Celebrating Mary in May

Celebrating Mary in May

As Catholics we are used to celebrating May as the month of Mary, with May crownings and the like. It’s the height of spring and new life, and Mary gave new life to the world when she gave birth to our savior Jesus Christ.

Nearly 60 years ago, Pope Paul the VI wrote about honoring Mary in the month of May.  “For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.”
There are many Marian feast days that you can celebrate with your family this month. St. Joseph the Worker is on May 1st and Our Lady of Fatima is on May 13th. But May is also a BUSY month. So here are just a few simple ways to honor Our Lady and remember these feasts through this beautiful month.
  • In early May, find a way to attend a May crowning, or bring some flowers and/or pray a rosary together at your own Marian statue or one of our newly renovated Marian areas on campus. (On May 1st after Mass we will pray the Litany of Loreto and have a blessing after school Mass–families are welcome to attend!)
  • Our Lady of Fatima is a feast day for children! Like so many other apparitions, she appeared to little children. Her most fervent request was that we return to prayer, especially through the Rosary often. Pray these Fatima prayers at home this month
  • Make a Rosary with your children. Use any kind of beads. You can buy kits online (see Be a Heart) or use whatever you have to make a decade or the whole thing. Then pray it together!
  • The Sun danced on Our Lady’s final appearance on October 13 of 1917. Brew sun tea as a family to remember this event, and have a dance party imagining what it looked like for the sun to dance!
  • Check out our friends at Catholic Icing for some fun sun crafts and snacks! Our family made an easy snack out of food we had in our fridge. Ta-da, a dancing sun on a plate! Or just pick up some Sunchips at the store!
  • Keep an eye out for other joyful Marian feasts this month, including Mother’s Day (of course), the Monday after Pentecost which is Mary, Mother of the Church, and May 31st, the Visitation!
Celebrating the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

Celebrating the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

29 April: Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born in Siena, Italy in 1347. She was the 25th child in a large family, although half her siblings did not survive childhood. Catherine was intensely religious; she began to experience God mystically and took a vow of virginity before she turned seven. Frequent visions of Christ, Mary, angels and saints inspired her holy, austere lifestyle. At age 16, one of Catherine’s sisters died. Her parents proposed that the widowed husband marry Catherine as a replacement, but Catherine vehemently opposed this. She fasted and cut her hair very short to mar her appearance. Her parents tried to force the marriage but Catherine’s extreme fasting, prayer, and religious conviction finally made them relent. Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, which allowed her to live at home as a religious. She lived quietly isolated. She received the stigmata, had divine visions, and could levitate while praying.  When she was 21, Catherine experienced a “mystical marriage to Christ” and was given an invisible ring made of Jesus’s skin. In a vision, she was told to re-enter public life to help the poor and sick. She went to work in hospitals and homes. She once visited a condemned prisoner and was credited with saving his soul, which she saw being taken up to heaven as he died. Her reputation attracted a circle of followers. Before long, she had scribes to help her correspondence with many influential Church and secular leaders, including kings, queens, and the pope. The leaders asked for her advice. She traveled Europe seeking reconciliation between warring parties. She urged Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and lobbied on behalf of the legitimacy of Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism of 1378. Catherine also looked after victims of the Black Plague, caring for the worst patients and burying the dead. She established a monastery for women. Her rich prayer life included frequent visions and ecstasies, recorded as a dialogue between a soul and God, in her Dialogue of Divine Providence. Her 400-some written letters are considered a great work of theology and literature. Her extreme fasting may have contributed to her death at the age of 33. She was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461. In 1970, she was given the title of Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI (a Doctor of the Church is a saint recognized as having been of particular importance regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine). 

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Have a bonfire to illustrate one of her famous quotes “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
  • Write an encouraging letter to a priest or your bishop: although St. Catherine was neither wealthy nor well-educated, she wrote influential letters and helped many priests, bishops, including the Pope and became one of the Doctors of the Church because of her writings. 
  • Pray for and write to a nurse or firefighter: St. Catherine is the patron of nurses and firefighters. Maybe also drop off a treat at your local fire department or nurse’s station.
  • Color a picture of St. Catherine like this one here
  • If you have stairs in your home, try walking up them on your knees in prayer as St. Catherine often did as a young child as an example of her piety and devotion. 
  • Bake bread for the poor: St. Catherine baked bread daily for the poor. Follow her lead and make some bread to share with the poor. Or, bake some bread to give to someone who is poor in spirit and might just need a lift. Here is a recipe for St. Catherine “peace bread” in honor of her work for world peace.
  • For a feast day dinner, an Italian meal is perfect since St. Catherine was from Italy, specifically the Tuscan region. Try making Pasta Santa Caterina
  • Make a ring shaped dessert to symbolize the marital ring that Jesus gave her in a vision. Try this Chocolate Chip Italian Ring Cake
Celebrating the Feast of St George

Celebrating the Feast of St George

23 April: Feast of Saint George. George was born the son of a Roman officer and a Greek native of Lydda. Both were Christians from noble families and George was raised to follow their faith. When George was old enough, he joined Diocletian’s army. By his late 20’s, George became a Tribunus and served as an imperial guard for the Emperor at Nicomedia. In 303 A.D., Diocletian, who hated Christians, announced that every Christian would be arrested and every soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. George refused to abide by the order and told Diocletian, who was angry but valued his friendship with George’s father. When George publicly announced his beliefs before his peers, Diocletian was forced to take action. In an effort to save George, Diocletian tried to convert him to believe in the Roman gods. He even bribed him with land, money, and slaves in exchange for offering a sacrifice to the gods. Diocletian kept this up, making several other offers but George refused them all. Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George’s execution. In preparation for his death, George gave his money to the poor. Then, he was forced to endure several torture sessions. In one of these sessions, he was lacerated on a wheel of swords and required resuscitation three times. Despite all of the intense suffering, George did not waver in his Faith or turn away from God. On April 23, 303 A.D., George was beheaded. Saint George is honored as a brave martyr for his Faith. Interestingly, Saint George is known and revered by both Muslims and Christians. Saint George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia and his cross can be found throughout England. He is also the patron saint of soldiers and Boy Scouts. In older works, Saint George is depicted wearing armor and holding a lance or fighting a dragon, representing Christ’s enemies.

Now, what about the famous story of Saint George and the Dragon? Legends and stories abound that tell of George fighting dragons. They are believed to be more fable than fact. The Western version of these tales tells of a “dragon” (or crocodile?!) that made its nest at a spring that provided water for a village. The people of that town were unable to collect water due to the danger. They attempted unsuccessfully to remove the dragon from its nest. The beast would temporarily leave when they offered it a sheep or other such temptation. This worked until all the town’s sheep were eaten. The desperate people then decided that offering the beast a maiden was necessary. The townspeople chose the victim by drawing straws. One day, the princess’ straw was drawn. The monarch begged for her to be spared but the people would not have it. She was offered to the dragon, but before she could be devoured, Saint George appeared. He faced the dangerous beast, protected himself with the Sign of the Cross, and slayed the dragon. George then gave a rousing sermon and the townspeople abandoned their paganism and were converted to Christianity. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away. It is said that Saint George killed the dragon near the sea in Beirut. Thus, Saint George Bay was named in his honor.

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Let your kids dress up in soldier or knight costumes (use pretend swords/shields/stuffed animals/etc) and create their own play about Saint George slaying the dragon!
  • Free coloring picture of St. George available at this link
  • Make a sock puppet dragon (instructions here). 
  • Since he’s the patron of England, enjoy some favorite English foods today in honor of Saint George (think: tea and biscuits; fish and chips; shepherd’s pie; bangers and mash
  • Or, enjoy roasted lamb for dinner as a fun nod to the story of George saving the townspeople and their sheep. Another fun idea is to incorporate skewers, toothpicks, or mini cocktail swords in your feast day meal to remember the slaying of the dragon.
  • Listen to Saints Alive Podcast on St. George and the virtue of Fortitude (We listened on the way home from school!)
  • Have a tea party, in costume and discuss the difference between legend and fact.  The dragon in St. George’s legend represents fighting the powers of darkness. 
  • Enjoy an English meal of fish and chips in honor of the patron saint of England.
  • Try dragonfruit for dessert, slaying the fruit with sword cocktail skewers. 
  • Reenact the legend of St. George complete with your favorite “dragon”
  • Finally, make a dragon cake for dessert! Ideas here.
Celebrating the Feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous

Celebrating the Feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous

16 April: Feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France in 1844. Her family lived in extreme poverty and Bernadette suffered from illnesses most of her life. At age fourteen, the Virgin Mary appeared to her near a cave at Massabielle. This was the first of eighteen apparitions. Mary identified herself as “The Immaculate Conception.” When Bernadette told of these visions, many didn’t believe and demanded she be put in an asylum. Bernadette remained firm and shared Mary’s message of the need for prayer and penance. The vision told her to “drink of the water of the spring, wash in it, and eat the herb that grew there”. Bernadette obeyed and the next day the grotto was transformed from a muddy mess to clear flowing water. Bernadette insisted that “the Lady” asked for a chapel to be built there. Today, close to 5 million pilgrims visit Lourdes each year to pray and to drink the miraculous water. Countless miracles have come from the waters. When Bernadette was twenty-two, she chose to withdraw from the world to the convent of Saint-Gildard with the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. She stayed there until her death in 1879. The name “Bernadette” means “brave as a bear.” 

To celebrate this feast day at home: 

  • Pray a family rosary together! Use this day to revive your family’s devotion to the Blessed Mother.
  • Give gummy bears as a treat to remind your children to be “brave as a bear” like Bernadette in sharing their faith. 
  • Eat pretzel sticks or rods to represent the firewood that St. Bernadette was collecting when Our Lady first appeared to her. Dip them in melted chocolate for a true feast day treat!
  • Watch one of the St. Bernadette movies on FORMED
  • Eat croissants for breakfast and prepare a French-themed dinner: perhaps a charcuterie board with cheeses and breads. Or, French onion soup and a chocolate soufflé dessert. Or, keep it crazy simple and enjoy “French” fries in memory of this humble French girl who became such an important saint.   
Feast of the Annunciation

Feast of the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior—the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary. It is the day that Mary proclaimed her Fiat, her yes to God. The moment she, without hesitation, submitted to the will of God and His plan for her life. Without her profound YES, God’s entire plan for salvation would have not unfolded. That yes was the most impactful, significant yes ever uttered. Typically this feast day falls during Lent on March 25th (this year due to it falling during Holy Week the feast is moved to April 8th) and is an opportunity to lay down the Lenten season of penance and fasting for a joyful celebration of this solemnity of Mary. 

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, which describes the news given to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God, records the “angelic salutation” of Gabriel to Mary, ‘Hail, thou who art highly favored. The Lord is with thee.” This is the origin of the repeated “Hail Mary” prayer of the Rosary; and Mary’s response to God’s will, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Her exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church’s liturgy of the hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for many centuries.

The Feast of the Annunciation is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This special feast day brings to light the significance and importance of the value of children in the womb. That the story of Jesus began in his Incarnation, his miraculous conception, in the most vulnerable state of life. Children may, quite naturally, think that the birth of Jesus is the time when Our Savior first ‘became Man,’ especially since Christmas has become the Christian holiday in our culture. We understand best what we can see, what is visible. The invisible, the hidden, is no less real for our lack of seeing it. (We think of the baby in its mother’s womb, known and felt, though unseen, only to her.) Bringing this feast day into your domestic home is a profound way of helping children understand that life begins at conception and that Jesus was no different, God became “like us in all things except sin.” 

Ways to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation at home:

  1. Have your own ‘yes’ day! Spend the day saying ‘yes’ to your children (find the parameters and restrictions that are necessary for your family) and enjoy the peace that comes with less decision making! Remind your children that following God’s plan for our life often leads to a more peaceful and joyful life! (Children are also charged with saying ‘yes’ to mom and dad! It is a day of joy and fun, but also obedience and a great exercise in virtue for all involved!)
  2. Pray the magnificat or evening prayer as a family.
  3. Pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary or even the single decade of the annunciation. 
  4. Reading specific excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great opportunity to bring catechesis education home. Catechism #436-511 on Article 3 of the Creed, “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary” will not only give adults a timely review of Catholic doctrine, but it can be a great help to us in transmitting important truths of the faith to our children. 
  5. Wear blue in honor of Mary
  6. Read passages from scripture this feast day, specifically Luke 1: 26-53.
  7. Bring a meal to a pregnant mother, donate to a pregnancy center like Birthright or St. Clare’s Home, and/or pray for expectant mothers.
  8. Look back on pictures of children when they were still in the womb, sonogram pictures or photos of mom while pregnant. 
  9. Eat waffles or seed cake. The word for waffle in Swedish is very close to the term for Virgin Mary, so it became the traditional Annunciation food. Enjoy a waffle today, adding strawberries to symbolize Mary’s fruitfulness. Or England’s traditional Annunciation food is the seed cake, which symbolizes Jesus, who became flesh as a seed in Mary’s womb. Enjoy a seed cake in memory of Mary’s motherhood.
  10. Decorate with lilies. The Lilium candidum or ‘Madonna lily’ is a symbol of the Annunciation. You can see it in paintings of the archangel Gabriel bringing the message to Mary as well as in paintings of Joseph, who was to care for Mary and the Son of God. 
Celebrating the Feast of St Joseph

Celebrating the Feast of St Joseph

In 2020, Pope Francis declared the Year of St. Joseph and with that, it seemed St. Joseph found our family. Joseph walked alongside our family through hard, challenging and beautiful moments of early 2020 (before the pandemic even hit!). Joseph was Dan’s confirmation Saint, so he’d been familiar with his gentleness, fortitude, and strength for sometime, but in 2020 our family devotion to St. Joseph began. His feast is almost always in the middle of lent – a welcomed feast day to celebrate in our opinion!!

In case you didn’t know, Saint Joseph is well known as the head of the Holy Family. He is silent in scripture, yet, spoken words are not needed for us to understand what a godly man Joseph was. 

Here is what Pope Benedict XVI says of Joseph’s silence: “The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his “father” Joseph that Jesus learned… Let us allow ourselves to be “filled” with Saint Joseph’s silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice.”  

Saint Joseph is the guardian and patron of the Universal Church, as well as of many causes including workers, fathers, and a happy death, due to the tradition that he died in Jesus and Mary’s arms.

“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church.” – POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II

How to celebrate this simple, yet powerful Saint on his feast day:

  1. Zeppole di San Giuseppe! Also known as creme puffs have traditionally been linked to St. Joseph! One legend has it that when St. Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt, he was out of work (there isn’t much wood there), so he had to find some way of supporting his family. Naturally, he took to selling street food, and sweet pastries were his best-seller! We found ours at Harris Teeter, but check out Beard Papa’s on Woodruff for unique creme puffs or make them at home
  2. Build something! St. Joseph was a carpenter, so build something with blocks, magnatiles, legos or wood today. Wanna kick it up a notch? This weekend, plan to build a birdhouse to prepare for spring in honor of St. Joseph. 
  3. Pasta Alla Tavola! St. Joseph’s Day Pasta, also called Sawdust Pasta or Carpenter’s Pasta, made with bread crumbs  sautéed in butter to resemble wood sawdust.   Cheese isn’t used, symbolic of the food shortage experienced in the origin legend of the tradition. This family even dumps pots of pasta directly on the table and enjoys it with their hands! Nothing easier than buttered noodles on a weeknight! Learn even more, here!
  4. Charades! Did you know St. Joseph never speaks in the Bible? A man of few words, yet bold actions. “At the moment of Joseph’s own ‘annunciation’ he said nothing; instead he simply ‘did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” St. John Paul the Great. Try your hand at silently communicating over a game of charades after dinner. What a wonderful opportunity to teach our children how actions speak louder than words. Find Catholic Charades online! “When you invoke St. Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in Heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend St. Joseph.” “Tell him, ‘If you were in my place, St. Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.’” St. Andre Bessette
  5. Feast a little! St. Joseph’s feast is almost always in the middle of the Lenten season giving us an opportunity to have a small celebration of sorts. Break your Lenten fast today in his honor.  
  6. Pray to Him! We found this sweet, accessible 33-day consecration guide and have been using it this Lenten season to prepare for his feast day. Our children have surprised us with their answers to “how we can live our faith, trust the Lord and be generous with others?” If you missed the novena this time, no worries! St. Joseph has another feast day, May 1st. The next consecration begins March 29th!
  7. The Litany of St. Joseph! What a powerful prayer! As you pray, sit with some of his titles a little longer. Pray for his intercession. May we all grow a little stronger, wiser and patient as we get to know him better. Looking for inspiration? find a print from local artist, Heather Burgess here
  8. Come to 7p Mass on Tuesday, 19 March with your bread to be blessed! 

“Go to Joseph. 

Get to know Joseph and you will find Jesus. 

Talk to Joseph and you will find Mary.” 

St. Josemaria Escriva