy example? Not to anyone who experienced and mourned his demise as patron saint of travelers! This example illustrates the Church's major concern about sacramentals and, by extension, folk customs: how to prevent mystery from slipping into magic. At what point does superstition eclipse substance? Since this is a book about celebrating ages-old customs, you'll want to give this issue serious consideration. To evaluate the value of any particular custom, ask yourself:

* Does this custom bring me into a deeper personal relationship with God the Creator, Christ the Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, the Divine Counselor?

* Does this observance reflect, strengthen, and sustain my Christian values and beliefs?

* Does this practice help me express my Christian faith and enhance my participation in the Body of Christ?

And keep this in mind: Don't reject a custom because it seems too enjoyable to be pious! Fun is absolutely compatible with faith. If you need biblical proof, search scripture for references to celebration, feasting, and joy. (Hint: Where did Jesus perform his first public miracle? See John 2:1-11.)

Your Catholic Home

Were you raised Catholic? If so, what do you remember about your childhood home? How about your grandparents' home?

If you came of age before 1965, you can probably rattle off a list of items that distinguished your home as being a Catholic one. There was probably a crucifix over every bed wrapped, depending on the time of year, in either fresh or dusty palm fronds. Rosary beads hung from a bedpost or were coiled on a bedside table. The family Bible was displayed and, depending on your family's devotional fervor, opened to the day's gospel reading. The Blessed Virgin Mother appeared on the family altar (if you had one) as well as the front lawn. Maybe you had a statue of the Infant of Prague (with outfits!) as well as one of Mary in your kitchen. Your whole family prayed the Rosary. Everyone said grace before meals and made the sign of the Cross--in front of company, no less. And that's just what you remember off the top of your head.

Chances are that if you were born after 1965 you'd be hard-pressed to identify many distinctively Catholic objects or activities in either your childhood home or the one you're creating today. The preceding inventory, parts of which probably read like a movie prop list, may trigger feelings of curiosity, nostalgia, or loss. What will it take to make your home the "domestic Church" it was historically intended to be? Take a tour of your home, asking:

* Does my home reflect my Catholic Christian faith?

* Have I created a place in my home and time in my life to celebrate my faith?

* What would I have to add--or remove--so my home strengthens the presence of Christ in my life?

It doesn't matter whether you have four kids or seven cats, Grandma in the upstairs apartment, or other single friends within walking distance. You are heir to a venerable structure for creating a Catholic home--the Catholic calendar. Commit to marking time in alignment with the life of Jesus the Christ, and watch your own life be transformed.

Faith is a treasure of life, which is enriched by

being shared.

*CCC 949

Getting Started

If you're reading this book, it's because you--or a well-meaning someone--has decided it's time to give fuller expression to your Catholic identity. Before you do anything else, you'll want to get or create a master calendar. You can either run off a calendar that you find on one of the many Catholic websites noted in Appendix D or visit a bookstore that carries Catholicalia. Somewhere, usually near the laminated prayer cards, you'll find a liturgical calendar that's snazzier than whatever your parish makes available.

Preprinted secular calendars generally note dates for big events during the year, but liturgical calendars also include saints' days and are color-coded for the season and feast days. Look for one big enough to include your personal notations about secular birthdays, name days, sacrament anniversaries, daily devotions, and other reminders. While you're at it, treat yourself to colored pens so you can make calendar notes in their proper liturgical colors! You'll need red, green, and violet.

As you'll soon discover, the Roman (or Latin) Rite calendar is a powerful tool for studying--and living--Christianity. Without a doubt, Catholics celebrate a greater number of events in Jesus' life than do Protestant Christians. Along with the Eastern Church, we have special regard for Mary, the Mother of God, and canonized saints. As a result, we are--or can be--very busy celebrating, memorializing, venerating, and adoring throughout the year. Following the Catholic calendar closely can teach you more--and more personally--about our faith tradition than attending CCD. And it can enrich your whole family's sense of faith, family, and tradition.

Technically, our liturgical year officially begins at Advent. It starts with this season for one obvious reason: Jesus is born; the Word is made flesh to live among us. And yet, as your own devotions deepen, you may find yourself "beginning" the year at different times, sometimes beginning again and again during the very same year. One year, it'll make perfect sense to start with Advent. Perhaps after experiencing a loved one's death, you may wonder why the liturgical year doesn't commence with Easter Sunday. If you earnestly celebrate your saint's feast day, you may secretly believe that the year should begin then!

In any case, this temporal cycle follows an unbroken succession of seasons commemorating events and mysteries of faith organized around the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Sunday, the new Sabbath affirmed by the risen Lord, is the key marker for determining:

Advent: Four weeks of preparation for the birth of Jesus the Christ

Christmas: Season celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ

Ordinary Time: Weeks between the Baptism of the Lord and Lent providing time to contemplate and live the lessons of Christmas and prepare for Lent

Lent: Forty days of Easter preparation

Holy Week: Starting with Palm Sunday, a week of commemorating events leading up to and through the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ

Easter: Fifty days of celebrating the resurrection and ascension of Christ

Pentecost: Celebrating the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church

Ordinary Time: Weeks between Pentecost and Advent providing time for living the lessons of the preceding great feasts

Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration, there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present.

CCC 1104

At the same time, the Catholic calendar is organized according to a sanctoral cycle of days honoring men and women who have lived extraordinary lives in the service of Christ. By Vatican Council II (1962-1965), the calendar was crammed with saints and devotional feasts, especially ones to Mary. It was reconfigured in 1969 to reemphasize the temporal cycle, relegating a fair number of saints' days to local and regional celebration. Except for saints' days providing seasonal markers (e.g., the Feast of St. Andrew marks the end of Ordinary Time), we'll focus on the temporal cycle in this book. We'll also zoom in on daily devotions that are not necessarily linked to the calendar, and also home-based ways to prepare for celebrating the sacraments.

In sum, the Roman (Latin) Church's year of worship, beginning at Advent, is jam-packed with holy seasons and feast days of various types, inspiring and requiring various levels of observance. Some, like holy days of obligation, are feast days devoted to Mass attendance, rest, and contemplative renewal. Others, like the seasons of Advent and Lent, are times of fasting and penance. Virtually all have centuries-old church rituals and folk customs that infuse each celebration--and our hearts--with special meaning.

Holy Days of Obligation

These six holy days of obligation provide opportunities to restore body, mind, and soul. Easter isn't on this list because Sunday is already a holy day of obligation.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God January 1

Ascension forty days after Easter

Assumption of Mary August 15

All Saints' Day November 1

Mary's Immaculate Conception December 8

Christmas December 25

The Value of Ritual

Religious rituals--activities that help create a sense of the sacred--provide continuity and comfort for faith communities. God knows, there's no shortage of ritual for Catholics to learn and follow. The challenge is keeping ritual not only alive, but also vibrantly well.

Consider Mass liturgy, for example. Non-Catholics seem somewhat stunned by the unwavering predictability of the Mass and its constituent rituals. Predictability does not, however, mean forever unchanging. Before Vatican II, the Mass was criticized (by outsiders and insiders) for its seemingly obscure formalism and way of excluding laity. These days, Mass is served in local language, priests face the pew-bound faithful, and both men and women are encouraged to participate more. Not that any of this automatically guarantees your full participation. No doubt, you've caught yourself zoning out at least once during years of church attendance.

At church, either the material or mystical can keep you from drifting too far. Perhaps there's something about the building itself--the vault of the ceiling or the unique olfactory blend of wood polish and incense--that invites you to become present. You might notice how a change in vestment colors shifts your sense of season. Sometimes the rhythm of the lector's voice recaptures your attention to God's word. At other times, music transports you deeper into the land of worship. You might find yourself mindlessly reciting the profession of faith when suddenly a word, phrase, or entire section comes to life--your present life--in a new way. The Host is held high and you are through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

All of it--the physical structure of God's house and the rituals performed within it--serves to shepherd your meandering mind. But you face another challenge once you hear, "The mass has ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and each other." This is the challenge of bringing your Christian faith into daily life and, more specifically, creating a home that reflects your Catholic identity. Here's where traditions help construct and sustain meaning.

The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one's being, where the person decides for or against God.

CCC 368

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Catholic Home is a MUST-READ for Catholic families and a great gift for all Christians

    OK, this book, beyond being wonderfully well written and of a voice that will entertain and educate you, is a GREAT guide for Catholic families.

    Written to follow the liturgical calendar, The Catholic Home is part Catechism refresher, history lesson, craft book, recipe book, prayer book and full of world customs to bring a fuller and more complete appreciation of your Christian faith.

    The hints of Meredith's personal conversion story from Jewish to Christian are touched on in The Catholic Home, and are fully explored in Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship

    Every once in a while, I find a book worth sharing with others. This book is on the list as an unexpected pre-Christmas gift (so my friends can get more out of Advent than every before!!!) on my list. Additionally, I will give this book as a gift throughout the liturgical year.

    I have been moved to a deeper expression of my faith thanks to this books tips, guides and thoughts, and know many others who will, too. In fact, The Catholic Home should be required reading for any Catholic family, and sharing it with non-Catholic Christians will likely inspire a deeper understanding in the liturgical calendar, and Catholicism, generally.

    Thanks for writing this book, Meredith!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    An incredible amount of information packed in a little book! All major Catholic feasts are reviewed, with historical data to help understand the original meaning. I expected more tips on home decoration, ideas for recipes and so on, but this is not the primary objective of the author. Instead, she tries to spark your own creativity. Once you've understood what the real meaning of Corpus Christi is, lot of new ideas to celebrate properly at home will certainly appear.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Great book for starting traditions

    This book is great for those that may be looking for ways to bring more of your faith into your home.

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