Saturday, September 21, 2019
How to Live a Liturgical Life

Part 1: The Sacredness of Time

Under the Old Law that we study in the Old Testament, God’s people observed annual ceremonies commemorating important events in salvation history which prefigured the completion of the Old Law through Christ. Similarly, Holy Church commemorates important mysteries, events, and persons, using an annual cycle of prayers, scriptures, hymns, and various spiritual disciplines. In the same way, each of the 12 months has a unique focus and each day of the week has a unique focus as well. Even in the day, the hours of the day are divided up into the canonical hours. In so doing, all time is devoted to God since He alone created all time and redeemed all of time.

Unlike the pagan religions which often view time as an endless cycle of death and rebirth, the Christian view of time is linear. While God alone has always existed and has no beginning, time had a beginning. There was a first day on earth. And there will be a last day. There will be a day ultimately when the sun will rise for the last time and when it will set for the last time. Time will end. And God Himself will end it as time belongs to Him. It is our duty to honor God in time.

The Catholic Day

Each day is comprised of the Canonical Hours during which priests, religious sisters and brothers, and any laypeople who want to pray the set prayers for those hours. Called the Divine Office, or the Breviary, these 7 prayers throughout the day are a primary means by which we sanctify time. We will discuss the breviary at a much greater extent later in this talk.

Furthermore, the day is further consecrated to God by the Angelus Prayers. Traditionally said at 6AM, Noon, and 6PM the Angelus is a means by which we consecrate time to God, invoke the Blessed Mother, and honor the Incarnation. For this reason, church bells will often ring at noon and at 6 PM as a call to prayer for the Angelus. 6am is usually too early for bells to ring so most parishes don’t ring them then, nevertheless 6 am is the first time for the Angelus each day.

In fact, Mother Teresa and other missionary nuns have remarked that the sight of seeing Catholics fall to their knees to pray the Angelus when the Angelus bell sounded brought about many conversions. One former Hindu who converted and became a nun remarked that the sight of seeing Catholics instantly fall to their knees to offer those prayers even in the market at noon left such an impact on her that it brought about her conversion. We can have a similar impact by keeping the sacredness of the Catholic Liturgical Day.

The Angelus is traditionally prayed kneeling on everyday of the week except Sundays and except during Pascaltide (that is the 50 days of the Easter Season). On Sundays and during Easter time, you instead make a genuflection on your right knee at the mention of the Incarnation. If you are not familiar with the Angelus prayers, I would direct you to go online and find those prayers, save them, and start saying them daily. Even if you are not up at 6 AM or you are busy at precisely noon, you may still say them. In that case, you can pray the Angelus Prayers before your breakfast and likewise offer the next two prayers before lunch and before dinner respectively.

Some Catholics might also pray a Morning Offering Prayer upon awaking and make a Nightly Examination of Conscience just before bed. If you are not familiar with these practices look them up as well. In such a way, we can consecrate the day and time to God, the author of time.

The Catholic Week

All time belongs to God Himself as He has redeemed all time, and we see the sacredness of time chiefly on Sunday.  Just as we are to pay a tithe, a share of our earnings, for the poor and for the Church’s needs, so too we are required to pay a tithe of our time to God in the form of Sunday Mass.

We read in the Baltimore Catechism the clear teaching of the Church on the sacredness of Sunday time:
“By the third Commandment we are commanded to keep holy the Lord's day and the holy days of obligation, on which we are to give our time to the service and worship of God. Holy days of obligation are special feasts of the Church on which we are bound, under pain of mortal sin, to hear Mass and to keep from servile or bodily labors when it can be done without great loss or inconvenience. Whoever, on account of their circumstances, cannot give up work on holydays of obligation should make every effort to hear Mass and should also explain in confession the necessity of working on holy days.”
The Third Commandment explicitly forbids servile work on Sundays. We cannot mow the lawn, we cannot move to a new apartment on Sunday, we cannot paint, we cannot perform physical work that is servile – that is work that would have been done by a servant in past eras. Yet, the Church further commands that all Sundays — and all other Holy Days of Obligation — are mandatory days of Mass attendance. The Sacredness of Sunday requires not only abstaining from certain actions but also the doing of other ones. Missing Mass on one of these days without a grave reason — such as grave illness or the inability to reasonably obtain transportation— is a mortal sin. If you were not able to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a good reason, you should still read the Missal for that day and pray the prayers from the Missal or watch an online broadcast of the Mass. There are several sites which broadcast daily the Traditional Mass. These activities though do not fulfill your obligation. If you are not able to make it to Mass for a legitimate reason, the obligation to attend Mass is lifted for you that day. But these pious activities can still help our own spiritual edification.

Sunday is also a day in which to participate in communal Rosary, Vespers, and Benediction services. Sunday is the day on which the Faithful should be most willing to read Catholic newspapers, books, and magazines. Listen to Catholic podcasts or You-Tube videos. Study catechism and supplemental religious education lessons. It is a day of rest from physical work so that we can give this tithe of our time to God.

And it should also be underscored that only attendance at the Catholic Mass fulfills our Sunday obligation. Attending a protestant service does not. In fact, attending a non-Catholic form of worship is sinful. If you were to go with a friend to say a Lutheran service on Sunday instead of Mass, you would have two mortal condemning your soul – first the missing of Sunday Mass and second, the taking part in false worship of other religions. The Church’s teachings on this are clear.

Likewise, only the Catholic religion rightfully understands that not only Sunday but the entire week is devoted to God.

Let’s take for instance Fridays. Fridays are penitential days in remembrance of our Lord’s brutal torture, crucifixion, and death on Friday. And we are required to perform penance on all Fridays of the year.

One of the most common caricatures of Catholics is our frequent eating of fish on Fridays. Yet, few non-Catholics understand this practice at all. And the sad truth is that many Catholics nowadays fails to properly observe these practices since abstinence from meat is actually required all year long - NOT just during Lent.

Let's take a few minutes to understand this practice.

Let me summarize these requirements. Catholics are required without exception to abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent. And Catholics are also required to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year unless the Bishops Conference of that area allows an alternative penance to be performed. This is a novelty though. Many faithful Catholics however choose just to honor the tradition of abstaining from all meat on Fridays year-round instead of substituting an alternative. That is what I do and what I encourage you to do as well. Due note, in Lent there is no substituting allowed.

Back when I was in college, I had a roommate who one Friday in Lent said he was going to a party that Friday so he would just abstain from meat on Thursday instead.  You can’t do that. It’s Friday. Christ died on Friday. And having to eat a salad and not a burger is a small sacrifice. If you can’t do that, how can you resist the tempting sins of the flesh? The same is true for Sundays. You can’t say, I’m really busy on Sunday so I’ll just go to Mass before class on Monday morning to fulfill my obligation. It doesn’t work that way.

The Church had over the past several hundred years lessened the discipline of Lent significantly little by little over the centuries. We would do well to return to forty days of abstinence from meat and animal products while also observing them as days of fast. Returning simply to the fast as practiced in 1917 is still a shadow of the fast as formerly practiced by our ancestors and forefathers in the Faith.

So, we can live a Catholic liturgical life in part by 1. Going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, 2. Refraining from all servile work (manual work, cleaning, physical labor) on Sundays and Holy Days, and 3. Abstaining from meat on all Fridays of the year unless a dispensation is offered.

But these are the minimums. These are the requirements. To truly live a liturgical life, we cannot be satisfied with only not sinning against these laws. We have to want to enter deeper into the liturgical life. And we can do that by honoring each day of the week. Sunday is devoted to the Resurrection and Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ, but there are still 5 other days in the week.

Mondays are devoted to the Holy Ghost and the Souls in Purgatory. Do you pray to the Holy Ghost for guidance especially on Mondays? Do you pray for the souls in purgatory on Mondays? Have you made it a custom to visit a nearby cemetery on Mondays to pray for the dead there?

Tuesdays are devoted to the Holy Angels. Do you make sure you pray to your guardian angel on Tuesdays? We can also pray the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel on Tuesdays. If you not familiar with that, look it up online. The Chapel of St. Michael is a devotion that few Catholics are aware of anymore. Tuesdays are also dedicated to the Holy Face and also to St. Anthony of Padua and St. Dominic.

Wednesdays are devoted to St. Joseph. What devotions can you do on Wednesday to honor St. Joseph? After all, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, he is given the highest veneration among all the saints.

Thursdays are devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. Can you visit your local church, chapel, or Shrine for Adoration? Even if the Sacred Host is in the Tabernacle, God is still there, and we can and should make an effort to honor Him on Thursdays in the Adorable Sacrament of the Altar. This of course is on Thursday since our Lord instituted the Sacrament on Thursday. And what’s interesting, is that traditionally seminaries were closed not only on Sundays but also on Thursdays. Thursdays in honor of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament and of the priesthood. That is a custom that has also fallen by the wayside.

And lastly Saturdays are devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Do we invoke her in a special way on Saturdays? Do we especially make sure we pray the Rosary then? Do we honor the First Saturday devotion?

These are real questions that I ask you to consider. How can you better live out the Catholic Liturgical Week?

The Catholic Month

And just as we considered the Catholic Day and the Catholic Week, each month of the year has a specific focus as well:

January is devoted to the Holy Name and the Childhood of our Lord
February is devoted to the Holy Family
March is devoted to St. Joseph
April is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament
May is in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of our Lord
July is dedicated to His Precious Blood
August is in honor of the Immaculate Heart
September is dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary
October is in honor of both the Holy Rosary and the Holy Angels
November is dedicated to praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory
And December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception

In regard to these months, how often do we give these any thought? Do you pray the Litany of Loreto in May or the Litany of the Sacred Heart in June? Do we make special devotions to the Precious Blood in July? Do we honor the dead and make special satisfaction for souls in November? If you are truly serious about living a Catholic liturgical life, I ask you to look up these monthly devotions and live them out.

Part 2: An Overview of the Catholic Liturgical Year

After considering the liturgical day, week, and month, we come now to the second part of this talk: The Catholic Liturgical Year. Running concurrently with the weekly and monthly devotions is the annual liturgical calendar.

Through the liturgical year, we re-live the life of Christ each year starting with His coming and ending with the end of time. The Church runs on a special schedule all year long, with special days focused on different events in the life of Christ. In fact, many protestants are shocked to learn that Catholics have Mass daily – not just on Sundays. And they are even more shocked when they learn about the hundreds of feast days we have throughout the year. Whereas many of them will celebrate Christmas and Easter, a Catholic sees nearly every day of the year dedicated in some way to a unique saint or mystery of the Faith.

Every year the Catholic Church remembers certain key events — the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, His Resurrection and Ascension. The birth and death of Christ are preceded by a time of preparation — Advent and Lent respectively.

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year and is an approximate four week long time of preparation for the birth of Christ. It begins around the end of November. Advent ends with Christmas.

Christmas is always celebrated on December 25th. The Reverend Dom Prosper Gueranger, an abbot who lived until 1875, wrote a long series of reflections on the different seasons of the year in fifteen volumes (although he did not live to complete his monumental work). Father Gueranger’s Liturgical Year volumes are the gold-standard in knowledge on the liturgical year. If you could buy just one set of books on the Liturgical Year, save up and buy his volumes. They are incredible.  For instance, Father Gueranger wrote about the characteristics of Christmas when he wrote:
“It is twofold: it is joy, which the whole Church feels at the coming of the divine Word in the Flesh; and it is admiration of that glorious Virgin, who was made the Mother of God. There is scarcely a prayer, or a rite, in the Liturgy of this glad Season, which does not imply these two grand Mysteries: - an Infant-God, and a Virgin-Mother” (Gueranger, 4)
And Father Gueranger has lengthy reflections for every single traditional feast day in the year. Now, Christmas itself is not only a single day but an entire season. And after it we have, the third season: time after epiphany.

After the Christmas and Epiphany seasons, the Church enters Lent, a time of repentance. Lent is actually preceded by a period of pre-Lent called Septuagesima and then Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday. This observance is on the Wednesday forty-six days before Easter and features the imposition of blessed ashes. The priest traces the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead (though he does so on the head at the place of tonsure for clerics not their foreheads) while saying “Remember man that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”. It is a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence. This sets the tone for the entire Lenten season. As the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal urges us:
“The ashes on your forehead have only as much meaning as you are giving them. Make this symbolism a meaningful beginning of a time of penance, preparing to celebrate the paschal mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection” (Saint Joseph Sunday Missal, 233).
The Lenten season is penitential, so we are asked to devote time to spiritual and corporal acts of mercy as well as prayer, fasting, and the giving of alms. In all of these ways, we can make satisfaction for sins if we are in the state of grace. Catholics often give up something for Lent such as candy or watching television although, as we will discuss later, much greater sacrifices are needed and asked for. The notion that Catholics are only asked to give up chocolate for Lent is scandalous. The sacrifices of our forefathers in the Faith puts the modern Catholic to shame.

Catholics should also participate in additional prayers such as attending extra Masses during the week or making the Stations of the Cross on Fridays. This is also a particularly important time to confess our sins to a priest and receive God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession. Lent is traditionally forty days of fasting and forty days without meat.

The final two weeks of Lent are traditionally called Passiontide, and Lent culminates in the second week of Passiontide, called Holy Week, which commemorates the final days of our Lord’s life on earth before His Crucifixion. Palm Sunday starts Holy Week and on that day, we commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Many of the crowd who shouted “Hosanna” and placed palms before His path only a few days later demanded His death. The Liturgy for Palm Sunday shows us the great immutability of human beings. How fast we are to forget.

On Holy Thursday we remember the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and on Good Friday, God Himself is crucified. Good Friday is also a day of required fasting and abstinence and is the most somber day in the entire year. The day after, Holy Saturday, is a day of mourning and quiet. God has died and sleeps in the tomb. We then arrive at the most joyous celebration of the entire year, the crowning joy of the liturgical life: Easter Sunday!

Easter bursts forth as we hear of the Lord’s rising from the dead, the greatest proof of His own divinity. Astonished, His Apostles and disciples first hear of His resurrection and then see His risen body. The Easter Season is a period of joy for us as well and lasts for fifty days, eclipsing the long forty days of fasting and penance during Lent.

Jesus would not stay with His Apostles for long but ascended to heaven. We celebrate this forty day after Easter Sunday on Ascension Thursday. However, our Lord promised not to leave us as orphans but to send the Holy Ghost. The Apostles gathered in Jerusalem, waiting for the Holy Ghost. And we celebrate the coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter Sunday. Trinity Sunday occurs the Sunday after Pentecost to honor the Blessed Trinity and begins the period called Time after Pentecost. And that season will run until we begin it all over again with Advent.

Thus, to summarize, there are traditionally 2 Liturgical Cycles and 7 Liturgical Seasons: The first cycle is the Christmas Cycle and includes Advent, Christmastide, and the time after the Epiphany.  The second cycle is the Easter Cycle and includes Septuagesima, Lent, Pascaltide (also called Eastertide), and the Time after Pentecost.

It’s also important to realize that each rite in the Church (Roman, Maronite, Chaldean, etc.) has its own calendar, and some have multiple uses or forms (e.g. within the Roman rite are the Traditional Roman Calendar of 1962, the Traditional Catholic Calendar in place in 1954, the modern Roman Calendar of 1969 that your typical parish down the road would use, and the Anglican Use Calendar). Even within the same use or form, there are variations according to local customs. For instance, the patron saint of a church or of the cathedral would be ranked higher in that calendar for that local jurisdiction.

It’s also important to define some important aspects of the liturgical year before we can do more a deep dive into it. And for those definitions, I’m relying on a good summary presented by, a website that I’d encourage all of you to get to know well.

The Liturgical Year

Whereas civil calendars presently start on January 1st (even though that was not always the case), Church calendars begin four Sundays before Christmas (not counting Christmas itself), so that the date of the Church’s “new year” varies from late November to early December. There is also a lunar element to how celebrations in our liturgical year are determined. The lunar element is in the method of calculating the date of Easter, from which the other variable feastdays follow. Easter Sunday is calculated as the first Sunday after the First Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox.

Holy Days and Feasts

It’s a very common term when we are discussing the liturgical life. But what exactly do they mean? Although the terms “holy day” and “feast” are sometimes used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings.

In fact, our English word “holiday” is based on the concept of a “holy day”. A holy day in the general sense, is any day the Church has set apart for a regularly recurring public ceremonial observance. It finds expression primarily in the Mass and Divine Office, which have special prayers, and sometimes special ceremonies (such the distribution of candles on February 2nd) or special disciplines (such as fasting in Lent), for each holy day. In this sense, every feast day is a holy day.

Sunday is the primary holy day; its weekly ceremonial observance replaces that of the Jewish Sabbath.

However, sometimes “holy day” is short for “holy day of obligation,” as in the expression “Sundays and holy days.”

A feast, in the general sense, can also mean a holy day or set of holy days commemorating a particular person, event, or mystery of the Catholic Religion. Feast, when we are discussing the liturgical year, does not mean a large dinner gathering.

A feast may fall on a Sunday, either regularly (e.g. Easter Sunday) or coincidentally (in which case either the Sunday or the feast takes precedence depending on their liturgical ranks). For example, what happens when St. James’ feastday falls on a Sunday? Which takes precedence? Does that change if your parish is the Church of St. James or if the Cathedral in our Diocese is the Cathedral of St. James? These are questions that someone who wants to live a liturgical life should keep in mind.

On the modern (1969) calendar in the Novus Ordo, a “feast” in a narrower sense is a holy day of lesser rank than a “solemnity” and greater than a “memorial.”

Ranks have changed over the past several decades. In the modern Church, they will use the terms solemnity, feast, memorial, or optional memorial. In the 1962 Missal, we have First, Second, Third, or Fourth Class feastdays. But before the 1962 Missal up until the changes made by Pope Pius XII in 1955, there were from least to most important: Simples, Semidoubles, Lesser Doubles or also known as Doubles, Greater Doubles, Doubles of the second class, and lastly Doubles of the first class.

Temporal and Sanctoral Cycles

Feasts are listed in liturgical books according to two different, concurrent annual cycles.

The Proper of Seasons, or Temporal Cycle traces the earthly life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It consists mainly of Sundays related to the various liturgical seasons. This maps onto the 7 liturgical seasons contained in the two cycles we previously discussed: the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle. It starts with Advent then goes through Christmas, Epiphany, Septuagesima, Lent, Easter, and Time after Pentecost.

There is also the Proper of Saints, called the Sanctoral Cycle, which is the annual cycle of feasts not necessarily connected with the seasons. We commemorate and ask the intercession of those holy men and women who set a marvelous example that we should all strive to imitate. We also commemorate various events and mysteries of the faith in the Sanctoral Cycle.

Fixed and Moveable Feasts

Besides Sundays, holy days are generally associated with a liturgical calendar in one of two ways:
  • We have Fixed Feasts which generally fall on the same date each year, e.g. Christmas on Dec 25th. (Though as an exception in some cases, a fixed feast, in spite of its name, can be moved if it coincides with a moveable feast of greater rank.)
  • Moveable Feasts may shift a few days forward or backward from year to year, mainly depending on the date of Easter for that year. (Pentecost, for example, is 49 days after Easter.)
Easter Sunday is “moveable” only insofar as its date varies somewhat depending on the lunar cycle; otherwise it cannot be moved, as it is the highest feast and the basis for many others.


We also have vigils. The term “vigil” is used in several ways. It may refer to an entire day before a major feast day (e.g. the Vigil of Christmas is all day on Dec 24th). This kind of vigil is a feast day in itself. Before the changes to the Roman calendar in 1955, nearly all feasts of the apostles were preceded by a Vigil Day (some of which were days of required fasting but those requirements generally disappeared in the 1700s).

Finally, a Sunday Mass anticipated on a Saturday evening is sometimes, though incorrectly, called a vigil. This practice though is a novelty and not part of Catholic Tradition, so I always encourage Catholics to never attend such “vigil masses” on Saturday evenings.


Lastly, we have ferias. A weekday with no feast associated with it is called a feria or ferial day (from the Latin feria meaning “free day”). On such a day, in the traditional rite, the priest generally offers the Mass of the previous Sunday or a Votive Mass of his choice. He may choose to honor the mystery of that day (for instance, on a ferial Wednesday he may be offering a Votive Mass of St. Joseph) but he may offer a Votive Mass for any saint. He may also generally, exceptions aside, offer a Requiem Mass.

So now that we have some essential definitions down, I’d like to walk through a guided meditation on the Liturgical Year in our time left. Again, this material will come from the Liturgical Year Course offered on and is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many insightful meditations in the liturgical year for us to consider that this is just a small piece of that.

Part 3: Details of the Catholic Liturgical Year 

Note: Much of this section is taken from the affordable and extensive online course on the Liturgical Year offered by


To many in our world today, Advent is extinct. Christmas starts around Thanksgiving with in-store sales and Christmas carols and ends on December 26th. To a Catholic, this borders on blasphemy.

With the First Sunday of Advent, the Church now begins anew the liturgical year.  In the words of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, it is in one liturgical year that the Church re-lives the 33 years of Christ’s life – thirty years obeying, three years teaching, and three hours redeeming.  Advent is a unique season of its own, not an extension of Christmas. It is neither an appropriate time to sing Christmas carols, nor is it a time for Christmas parties.

Advent is a time of penance in anticipation for the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord.  But it is also a time to help us remember that we must always be prepared for the Final Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ.

Advent as a season is quite ancient. The season itself went through slow development, taking form back in the 4th century and reaching a definite form in Rome by 6th century. Advent starts on the Sunday nearest Nov 30th (Saint Andrew’s feastday) and formed the beginning of the liturgical year by the 10th century. It started earlier at one time (as early as Nov 11th) because it was fashioned after Lent, so it had forty days originally in some areas, and even earlier in other areas (starting in September) which forms the basis of the monastic fast. However, by the 6th to 7th centuries the number is set as a span of four Sundays. And the 1962 Missal preserves most of the ancient Masses of this season even though they are not in the Novus Ordo.

And while the modern Catholic will be generally familiar with Advent, the main part of Advent that they will be largely ignorant of is the Advent Embertide Fast. Ember days (in Latin the Quatuor Tempora, meaning four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence.

Although Ember Days are no longer considered required in mainstream Catholicism following Vatican II, they can - and should - still be observed by the Faithful. In fact, many Traditional priests encourage the Faithful to observe the days. Ember Days are set aside to pray and offer thanksgiving for a good harvest and God's blessings. If you are in good health, fast during these three days and pray the additional prayers prescribed in the Breviary. Remember the words from the Gospel: "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). We are called to do penance throughout the year, and we can do that by uniting to the traditional times of penance which have nearly all been forgotten.

I now with some slight modifications quote from the New Advent encyclopedia:
“They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (who reigned from 1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (St Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday (another name for Pentecost Sunday), and after September 14th (The Exaltation of the Cross).  
“The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.  The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Callistus (who reigned from 217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Pope Leo the Great considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (around 495) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week--these were formerly given only at Easter.” 
By observing these Ember Days in Advent, we truly live a more liturgical life. Not a single day of the year should pass when we do not feel a connection with the Liturgical Calendar. To do so, to neglect the feast days and fast days before us, is to live as orphans. Just as we keep these holy days, so too in Heaven there are holy days. It is our purpose in life to make it to Heaven, and Heaven will have feast days. If we do not feel within ourselves a desire to unite with the Church and honor and praise Almighty God through the Liturgical Year, we are not living truly Catholic lives.


Lent is a period of 40 days of penance (excluding the Sundays of Lent in the number) in preparation for the solemn celebration of the Lord's Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Our Lord, before beginning His earthly public ministry, fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. As the Gospel continually reaffirms, penance is an important part of repentance. And the Lord gave us the example of fasting for 40 days and nights. The concept of 40 days existing as preparation was seen by the Prophet Elijah, who fasted and journeyed to Horeb for 40 days (1 Kings 19:8). There are dozens of other references to the number 40 in the Old Testament.

For those Catholics who wish to more closely follow the ancient customs of the Church, Lent is a time of austere penance undertaken to make reparation to God for sin (our own sins and those of others), to grow in virtue and good works, and to comfort the heart of our Savior much offended by the proliferation of sin and filth increasing by the day.

Yet, there are very few Catholics who undertake the true discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. You, the remnant of the Catholic Faith, must observe the strictest of Lents. If you don’t, who will?

How many of us observe all 40 days as true fast days and not just Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?  Yet our ancestors did.  In fact, it was forbidden to eat meat or any animal products (e.g., eggs, dairy, cheese, butter, olive oil, or even fish) through all of Lent, even on Sundays!  How many of us are making this kind of intense sacrifice?  How many of us are finding the time during Lent to pray the Rosary every day or go to Daily Mass more often or at least pray the Stations of the Cross each Friday?

We live in sad, pitiful times when few souls even care to observe Lent.  The prophetic words of Pope Benedict XIV are coming true when he said:
“The observance of Lent is the very badge of Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should men grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.” 
And yet, how many people indulge in public sin, lust, and gluttony on Fat Tuesday in a mockery of our ancestors?  Nowadays, few Catholics fast for all forty days.  Yet, people are engaging in eating on Shrove Tuesday like they were.  It is a mockery of the Faith!  How many people are fasting by "light eating" on Ash Wednesday and then indulging on cheeseburgers on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday on a Lenten feria day!

Even the great liturgist Father Dom Guaranger wrote of the excesses and sinfulness of Mardi Gras in his own time.  And how much worse it is in our own times than his back in the 1800s! He said in part:
“How far from being true children of Abraham are those so-called Christians who spend Quinquagesima (The Sunday before Ash Wednesday) and the two following days in intemperance and dissipation, because Lent is soon to be upon us!...”
It is a shame.   It is a public scandal.  And our Lord Himself has asked for reparation. In an approved apparition of our Blessed Lord to Mother Pierina in 1938, the Lord said:
“See how I suffer. Nevertheless, I am understood by so few. What gratitude on the part of those who say they love Me. I have given My Heart as a sensible object of My great love for man and I give My Face as a sensible object of My Sorrow for the sins of man. I desire that it be honoured by a special feast on Tuesday in Quinquagesima (Shrove Tuesday – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). The feast will be preceded by novena in which the faithful make reparation with Me uniting themselves with my sorrow.”
Thus, our Lord wished for us to make amends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the last day of the period of Septuagesima, and yet so few people know of this. Living a liturgical life necessitates that we live true Lents. 40 Days of Fasting and abstinence from meat. And that we care enough to learn of these traditions. So when next Lent comes, I ask you – how can you observe a truly Catholic Lent? And what will you be able to do on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in reparation for the sins of those who give in to carnal lusts on Mardi Gras?

The great Fr. Gueranger provides hundreds of meditations for Lent. Regarding the true uniqueness of the Lenten season, Fr. Gueranger writes:
“Each feria of Lent has a proper Mass; whereas, in Advent, the Mass of the preceding Sunday is repeated during the week. This richness of the lenten liturgy is a powerful means for our entering into the Church's spirit, since she hereby brings before us, under so many forms, the sentiments suited to this holy time... All this will provide us with most solid instruction; and as the selections from the Bible, which are each day brought before us, are not only some of the finest of the sacred volume, but are, moreover, singularly appropriate to Lent, their attentive perusal will be productive of a twofold advantage.”
After having given consideration to Advent, Lent, and Ember Days, I wish to share a final reflection on Rogation Days, another element of our liturgical life that has fallen by the wayside.

Rogation Days are the four days set apart to bless the fields and to invoke God's mercy on all of creation. The 4 days are April 25th, which is called the Major Rogation (and is only coincidentally the same day as the Feast of St. Mark); and the three days preceding Ascension Thursday, which are called the Minor Rogations days (i.e., the Lesser Litanies). Traditionally, on these days, the congregation marches the boundaries of a parish, blessing every tree and stone, while chanting or reciting a Litany of Mercy, usually the Litany of the Saints.

These were long before the 1962 Missal, days of fasting and abstinence from meat. The requirement for abstinence was universally kept for some time but the fasting was kept only in some locations (e.g. the Churches in Gaul where the Rogations days originated from as well as by St. Charles Borromeo in Milan). The Church Universal did not mandate days of fasting in the Easter Season so these days were often observed by abstinence from meat. Of course, keeping them as fast days is certainly in the proper spirit of penance, as St. Charles Borromeo's example shows us.

Besides keeping these days of penance, we can join in these processions. We can also pray special Rogation Days prayers. I personally try to go to a field of crops on April 25th where I pray the Litany of Saints in keeping with the liturgical spirit for the Major Rogation and say some additional prayers appropriate for the day.

Father Christopher Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina has put together a beautifully illustrated guide explaining both the Rogations and Ember Days, with a number of very useful quotes from various liturgical sources.

Part 4: Living a Liturgical Life through the Mass & the Office

The entire year helps us to commemorate Jesus’ life and the work of the Holy Trinity. Through the Mass, meditation, prayers, acts of mercy, and devotions, we become closer to God. The Mass and all prayers are ultimately for the sole purpose of the worship of the Trinity. Our purpose in life is ultimately orientated to the worship of the Holy Trinity. The Mass, the greatest act of Catholic worship, at its core is the greatest worship that can be given to the Trinity because the Mass is the re-presentation of Jesus Christ on the Cross to God the Father. And we know from our attendance at Mass that the Mass is the chief way we come into contact with the liturgical life.

Mass is not a mere obligation. It is a privilege. It is the ability to worship God in the manner He wishes to be worshiped. It is the most perfect prayer and we have the unique privilege if we are in the state of grace to unite our prayers and sacrifices with the One Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at the altar during Mass. There is no prayer more in line with a Catholic liturgical life.

But I am also a strong proponent of the Divine Office. Through the Divine Office we can sanctify our day and live in uniformity with the liturgical year. Now, I’m not suggesting that all of you are called to the priesthood and religious life, but I suspect that among us here are souls that God has called to this life. And to you, those chosen by God to consecrate your entire lives to His service, you will have the awesome privilege to pray the Divine Office 7 times a day. Traditional Orders will start the divine office in the night – I’ve seen schedules for it to begin at 3 AM.

Why do we pray the Divine Office 7 times a day? This is in part from the words of King David in the Psalms: “Seven times a day I rose to sing thy praises.” And we can do so likewise.

But for those of you called to married life or single life, you too can and should, according to your abilities, pray the Divine Office. Now, there are several versions of the Divine Office. We have the modern Liturgy of the Hours used by the Novus Ordo and which uses the new calendar. That is one that I do not recommend. There is also the 1962 Breviary. Or there is the Office as said in 1955, when Pope Pius XII made a number of changes to the rankings of the feastdays and changed the number of octaves drastically. There is also the version that I pray, the pre-1955 version that is the version promulgated by Pope St. Pius X in Divino Afflatu in 1911.

In the modern Liturgy of the Hours, they removed some of the hours and changed some of the naming. Traditionally, the hours were:
  • Matins and Lauds: Technically they can be said at different times but are usually said together very early in the morning (even before sunrise)
  • Prime: This office is said usually around sunrise
  • Then we have the daytime hours of Terce, Sext, and None
  • Then we come to evening and have Vespers
  • Then we conclude the day with Compline at night before bed
Nowadays, Matins has been replaced by the Office of Readings which is said at anytime of the day. Lauds is usually just known as morning prayer. Vespers is called evening prayer. Compline is known as night prayer. But the actual prayers in these hours has been changed significantly, in addition to using the New Calendar.

So what I encourage all of you – even those who are not called to the consecrated religious life – is to pray a few of those offices a day. Start the day with the readings from Matins. That will only take a few minutes if you read the last nocturn’s readings on the saint whose feastday is that day. Then pray Lauds or Prime. That can take around 10 – 15 minutes.  If you can, take time in your day to pray the Angelus and/or the Sext prayer at Noon.  Before dinner, say the Angelus again and spend 10 – 15 minutes praying Vespers and thanking God for the great blessings of the day. And finally, end your day before bed by praying Compline, which includes in it a short examination of conscience.

What I really recommend to those starting out with incorporating the Divine Office into their life is to use the online website: divinum officium.  In that site you can choose for instance Divino Afflatu or the 1960 rubrics and then click on the hour you want to pray. All of the prayers will be on that page and there is no guesswork. The site is well-formatted for using it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or even a mobile phone. They even have an app. I would recommend this as an easy way to start living a liturgical life.

And lastly, familiarize yourself with the liturgical year. If you go to Google and search: a catholic life feastdays. The top listing should be a listing that I have put together and updated throughout the years. It is the traditional pre-1955 Catholic calendar with various meditations for the sanctoral cycle and some days in the temporal cycle. Study. Learn.  Care about our Catholic heritage.  Learn about the devotions to St. Nicholas on December 6th, learn about the feast of St. Martin on November 11th which is known as Martinmas. What’s interesting is that Martinmas used to be one of the last times in the year we would have outdoor processions before winter.  And that is one reason the anti-Catholic President Woodrow Wilson put Armistice Day (Veterans Day) there so that it could help block out that Catholic feastday.

I’m shocked when I learn of Catholics who are not aware that February 2nd is the feast of Candlemas and the last day of the Christmas season, or that on February 3rd we get our throats blessed in honor of St. Blasé, or that wine is traditionally blessed by our priests for us on December 27th, the feast of St. John. These are just a few of the hundreds of ways we can live out the liturgical year. So spend time and immerse yourself into the Traditional Catholic liturgical year’s customs.  Learn about the unique indulged prayers that occur on select days throughout the liturgical year.

It is no coincidence that the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is on the Octave Day of the Assumption. It is no coincidence that the Transfiguration celebrated on August 6th is 40 days before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it is no coincidence that there are 40 days between the Assumption and St. Michael’s feastday – a time known as St. Michael's Lent. It was during this time that St. Francis of Assisi observed a second Lenten fast of 40 days in honor of St. Michael and for his protection. Part of this ancient tradition even remains today in the form of the monastic fast.

I would also direct you to and click on “Being Catholic” at the top. And from there, you will find dozens of articles on practical tips of living out the liturgical life.

A truly Catholic life is a liturgical life.  Make time now to help the Church uncover what so few Catholics keep anymore. And through our collective keeping of the Catholic liturgical life (the Angelus, feastdays, the divine Office, Ember Days, Rogation Days, Sunday rest, Friday penance, and more) we truly give honor to Almighty God who is worthy of all liturgical worship and honor per omni secula seculorum.

2 comment(s):

del_button September 21, 2019 at 5:38 PM
Ramil said...

Excellent post! Thank you!

del_button September 21, 2019 at 7:27 PM
David Martin said...

Re: you're second paragraph. Interesting point. Time as we know it, indeed, is a created thing, while its Author is timeless, i.e. eternal. There is time in Heaven, but it is not akin to earth time.

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