The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life

The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life

by Melissa Musick, Anna Keating


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101903179
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/23/2016
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 816,886
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

ANNA KEATING is a freelance writer and former high school teacher. Her essays have appeared in First ThingsSalonAmericaNotre Dame MagazineCommonwealthe Denver Post, and elsewhere. She graduated from Notre Dame, and co-owns and lives above Keating Woodworks, a handmade-furniture studio in Colorado.

MELISSA MUSICK is a columnist for National Catholic Reporter and Celebration. She is the author of eight books on religion and spirituality. Her essays have appeared in First ThingsCommonweal, GIANotre Dame MagazineCatholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Give Us This Day. She studied at Grinnell College and St. Thomas Seminary, and was a college chaplain for nine years.

Read an Excerpt


What We Keep: The Veneration of Holy Relics

And so we afterwards took up his bones which are now more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place.

 --From an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, AD 155
Catholicism is all about what we keep: communion with God and the saints, communion with one another, communion with our beloved dead. In the Church, there is a way of keeping this communion that is centered on the veneration of relics. The word “relic” is from a Latin word, reliquiae, which means remains. First-class relics are the material remains of the bodies of canonized and beatified saints. A relic of this sort might be a piece of one of the saint’s bones, though, in some cases, the entire body of a saint is preserved. Second-class relics are objects, such as a piece of clothing that touched the saints’ bodies, or instruments used by the saints during their lifetime. An example of this is the writing desk at which St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote The Story of a Soul. Third-class relics are objects, such as a piece of cloth, that have touched a first-class relic.

Venerating relics is part of the rich devotional life of the Church. Relics, like icons, are doorways into the divine. And, like icons, they can seem odd to Westerners, until we learn more about the ancient practice. As we reflect on the holy life of the saint whose relic we honor, we are drawn closer into the Christ to whom the saints have given their lives. The idea of relics may be new to you, and keeping relics may be a new practice, but it is grounded in simple human needs. 

You may have a picture of a dead parent or grandparent or child or close friend. You may keep the picture in a special place in your house or in a locket you wear close to your heart. My husband carries his late father’s wallet. I carry my late mother’s billfold. These are daily objects for daily use, so we are prompted to remember our loved ones daily. You want to remember a person who was, and is, important to you, who taught you how to live, who showed you the pathways of faith. This is not worship, but it is right respect and honor.

Our very recent ancestors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries commonly kept locks of hair. Christians found comfort in the soft hair and its assurance that the dead who once lived in this world will live forever in Christ. They are hidden from our sight, but we cherish the reminders of their mortal and eternal lives.

We venerate, or honor, relics, but we don’t worship them. We worship God alone. Theologians distinguish these two truths using the Greek words latria and dulia. Latria refers to the worship owed to God, and only God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dulia refers to the veneration, or honor, we owe to the saints. You probably know the word “venerate” best from the Good Friday liturgy, when we are invited to come forward during the service to kiss or kneel before the cross. We do not worship the cross; we worship the One who hung upon it. But we do honor the cross as the instrument of our salvation.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Relics have been venerated from the earliest days of the Church. The first documented case of Christians gathering the remains of a martyred saint and keeping those remains for veneration comes from the middle of the second century and the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, who was burned at the stake in AD 155. 

Polycarp was consecrated a bishop by the apostle John, who died around the turn of the second century. Polycarp was beloved of his people and revered as a living link to the apostles. An eyewitness to Polycarp’s death recorded what he saw and heard for his fellow Christians. The writer describes Polycarp as the flames consume him:

The fire took on the shape of a hollow chamber, like a ship’s sail when the wind fills it, and formed a wall round about the martyr’s figure; and there he was in the centre of it, not like a human being in flames but like a loaf baking in the oven, or like a gold or silver ingot being refined in a furnace. And we became aware of a delicious fragrance, like the odour of incense or other precious gums. As the bones and ashes grew cool enough to be gathered up, the faithful took them and laid them in a suitable place.

The writer describes the saint’s remains as “more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold.”

Veronica’s Veil

Polycarp’s martyrdom marks the earliest known account of the harvesting and keeping of relics for veneration, but it may not be the earliest instance of such devotional practices. Recall the story of St. Veronica, whose name is related to the Latin phrase vera icona, that is, true icon, or true image. Catholics are familiar with the story of Veronica wiping Jesus’s bruised and bleeding face as he walked to the cross. Though this story is not recounted in Scripture, it has long been held as worthy of remembrance by the faithful and is part of the Stations of the Cross. Until 1600, the cloth, or “Veronica’s Veil,” was kept inside the old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

When the new St. Peter’s was constructed under Pope Julius II, the cloth was lost, or, at least, it was considered lost. It turns out that for hundreds of years the cloth has been kept in a Capuchin church in Manoppello, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The cloth measures 17 by 24 centimeters, and it bears the life-sized image of a human face. The cloth is finely woven and the face is finely featured. But scientists doing microscopic examinations of the image can find no trace of paint. Indeed, the fabric is byssus, a costly fabric made from weaving the threads a certain kind of sea mussel, a bivalve mollusk, makes, found on the ocean floor. The threads must be harvested from the sea during the month of May. There is at least one known living byssus weaver, a woman from the island of Sant’Antioco. She has seen the cloth in Manoppello and agrees that it is indeed byssus. She agrees that the cloth, though it can be dyed, will not hold paint.

The image seen on the cloth is that of a bearded man whose right cheek is swollen. His beard is partially ripped out. Fresh wounds can be seen on his forehead and lips. His nose appears to be broken. He looks like a man who has been beaten. The pupils of his eyes are black, and, though no scientist has found traces of paint, it does appear that the cloth around the eyes has been scorched, as if something or someone had heated the threads to a high temperature. Scholars who have studied both this cloth and the Shroud of Turin say the image on one matches the image on the other. It is the same man.

John described Jesus’s empty tomb in his Gospel. He writes of Peter and “the other disciple,” running to the tomb after hearing Mary Magdalene’s startling news that she had found it empty. The “other disciple” arrives first but does not go in. He waits for Peter. But the “other disciple” does look into the tomb and sees “the burial cloths there.” (Note the use of the plural.) John writes,

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place (john 20:6-7).

The Vatican takes no official position on the relic and its authenticity, but the Capuchins and citizens of Manoppello believe the cloth in their village church is “the cloth that had covered his head.” They do not worship this cloth, and if it were found to be unrelated to Christ’s death and burial, it would not shake their faith in Christ. Still, they venerate the cloth as a link to Christ, and the Church encourages the veneration as a reminder of Christ’s suffering. Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine and prayed there in September of 2006. 

In the stories of relics kept and venerated throughout the ages it is important to note what is kept. Property is not venerated. Currency is not venerated. Gold and jewels are not venerated. What is venerated is some link, some connection to a saint. The value lies not in the relic itself, but in the holiness of the one to whom it belonged in life, and often the relic is kept in a central place where the whole community can see and appreciate it.

Some find the harvesting and keeping of relics by the Church distasteful, but think about what we often strive to keep after a loved one dies: money and houses and jewelry. Heirs fight over such things. Families are torn apart by squabbles over inheritance. Is it more distasteful to keep the fingernail of a saint than to keep Mom’s money market account?

What we choose to keep tells us what matters to us. Consider what you have that reminds you of the dead. Why does it remind you of that person, and how do you use that object in your life? I still have my grandmother’s pancake griddle. I’ve used it regularly for almost forty years, and I always think of her when I take it down from its hook. Though my grandmother is not a canonized saint, she taught me what it means to follow Christ. I am reminded of her teaching whenever I use a tool she used and respected. Maybe you have kept something that should be given away, either to a family member or to someone in the community who has need of it. We live in an age of hoarding, of getting and keeping long past our ability to store or use or enjoy an item. As we reflect on relics, perhaps we should clean out some closets and give away what belongs to another, keeping only those things that bring goodness into every aspect of our lives.


Excerpted from "The Catholic Catalogue"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Melissa Musick.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part 1 Smells and Bells

1 What We Keep: The Veneration of Holy Relics-MM 3

2 Holy Water and the Sign of the Cross-AK 8

3 Palls, Vestments, Linens, and Habits-MM 13

4 Holy Oils and Incense-MM 20

5 Making and Praying With Candles-AK 24

6 Medals and Scapulars-MM 28

7 Making and Blessing a Home, Hospitality, and Christ Rooms-MM 32

8 Sacred Space and Church Architecture-AK 38

9 Processions -MM 44

10 How to Do Eucharistic Adoration-AK 48

11 Daily Prayer and Christian Meditation-AK 52

12 Table Prayers-AK 59

Part 2 Seasons of the Church Year

Ordering Time 66

13 The Day: Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night Prayer-MM 67

14 The Week Keeping Friday, Saturday, and Sunday-MM 74

15 The Month: Time Punctuated By Holy Days-MM 79

Advent 83

16 The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe-MM 84

17 The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary-MM 87

18 Making and Praying the Advent Wreath-AK 90

19 The Crèche-MM 96

20 Decorating the Christmas Tree-MM 101

21 The Feast of St. Nicholas-MM 106

22 St. Lucy's Day-MM 111

23 Kristkindls-MM 115

Christmas 119

24 Christmas Legends-MM 120

23 St Stephen and the Companions of Christ-MM 125

26 Celebrating the New Year-MM 131

27 Blessing a Home, Making Window Stars, and Keeping the Feast of Epiphany-AK and MM 134

Winter Ordinary Time 139

28 Ordinary Time-Mm 140

29 The Feast of the Chair of St Peter-MM 143

30 February Holy Days and Celebrations: Candlemas, St. Blaise, and Valentine's Day-MM 147

31 How to Carnival-MM 153

Lent 158

32 Keeping Lent-AK 159

33 Palm Sunday and Making Palm Sunday Crosses-MM 166

34 Holy Week: Keeping Triduum-MM 171

35 How to Make A Confession-MM 177

36 Stations of the Cross-MM 182

Easter 186

37 Celebrating Easter-MM 187

38 Easter Eggs, Crafts, and Legends-AK 191

39 Easter Sunday-MM 196

40 Divine Mercy Sunday-AK 200

41 Walpurgis Night-MM 205

42 Praying with Mary and Intercessory Prayer-AK 208

43 The Feast of St Joseph and St Joseph the Worker-AK 216

44 Pentecost-MM 222

Summer Ordinary Time 227

45 How to Plant a Mary Garden-MM 228

46 St. John's Day Fires-MM 233

47 The Feast of Corpus Christi-AK 237

48 The Feast of the Assumption of Mary-MM 241

49 The Feast of STS. Peter and Paul-MM 245

50 Praying With St. Ignatius Loyola-AK 249

51 The Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal and the Fourth of July-MM 253

Autumn Ordinary Time 258

52 The Feast of the Archangels-MM 259

53 The Feast of All Saints-MM 264

54 The Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux-AK 267

55 Dia De Los Muertos and All Souls' Day-AK 271

56 Martinmas and Lantern Walks-AK 276

57 The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi-AK 280

58 The Feast of Mary's Presentation in the Temple-MM 288

59 The Feast of the Conception of John the Baptist-MM 291

60 Two Marian Feasts in September-MM 295

Part 3 Seasons of Life

Childhood to Adolescence 300

61 How to Name a ChiLd-MM 301

62 Baptism, Godparents, and Celebrations-MM 305

63 Daily Bread Recipe and Learning About the Bread of Life-AK 310

64 How to Bless a Child-AK 314

65 How to Celebrate a Name Day-MM 317

66 First Communion and First Communion Gifts-Mm 321

67 First Reconciliation-MM 326

68 The Sacrament of Confirmation and Confirmation Gifts-MM and AK 331

Young Adulthood 337

69 Finding a Parish-AK 338

70 How to Make a Retreat-MM 342

71 Finding a Spiritual Director and Discerning a Vocation-AK 347

72 Sant'egidio, Lay Groups, Service, and Social Justice-AK 352

73 Catholic Tattoos-AK 356

Adulthood 360

74 The Sacrament of Marriage-AK 361

75 Consecrated Virginity-AK 366

76 Making a Home ALTAR, Shrine, or Prayer Corner-AK 371

77 Catholic Road Trips and Pilgrimages-AK and MM 378

78 Domestic, Priestly, and Apostolic Blessings-MM 383

79 Catholic Social Teaching-AK 389

80 Sickness and Suffering-MM 395

81 The Sacrament of the Sick and Viaticum-MM 400

82 The Funeral Liturgy: Wake, Funeral, and Committal-MM 406

Coda 413

Acknowledgments 415

Permission Credit 417

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The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BarbaraC1977 More than 1 year ago
I've long found Melissa Nussbaum's and Anna Keating's writings filled with valuable insights. Now this wonderful book is on my Nook and I am thoroughly fascinated. Even as a "cradle Catholic" who went to Catholic schools, I'm learning a lot. I wish I'd had this "field guide" when my children were younger, as it would have made it even easier to share our beautiful faith in interesting ways. No need to start at the beginning or read it cover-to-cover at one time, as there are seasonal treats to dip into as the year progresses. Thank you, Melissa & Anna! - Barbara Crane