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  • Writer's pictureLauren

Liturgical Living for Busy Families in September

Happy September, friends! In this post, you'll find low-prep, no/low-cost ideas to get you started living liturgically in the month of September. The key to liturgical living is simply doing it, even if that means just noticing who's feast day it happens to be and asking for their intercession at the end of your prayer before a meal! It doesn't have to be big or fancy or Instagram-worthy; simply noticing the liturgical rhythms of the year and finding some small way to integrate them into your day will benefit both you and your family immensely.

The month of September is devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary[1], and a few of the following major feasts and memorials celebrated this month are as follows:

  • September 5 - St. Teresa of Calcutta

  • September 8 - The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  • September 9 - St. Peter Claver

  • September 12 - The Most Holy Name of Mary

  • September 14 - The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

  • September 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows

  • September 17 - St. Hildegard of Bingen

  • September 21 - St. Matthew

  • September 23 - St. Padre Pio

  • September 29 - Michaelmas

  • September 30 - St. Jerome

Have a Saint or an activity I missed? Let me know in the comments! Happy feasting!

All Month Long - The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The entire month of September is devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and September 15 is specifically dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary goes back to the Middle Ages but gained new popularity following the Church-approved Marian apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda in the 1980s. It is typically prayed on a special rosary comprised of seven decades containing seven beads each. The Chaplet begins with an Act of Contrition, and each decade begins with the Our Father, as in the regular Marian rosary. Each decade is dedicated to one of the seven sorrows of Mary, and a Hail Mary is prayed on each of the seven beads comprising the decades. The Seven Sorrows of Mary are as follows:

  1. The First Sorrow - The Prophecy of Simeon; Reading: Luke 2:25-35

  2. The Second Sorrow - The flight into Egypt; Reading: Matthew 2:13-15

  3. The Third Sorrow - The Child Jesus Lost in the Temple; Reading: Luke 2: 41-50

  4. The Fourth Sorrow - Mary meets Jesus carrying the cross; Reading: Luke 23: 27-29

  5. The Fifth Sorrow - Mary at the foot of the cross; Reading: John 19: 25-30

  6. The Sixth Sorrow - Mary receives the body of Jesus; Reading: Psalm 130

  7. The Seventh Sorrow - Mary witnesses the burial of Jesus; Reading: Luke 23: 50-56

This devotion reminds us of the suffering Mary experienced along with her son, Jesus, as part of the redemption of mankind. While God could have preserved her from the pain and suffering caused by sin and experienced by Jesus during His life and most especially during His Passion, in His mysterious wisdom, He chose not to.

This tells us something very, very important about the role of suffering in redemption. God never causes suffering, but He does allow it. This is admittedly a difficult teaching and a huge stumbling block for just about every person alive, Christian or otherwise, but it's essential that we try to understand it. The pain and suffering Mary experienced in her life was necessary for her and our own salvation. And although Mary experienced this pain and suffering in a much more intense way and more perfectly united it to Christ's own suffering, it is the same for each of us.

Any suffering we experience here on earth, whether the result of our own sins, someone else's, or simply as a result of the chaos of being alive, is necessary for our salvation. It is always an opportunity for us to turn again and again to Him, to understand Him more deeply, and to become more closely united to Him. As St. Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."It is through our sufferings that God's glory is revealed.

And so, by meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, we can learn something about salvation and how to respond in the sufferings of our own life. This month, take up the practice of praying the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, or maybe just meditate on one Sorrow for each day of the week.

September 5 - St. Teresa of Calcutta

St. Teresa of Calcutta, widely known as Mother Theresa, was born Anjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Albania in 1910. She joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18, and in 1946 at age 36, she experienced what she described as a "call within a call" while traveling by train from Calcutta, India, to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling for an annual retreat. In this call, Jesus asked Mother Theresa to dedicate her life to serving the poorest of the poor. She began her work immediately and formally founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, which grew rapidly. At the time of her death on September 5, 1997, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries. She was canonized by Pope Francis on September 16, 2016.

Mother Teresa personally understood the Sorrows of Our Lady, experiencing her own "dark night of the soul." For 50 years, Mother Teresa endured “[s]uch deep longing for God, so deep that it is painful, a suffering continual, and yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love no zeal,” she wrote in a letter. She often felt unloved or unwanted by God, describing her beautiful smile as "a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains.” And yet, she remained faithful.

St. Teresa of Calcutta is probably one of the most well-known saints of the twentieth century, and yet she experienced that same darkness that so many of us wrestle with. For me, she is a source of great hope, and my prayer for you this month is that she can be a source of hope and inspiration for you, as well.

To celebrate this remarkable woman, consider visiting or making a donation to a Missionaries of Charity center near you. If you aren't able to do that, consider making (or ordering out!) Indian food for dinner! If Indian food isn't your think, I've also seen some very cute blue and white themed desserts (to resemble Mother Teresa's sari) that would be easy to make - think jello or simply icing cookies! Episode 35 on St. Teresa from the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast by Shining Light Dolls is a great listen for today!

September 8 - The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Happy birthday, Blessed Mother! The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated since at least the sixth century, and September 8 was apparently chosen to correspond with the start of the Eastern Church's liturgical year and in conjunction with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (which celebrates the immaculate conception by St. Anne of Mary - not Mary's miraculous conception of Jesus, which we celebrate at the Annunciation on March 25, nine months before Christmas).

Mary's is one of only three birthdays celebrated during the liturgical year (along with Jesus's, of course, and St. John the Baptist's!). Last year, we threw a little birthday party with some friends to celebrate, complete with cake and a Mary crowning (simply because Mary crownings are fun and easy!). If you don't have time to throw a whole party or grab a cake, just sing her happy birthday at dinner! It's also the perfect day to give your Heavenly Mama a call by praying the rosary.

September 9 - St. Peter Claver

St. Peter Claver was a Spanish-born Jesuit who became a missionary to Cartagena, Columbia, in 1610. He dedicated himself completely to caring for and ministering to the slaves that poured into the Cartagena port, baptizing more than 300,000 during his ministry, fiercely condemning the practice and calling himself a slave to the slaves. St. Peter Claver is an excellent intercessor in our continued fight for racial justice.

Racial inequality is a hard topic to discuss, but it is absolutely imperative that we do the work, starting in our own homes, to root out all forms of bigotry, prejudice, and injustice. Katherine Bogner from the Look to Him and Be Radiant blog has some awesome resources for kids on fighting racism here that would be perfect for today (and any day!). The Saint Stories for Kids Podcast also created Episode 36 all about St. Peter Claver!

September 12 - The Most Holy Name of Mary

Today's feast is special to me because it is the day I became Catholic! At my confirmation, the priest spoke about how God calls each of us by name. Names are incredibly important - you see this throughout the Bible and in the Gospel in particular as Jesus gives new names to some of His followers to signify their new vocation in Him. A fun activity for today is to talk about the meaning of your own family names! You could also create an acrostic poem with your family's names!

September 14 - The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by St. Helena in 326. Veneration of the Cross is an ancient tradition that is perfect for today and offered at many parishes. If you aren't able to make it to your parish's celebration, you can also celebrate at home by using a crucifix or even nailing two pieces of wood together to create a cross. Place the cross so that its head is higher than its foot, and everyone in the family lines up behind the head of the household. The head of the household turns to the next person in line and says, "Behold the wood of the cross." The person kneels, places his or her forehead on the wood and then kisses the Cross, saying "I adore you O Christ, adn I praise you, because by Your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world." That person then turns to the next person in line and says, "Behold the wood of the cross." This is repeated until the last person in line says, "Behold the wood of the cross" to the head of the household, who completes the tradition by kissing the cross and saying "I adore you O Christ, and I praise you, because by Your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world."

If you're looking for something else to try, there is a list of ten different cross-themed arts and crafts activities for children, here. There is also a great children's book, The Queen and the Cross, that is perfect to read today!

September 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows

While the whole month of September is devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. If you haven't already, try praying the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary or meditating on the Via Dolorosa, which is essentially the Stations of the Cross, but from Mary's perspective, today. I also love this printable mobile craft and "How to Draw the Sorrowful Heart of Mary" video from Lacey at Catholic Icing here.

I learned from Kendra Tierney from Catholic All Year that there is an ancient tradition that basil grew up at the foot of the cross, where Jesus's blood and Mary's tears mingled, and St. Helena is said to have found the True Cross beneath a basil plant. For dinner, consider serving anything with basil (think caprese salad, pesto, or even basil and berries for dessert). You could also serve anything salty (like salted caramel brownies or candy) or sour (like sweet and sour chicken or lemon drops) to remember Mary's tears.

September 17 - St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. Hildegard of Bingen is a truly extraordinary saint and one of four female doctors of the Church (along with St. Therese of Liseux, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. Catherine of Siena)! A 12th century German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, and mystic, it took more than 800 years for her canonization - probably due to rather unorthodox brand of holiness. She created her own language (just for the fun of it!), was fascinated with the medicinal uses of plants and herbs, preached publicly during a time that it was highly unusual for women to do so, and even wrote her own "musical play" (essentially an opera).

Today, take a listen to some of the music she composed here (seriously - chills!). Pope Benedict's Apostolic Letter proclaiming St. Hildegard a Doctor of the Church is also well-worth the read, or enjoy some of her poetry, here. For the adults, enjoy a hoppy German beer today (she is responsible for the earliest surviving writings on the use of hops in beer) and perhaps a root beer for the children! The Saint Stories for Kids Podcast also features St. Hildegard in Episode 37!

September 21 - St. Matthew

Today we celebrate one of the original 12 apostles and the evangelist who authored the Gospel of Matthew. While called Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew, he is the same person referred to as Levi in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. In art, he is often depicted with an angel dictating the words of the Gospel to him. Born a Jew, Matthew was considered a traitor to his people as a result of his profession as a tax collector for the occupying Roman government (and let's be honest, the tax collector is usually not a popular guy anyway!). That fact in and of itself makes Jesus's call for Matthew to follow Him in Matthew 9:9 extraordinary.

To celebrate today, read Matthew 9:9-12 and consider how God is calling you to follow Him more closely in your own life. For dinner, enjoy silver dollar pancakes (idea courtesy of Kendra Tierney, once again)! This liturgical felt ornament from the Catholic Inspired Blog is also an adorable craft for today if you're looking for something more hands on to do.

September 23 - St. Padre Pio

St. Pio of Pietriclina was an Italian Capuchin who was drafted in World War I but discharged after he was discovered to have tuberculosis. An extraordinarily holy man and mystic, Padre Pio developed the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side (the wounds of Christ). When he was canonized in 2002, more than 300,000 people filled St. Peter's Square in Rome!

To celebrate, consider making these "Stigmata Rice Krispy Treats" and listen to the Saint Stories for Kids Podcast Episode 38 on St. Padre Pio.

September 29 - Michaelmas

Michaelmas (pronounced "Mickle"-mas) celebrates the victory of the Archangel Michael over Lucifer in the war between the angels that followed Satan's rebellion. St. Michael tossed Lucifer down from Heaven, where he landed in a blackberry bush and was thereafter banished to hell. Traditionally, blackberries should not be eaten following Michaelmas as it is said the devil spat upon them! Since 1969 and the revision of the liturgical calendar, the Archangels Raphael and Gabriel are also celebrated today.

Goose is traditionally served on this day, and I actually tried to find a goose to roast last year, but all the local butchers looked at me like I was nuts. This year, we will settle for smoking a chicken or perhaps some Cornish game hens (they just feel fancier!). There are tons of other on theme food ideas for today - such as asparagus spears or carrots to represent the angel's spears, Devil's Food Cake and Angel Food Cake, blackberry themed drinks and cobblers, or deviled eggs.

I have also heard of families who beat up a devil pinata to celebrate, which sounds like a ton of fun! Today, my family reads Sasha and the Dragon, a tale about St. Michael and a little boy who is afraid, and The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm, which is not about St. Michael but is a great story on not trusting the devil. We also say the St. Michael Prayer at dinner!

September 30 - St. Jerome

We close out the month of September with the feast of St. Jerome, who was born in 342 in what is today known as Croatia. A master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldaicis, St. Jerome is best known for translating the Bible into Latin, which we call the Vulgate. He was a truly brilliant man, St. Augustine himself said, “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known," but he also had a terrible temper and would absolutely castigate anyone who taught heresy.

Today, honor St. Jerome by teaching your children about the Bible. Sit down with them and show them how the books are laid out, the relation of the New Testament to the Old, and how to look up a chapter and verse. If they don't already own their own Bibles, consider purchasing some for them today. It's also a great time to resolve to begin reading your own Bible daily if this is not something that you already do, and your example will speak volumes to your children! For more fun, listen to Episode 39 of the Saints Stories for Kids Podcast on St. Jerome!


[1] A quick note on Mary (which could easily be expanded upon by blog posts ad infinitum) - I frequently get asked why the Church has so many Marian feast days. "Shouldn't you be more focused on Jesus?!" is also frequently stated or at the very least implied in this question. And it's an understandable question! We do have a ton of Marian feast days! It is important to understand, however, that everything the Church understands and teaches about Mary, and I do mean everything, comes solely from the Church's understanding of Jesus Christ, Himself. God chose to work through Mary to bring about salvation for all of mankind, thus it makes sense that by contemplating Mary and viewing Christian doctrine through the example of her life, we can understand more about Jesus and how we, too, are meant to live as Christians. The fancy word for this special veneration of Mary is hyperdulia, which is substantially less than the cultus latria (the adoration and worship) due to God alone, but more than the cultus dulia (veneration) due to other saints. From "As the Church understands the veneration of Mary, it is to be closely associated but subordinated to that of her Son. 'The various forms of piety towards the Mother of God, which the Church has approved within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine according to the dispositions and understanding of the faithful, ensure that while the mother is honored, the Son through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly loved and glorified and His commandments are observed' (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, VII, 66). (Etym. Latin hyperdulia, virtue of deep submission.)"

So no, Catholics don't worship Mary. And no, we don't honor her to the exclusion or detriment of her Son. As Saint Maximilian Kolbe said:"Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."

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