Have you heard of “liturgical living”? The catchphrase has gained popularity in recent years among Catholics seeking to follow the rhythms of the Church year at home.
Celebrating feast days with special meals, decorating with liturgical colors and teaching children through crafts are examples of liturgical living found in blogs and books that encourage families to embrace liturgical living as part of their Catholic identity.
But what is the purpose of liturgical living? Are crafts and celebrations enough to form our children in faith?
Returning to the roots of the liturgy orients us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “liturgy” thus: “In Christian tradition it means the participation of the people of God in ‘the work of God.’ … In the New Testament the word ‘liturgy’ refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity. In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor” (No. 1069-70).
The liturgy is meant to give glory to God and to transform us by leading us to serve others. We praise God, seek forgiveness, listen to the Word and receive the Eucharist — to draw closer to Christ and, by that proximity, be changed.
The danger can be complacency or triumphalism, assuming we have arrived and forgetting we are still sinners on the way. If I go to Mass to fulfill an obligation but don’t leave renewed in my commitment to live out the Gospel, then my participation in the liturgy has fallen short.
Liturgical living must change us, too.
Catholic efforts to embody the Church year at home cannot stay self-contained celebrations. They need the wider community and continual conversion that remind us we are still in need of grace to grow.
Interestingly, Catholic teaching does not talk about liturgical living, but the domestic Church. Home is where children first learn about faith. Within their homes, Catholics are called to embrace what the Church is and does:
“Many remain without a human family, often due to conditions of poverty. … The doors of homes, the ‘domestic churches,’ and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. ‘No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden’” (No. 1658).
If liturgy is meant to proclaim the Gospel through love of God and neighbor, and if the domestic Church is meant to be open to all — especially those in poverty and need — then liturgical living must be oriented toward others.
Theologically, the goal of liturgical living is not only to celebrate within our domestic Church, but to lead us toward the wider body of Christ.
- If our family is celebrating our children’s saint days (the feasts of their namesakes), can we talk about where Christians are still being martyred for their beliefs today?
- When our kids clamor to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, can we also pray about immigration in our country?
- As we fill our home with liturgical colors, can we reflect on how their symbolism speaks to what is sorrowful or hopeful in our world?
These examples show the growing edge that liturgical living needs: an openness toward transformation, not a closed circle.
One rare silver lining brought about by the pandemic is the unexpected gift of more months to build our domestic churches. As families face a year with less time at church, this is a perfect moment to consider how we celebrate faith at home and where God may be calling us to grow.
May the doors of our homes always be open to Christ — and may the growing edge of liturgical living draw us toward those in deep need of God’s love.
LAURA KELLY FANUCCI is a writer, speaker and author of several books including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.” She wrote this column for Catholic News Service.