Liturgical Living for Busy Families in October
Welcome to October, friends, one of my favorite months of the year! The month of October is devoted to the Holy Rosary, a devotion that is often sorely misunderstood outside the Church and (too often) greatly underappreciated by many within the Church itself. In this post, you'll find low-prep, no/low-cost ideas to deepen your devotion to the Rosary throughout the month, as well as ideas to celebrate the following major feast days and memorials:
· October 1 – St. Therese of Lisieux
· October 2 – Guardian Angels
· October 4 – St. Francis of Assisi
· October 5 – St. Faustina
· October 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary
· October 9 – St. John Henry Newman
· October 12 – Our Lady of the Pillar
· October 15 – St. Theresa of Avila; St. Gerard of Majella
· October 16 – St. Hedwig; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
· October 17 – St. Ignatius of Antioch
· October 18 – St. Luke
· October 22 – Pope St. John Paul II
· October 31 – All Hallows’ Eve
As always, if you have a liturgical living idea or favorite saint that I missed, send me an email, find me on Instagram, or let me know in the comments – I always love hearing from you! Happy feasting!
All Month Long – The Holy Rosary
The Rosary is an ancient Christian meditative prayer, its roots beginning in the early fifth century when the Psalms were routinely memorized and prayed aloud daily. To keep track of the Psalms as they prayed, religious men and women in communities would tick off each Psalm on one of 150 beads. By the 11th century, the practice had filtered into lay communities as well, but since lay persons were often illiterate (let alone unable to memorize all 150 Psalms), the practice had morphed into praying 150 Our Fathers while contemplating the life of Christ (called the Poor Man’s Psalter). By the 12th century, the 150 Our Fathers were replaced by the shorter Hail Marys. The Rosary only took on its now familiar form in the 13th century, however, when Our Lady purportedly appeared in a vision to St. Dominic de Guzman, gave him the 59-bead Dominican Rosary, and taught him how to pray it. From the 16th century until the 21st century, the Rosary was recited in three sets of five mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious), each mystery highlighting a different aspect of Christ’s life. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II, a great Marian devotee, added a fourth set of five mysteries – the Luminous mysteries.
Before I became Catholic, I regarded the Rosary with great suspicion. The idea of praying to Mary (which I equated with worship rather than asking for her intercession) as well as the Biblical admonitions against vain repetitions made me wary of this ancient meditative form of Christian prayer. When I finally began looking into the Rosary, however, much to my surprise, I realized there’s nothing pagan or dangerous in the Rosary at all! The opening prayers – the Apostles Creed and the Our Father – were very familiar to me, and as I began to look at the Hail Mary itself, I recognized scripture verses with which I had been familiar my entire life (Luke 1:28, Luke 1:42-43, James 5:16). As I began to take up the practice of praying a daily Rosary, I found my relationship with Christ deepened, my wonder at His works grew, and my eyes were opened more and more to the life of Christ within myself, the Church, and those around me.
This revelation, of course, would come as no surprise to many of the saints throughout Church history, nearly all of whom recommended the Rosary as one of the best means of drawing closer to Christ. In his book, The Secret is the Rosary, St. Louis de Montefort explains the importance of praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life in this way: “We are all artists…our souls are blank canvases which we have to fill in. The colors which we use are Christian virtues, and the original which we have to copy is Jesus Christ, the perfect living image of God the Father. Just as a painter who wants to do a life-like portrait places the model before his eyes and looks at it before making each stroke, so the Christian must always have before his eyes the life and virtues of Jesus Christ, so as to never say, think or do anything which is not in conformity with his Model.” By praying the Rosary and meditating upon its mysteries, we are able to not just see the perfect Model, but truly enter those pivotal moments of salvation history with Him and thus be transformed by them.
The Rosary takes on even more power and beauty when prayed as a family. Pope St. John Paul II, whose Feast Day celebrate on October 22, writes in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae: “The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. . . . The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.”
This month is a wonderful time to experience the power of the Rosary in your own life and to incorporate this devotion into your family’s life if you don’t already. When praying a family Rosary, I have found that it’s best to keep it light, especially when younger children are involved. I often pray in the car or in the evenings while cleaning up the kitchen. I pray aloud and invite the children to join me – if they do, that’s great! If they don’t and would rather play quietly while I pray, that’s great, too! Even if they do not join or just pop in for a decade or two, they are still getting the benefit of seeing a praying parent, and that is an image that will stick with them for years to come.
If you need a primer on how to pray the Rosary, check out the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website here. There are also many wonderful apps that will pray “with” you – I particularly enjoy the Holy Rosary – Standard Edition or Scriptural Edition, which feature audio recordings of students from the Catholic Franciscan University of Steubenville developed by Joe Meineke and available on both iPhone and Android. If you prefer to pray “live,” Many Hail Marys at a Time (@manyhailmarysatatime) on Instagram prays every day at 6:45 am CST, featuring a different guest every morning! You can even submit prayer intentions here. Katherine Bogner at the Look to Him and Be Radiant blog has also put together a wonderful editable and shareable set of activities to teach kids about the Rosary and guide them in their prayers, which you can find here. However you choose to incorporate this beautiful devotion in your life this month, I can guarantee you will reap countless spiritual benefits!
October 1 – St. Therese of Lisieux
St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower, is one of the patron saints of France, along with St. Joan of Arc. Born in 1873 in Alencon, France, to Louis and Zelie Martin, who themselves became the first married couple to be canonized in 2015, she died in relative obscurity as a Carmelite nun from tuberculosis at age 24. She was so unremarkable in life, in fact, that her Carmelite sisters apparently fretted over what to write in her obituary!
Prior to her death and at the direction of her biological sister and fellow Carmelite, Pauline, who was serving as Mother Prioress at the time, St. Therese wrote her autobiography, Story of Soul. Written in a simple, unpolished style, Story of a Soul initially did not impress her superiors when they read it. Nevertheless, it gained popularity at a rate which can only be attributed to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Within a mere two years of her death, St. Therese was canonized and eventually named one of four female doctors of the Church! In less than 100 years, Story of a Soul has sold over one million copies and been translated into 50 languages.
What is it about this unassuming young girl that has so captivated millions of souls? At first, I did not understand it, myself. I found her saccharine, overly sentimental, and, frankly, presumptuous. She decided at age 14 that she was determined to become a great saint and was apparently so convinced that she was on the cusp of sainthood that at her death, she requested her Carmelite sisters save her fingernail clippings to serve as future relics!
As I have gotten to know St. Therese more (and hopefully grown some spiritually), however, I have discovered that rather than being presumptuous, St. Therese exhibited extreme humility. She was under no illusions as to her own personal greatness or merit. Her assurance in her ability to achieve sainthood came from her confidence in God’s grace and mercy alone. “Jesus, your arms are the elevator which will lift me to Heaven!” she writes. She saw herself as God saw her: His beloved daughter. She understood that she could achieve perfection by resisting His grace in nothing and simply being exactly who He willed her to be in everything – would that we could all have such complete trust in Our Lord!
If you haven’t read Story of a Soul, a wonderful way to celebrate St. Therese would be to pick up a copy to read this month (it’s relatively short and its simple, winsome style makes it a very easy, yet profound read!). You could also take up the practice of St. Therese’s “Little Way,” which consists of offering little daily sacrifices by doing even the least actions with great love. When she was small, St. Therese kept a string of ten beads in her pocket that she called “sacrifice beads” to keep track of these little daily sacrifices, which is easy enough to craft on your own! Our family also likes to pick (or purchase) a bouquet of fresh flowers for our dinner table today to honor the Little Flower.
October 2 – Guardian Angels
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph no. 332, “[a]ngels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings [including both St. John the Baptist and Jesus]; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.”
Given their role historically, it makes sense that angels continue to serve, protect, and minister to Christ and His followers even today, which the Church affirms: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by [the] watchful care and intercession [of the angels]. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’" (CCC no. 336). Today’s feast is a powerful reminder of this unseen but powerful reality.
Today, celebrate your family’s guardian angels by lighting a candle and saying the classic Guardian Angel prayer together. For dinner, serve angel hair pasta and enjoy angel food cake for dessert! There are literally millions of angel crafts that pop up on a quick Google search, but I especially love these sweet and simple mini paper angels from The Craft Train blog that I plan to make with the children and hang up over our dinner table.
October 4 – St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is probably one of the most well-known saints of all time, his statue gracing both Catholic and non-Catholic gardens alike! Born in Assisi, Italy, in 1182 to wealthy parents, Francis eventually experienced a conversion that led him to take Jesus’s words in Luke 9:3 literally: “Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” He renounced his wealth and all worldly comforts, took up the now famous brown habit, and traveled about on foot, preaching the Gospel everywhere he went.
Stories involving St. Francis abound – from his rebuilding numerous ruined churches, including the Portiuncula Chapel, at the direction of an icon of Christ Crucified that spoke to him, to his secretly converting a sultan in Egypt, to preaching to the birds and freeing the townsfolk from a wolf’s reign of terror by simply speaking to the wolf. He also created the first nativity scene!
To celebrate today, listen to two of these amazing stories about St. Francis on Episode 51 and Episode 79 of the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast by Shining Light Dolls. Many parishes offer a Blessing of the Pets on St. Francis’s Feast Day, but if your parish is not, you can also do a blessing at home!
October 5 – St. Faustina
St. Faustina, a Polish nun who lived in the early 1900s, is best known for spreading the message of Divine Mercy. She experienced visions of Jesus beginning at age 16 that continued throughout her life, which she recorded in her now-famous diary. At Jesus’s direction in these visions, the Feast of Divine Mercy, which we celebrate every year on the Sunday following Easter, was established. Ever humble, St. Faustina wrote: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God.”
Today, celebrate by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a family. There are also lots of fun ways to commemorate the devotion to Divine Mercy in food or crafts – one of our favorite ways is to make heart-shaped pancakes with strawberries and blueberries – but anything with a strong emphasis on red and blue will do!
October 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, was established by Pope Saint Pius V in 1573 following the victory of the Christians over the Turks in the naval battle waged at Lepanto. The Christians were undoubtedly the underdogs in this battle, and prior to the battle, Pope Pius V urged the Christian faithful to pray to the Rosary constantly to beg for her intercession. When word of the Christian victory reached Pope Pius, he immediately declared October 7 a new feast in honor of Our Lady.
To celebrate today, make an edible rosary with the children out of anything you have on hand – goldfish, M&Ms, grapes, and pray your way through snack time! Lacy at Catholic Icing also has a step-by-step tutorial for making your own rosaries out of Pony beads here and she also has a How to Draw the Rosary video here. Praying the Litany of Loreto would be the perfect prayer to end your Rosary with, today!
October 9 – St. John Henry Newman
St. John Henry Newman is a new saint, having just been canonized in October 2019! As such, the creative field of celebrating his Feast Day is wide open.
Born in London, England in 1801, St. John Henry Newman spent the first half of his life as an Anglican. He eventually converted to Catholicism, however, when, as a member of the Oxford Movement (a movement that emphasized the teachings of the Church Fathers and rejected modern ideas of spiritual relativism), his research into the early church led him to conclude that the Roman Catholic Church was the closest continuity with the Church that Jesus, Himself, established. In 1845, he officially converted and was ordained a Catholic priest a mere two years later.
A prolific writer, he is often called the “absent Father of Vatican II” due to his commitment to prioritizing the education of the lay faithful and his many writings on the Council’s documents. He is also honored on many Catholic university campuses.
Today, show some love any Catholic university students in your area by inviting them to Mass and to your home afterwards for a homecooked meal. Pray as a family for the young people in our Church, that they may remain faithful and exhibit courage in answering their individual vocational calls.
October 12 – Our Lady of the Pillar
The Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar commemorates the very first Marian apparition – which occurred while the Blessed Virgin Mary was still alive! In a feat of what is known as bilocation, the Blessed Virgin, while living in Jerusalem, appeared to St. James, one of the original twelve apostles and the brother of St. John (the “Sons of Thunder,” as Jesus called them) in Zaragoza, Spain around 40 A.D. Struggling to evangelize the people of that region, Our Lady is said to have appeared to St. James to aid and encourage him. She asked him to build a church on the spot where she appeared and left a marble pillar topped by a small statue of herself holding the Child Jesus as a sign. St. James acquiesced and built the very first shrine to the Blessed Virgin on that spot, which eventually grew into the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza.
To celebrate today, check out this virtual tour of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar here. Today would also be an appropriate day to pray especially for all those who serve the Church’s evangelization efforts – those missionaries at home and abroad that carry on the tradition of St. James under the watchful eye of Our Lady.
October 15 – St. Theresa of Avila; St. Gerard of Majella
St. Theresa of Avila was born in 1515 in Avila, Spain to a family of converted Jews and Castilians. When she was young, she and her brother ran away from home in hopes of gaining easy access to Heaven by becoming martyrs for the faith in the land of the Moors. After they were found and returned home by an uncle, they resolved to become hermits, but apparently could never find enough stones to build their hermitages in the family garden!
Despite these early aspirations to sainthood, St. Theresa gave in to foolish vanities and was prone to gossip as she grew older. She suffered a period of intense illness, during which time Jesus appeared to her in a vision. She recovered and experienced such a complete conversion of heart because of this experience that she went on to become one of the most famous mystics, spiritual writers, and reformers in Church history! She was later named as one of four female Doctors of the Church. She had a quick wit and a self-deprecating sense of humor, which is seen clearly in her autobiography, and her spiritual insights continue to have a great impact on the Church, even today. If you’ve never read any of her works, pick up a copy of her autobiography, the Interior Castle, or The Way of Perfection to read this month.
To celebrate today, listen to a story of this lively saint in Episode 41 of the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast by Shining Light Dolls. She is the patron saint of chess players, so a game of chess would be a fun way to honor the wits with this spiritual giant! For dinner, try your hand at an authentic Spanish dish, like paella! I also love this How to Draw St. Teresa of Avila video by Lacy at Catholic Icing!
St. Gerard of Majella’s Feast Day is also celebrated today. St. Gerard was born in 1726 in Naples, Italy, and was a model of virtue seemingly his entire life. He is the patron saint of mothers, childbirth, and children. Since his feast day falls during 40 Days for Life, praying outside an abortion center in your area or donating to or volunteering at your local pro-life crisis pregnancy center would be a beautiful way to honor his patronage today.
October 16 – St. Hedwig; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
October 16 is shared by two saints, St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. St. Hedwig (not to be confused with the snowy owl from the Harry Potter series) was a noblewoman born towards the end of the 12th century in what is now Poland. Married to the Henry, the Duke of Silesia, St. Hedwig used her great wealth to establish hospitals, monastic institutions for both men and women, and influence politics to bring peace, including having to intervene in a quarrel between two of her own sons over an inheritance dispute. A wonderful way to celebrate St. Hedwig today would be to ask her intercession over family disputes, particularly in those situations when family members remain estranged. It’s also a great day to talk about how to be a good steward of our possessions and the many gifts God has given us. Consider taking the children to donate a few coins from their piggy banks to the poor box at Church. If they don’t have a piggy make, consider crafting an alms box for them (you can make them out of old milk cartons or tissue boxes!) to collect loose change around the house to drop in the offering box.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a French nun of the Order of the Visitation (established by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal) who lived in the 1600s. Though devout from a young age, she did experience the temptations of the world, attending many social events dressed in finery as a young girl. One night returning home from a carnival ball, however, she experienced her first vision of Jesus, scourged and bloody. After that, she entered the convent, and her visions continued. She is best known for spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus after Jesus appeared to her. To atone for the coldness and ingratitude of the world, Jesus directed St. Margaret Mary to receive communion frequently, but especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer every Thursday night in remembrance of His agony in the garden.
Though her feast day does not fall on the first Friday of the month, try to make it to daily mass today and offer it up as a reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For the children, here is a cute Youtube video with a few facts on St. Margaret Mary. St. Margaret Mary is also said to have promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart by encouraging devotees to wear Sacred Heart badges, and these can be easily crafted on your own! All you need is some red and white construction paper and markers. Cut the red and white paper into ovals (the red oval should be slightly larger than the white one) and glue the white oval on top of the red oval. On the white paper, draw an image of the Sacred Heart (try Lacy’s How to Draw the Sacred Heart video, here), and you’re done! Pin them to your shirt and proudly display your love and devotion to the Sacred Heart all day long!
October 17 – St. Ignatius of Antioch
Not to be confused with St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Antioch was an early Christian convert and is considered a Church Father. He eventually became the Bishop of Antioch and was forced to choose between Christ and the Roman Emperor in 107 A.D. He refused to deny Christ and was martyred in Rome for his faith, torn apart by wild animals. Today, pray through St. Ignatius’s intercession for all modern-day martyrs of our Christian faith, who, though largely ignored by the world and modern media, nonetheless remain inspiring witnesses to the Truth.
October 18 – St. Luke
St. Luke, known as the evangelist, was a disciple of St. Paul and the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Likely born in what is present-day Turkey to a non-Jewish family, he was originally a physician and died in Greece at the age of 84. According to tradition, St. Luke also painted the first Christian icon, the image now known as Our Lady of Częstochowa, on a tabletop built by either Jesus or St. Joseph and used in the Holy Family’s home. As such, St. Luke is the patron saint of both physicians and artists!
Since he is typically symbolized by a winged ox in iconography, have beef for dinner tonight! If you’re in the mood to bake, try making a Banbury tart, the traditional dessert eaten in England on St. Luke’s Feast Day. Read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, particularly one of his beautiful canticles: the Magnificat, the Benedictus, or the Nunc Dimittis. Don’t forget to ask his intercession for all healthcare workers, who have had an especially difficult time in the last year with the pandemic!
October 22 – Pope St. John Paul II
Pope St. John Paul II was born Karol Josef Wojtyla in Poland in 1920. A truly incredible man, he is hard to sum up in just a few short paragraphs! As a young man, he loved sports, the outdoors, and school, but experienced great tragedies beginning at a young age, losing his sister, brother, mother, and father all before the age of 20. When Nazi and Russian forces invaded Poland in 1939, young Karol worked as a laborer in a limestone quarry. He was active in aiding his suffering countrymen during these years, and eventually discerned a call to the priesthood. In 1946 he was ordained, quickly became a bishop, participated in Vatican II, became a cardinal, and in 1978 was elected pope following the death of Pope Paul VI. As Pope, he survived two assassination attempts and eventually died at age 84 in 2005 from Parkinson’s disease. He was canonized in 2011 by Pope Benedict.
He was a prolific writer, writing numerous profound encyclicals and apostolic letters. He even wrote multiple plays and poetry! He was especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrating himself to her under his papal motto Totus Tuus (totally yours).
To celebrate today, read one of JPII’s famous encyclicals – Redemptoris Mater (“Mother of the Redeemer,” on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the pilgrim Church), Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” on the value and inviolability of human life), or Fides et Ratio (“Faith and Reason,” on the relationship between faith and reason) – or one of his apostolic letters, such as Mulieris Dignitatem (on the dignity and vocation of women). He is also famous for his teaching on Theology of the Body, and there are tons of great resources for all ages unpacking this teaching here.
Use today’s Feast Day to talk to your children about the dignity of their bodies, how they are temples of the Lord, fearfully and wonderfully made! Encourage healthy habits (and imitate the Pope himself!) by enjoying an outdoor activity as a family. For dinner, serve traditional Polish dishes such as pierogis and sauerkraut, and make Pope St. John Paul II’s favorite, papal cream cake, for dessert!
October 31 – All Hallows’ Eve
Halloween is a quintessentially Catholic holiday. It is the vigil of All Saints Day (November 1), a feast day established by Pope Gregory III in the 8th century, and All Souls Day (November 2), which celebrate the saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory, respectively. It is a time for memento mori, remembering our mortality and inspiring us to live our lives well by looking to the example of those holy men and women who have come before us.
Many of the negative or macabre associations with Halloween are the result of a combination of long-standing anti-Catholic sentiment and secular society’s uncanny ability to downplay or altogether remove the sacred. Some aspects of Halloween, such as going door to door collecting treats or carving Jack-O-Lanterns, are ancient Celtic traditions associated with the Harvest that have become popularized as part of Halloween. Halloween as it was originally created, however, was thoroughly Christian in nature.
Whether you choose to participate in the secular aspects of Halloween, an authentically Catholic way to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve is by fasting and abstinence. Until 1983, Catholics were required to fast and abstain from meat on the vigils of important solemnities such as All Saints Day, Christmas Day, the Immaculate Conception, and Pentecost. Although we are no longer required to do so, these practices are still strongly recommended. You can choose to make today a traditional fast by eating less or you can fast from things such as screens, social media, or other less than healthy habits. Abstaining from meat is easy enough (and kid-friendly!) by making a pizza or some delicious baked mac and cheese!