After the simplicity and austerity of Lent, the 50 days of Easter can seem like an avalanche of sacramental and devotional gifts.
About seven or eight years ago, my husband and I arrived at Church 30 minutes before Mass to get ready to cantor and lead the music. Usually, our preparation included catching up with the other musicians in our group, finalizing the music, and going over any potential rough spots like a lesser known psalm or a hastily selected Communion meditation. With so many of us coming from very busy lives across the greater Washington-Baltimore area, that was our only time to decompress and focus on our ministry.
On this particular Sunday in Easter, it was clear that something was different. There were two young children, one in a lacy white dress and veil and the other in clearly his best suit. There was a large vase in front of the altar, holding many red carnations. There were a couple of adults wearing the white garment indicating that they were already baptized but not fully received into the Church.
“What’s going on?” I asked our music director.
“Oh, there’s a First Communion, a couple of Confirmations, the blessing of mothers for Mother’s Day, and a renewal of vows,” he said. Imagine the surprised and befuddled look on my face.
But I completely understood. This is what it means to be Catholic—to be part of a Church that is anchored in Word and Sacrament. But the gifts of the day didn’t stop there. Our presider also led us in the Hail Mary at the end of his homily in honor of the Blessed Virgin to whom we dedicate the month of May.
While the liturgical purist in me wanted to scream under the weight of all that had been added to the Mass that day, I had to smile. The liturgical and sacramental chaos was a bit crazy, but the picture that it illustrated—in full color and with the clearest possible strokes—is that Catholicism is big and boisterous and colorful and so deeply woven into so many moments of our lives that we can hardly escape it. And when we give into the richness of our traditions, we find ourselves energized and capable of living with the paradoxes of life and death, goodness and evil, austerity and giftedness.
This week’s CatholicsRead selections include six resources to help young and old live into the richness of our Catholic faith in ways that are modern yet faithful.
Daily Companion for Young Catholics from Catholic Book Publishing is for teens written by a father of four and veteran high school teacher who talks the talk that will get your teen’s day off the fast track and onto the right track. Or how about a novena? Catholic Book Publishing’s Scriptural Novena to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament combines three mainstays of our Catholic faith, Holy Scripture, a Novena to Jesus, and the Blessed Sacrament in a wonderful prayer book.
If devotion to Mary is a part of your faith life, Am I Not Your Mother by Archbishop Luis María Martínez and published by Magnificat is a collection of sermons that highlight the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her message at Tepeyac. He reminds us to seek her protection as “Patroness of the Americas.” Or try Loyola Press’ A Book of Marian Prayers where readers will discover a vast collection of Christ-centered Marian prayers spanning nearly 19 centuries.
Pilgrimage is a recurring Scriptural and historical theme in the Catholic Church. Ave Maria Press’ A Catholic Pilgrimage Through American History takes you to to more than two-dozen sites and events that symbolize and embody America’s rich and sometimes tumultuous Catholic past. With the U.S. bishops’ focus on the Eucharist, Pocket Catechism on the Eucharist with Prayers from Catholic Book Publishing is a small, carry-along booklet in question-and-answer format to enrich your understanding of and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.
Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.