Happy Solemnity of St. John the Baptist!
John the Baptist — or JTB as a former pastor of mine used to affectionately call him — is such an important figure within our faith tradition, not only because he was Jesus’s cousin (who leapt in the womb at the presence of Jesus’s pregnant mother) but because he prepared the way for Jesus through his itinerant preaching and then baptized Jesus in the river Jordan.
Whew, what a resume!
As a mother, I’m always on the search of ways to celebrate the feasts and festivities of our faith in ways that are fun for the family and entry points for conversation about important topics. In honor of this quest — and of the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, of course! — this post is devoted to sharing some of the ways that I’m planning to celebrate a few of this season’s feast days.
June 23: Solemnity of St. John the BaptistI love that John the Baptist’s feast day falls right around the first day of summer, because the way that makes most sense to me to celebrate the man who baptized Jesus is…(drumroll) in water. Weather permitting, I’m planning to take my kids to their favorite creek near us. They’ll splash around, we’ll talk about baptism, we’ll talk about Jesus’s baptism specifically, I’ll tell them the story of John the Baptist, and we might even conclude with a picnic lunch.
July 11: Memorial of St. BenedictSeveral summers ago, I spent a couple of weeks at a Benedictine monastery, and the experience left me with a profound appreciation for Benedictine spirituality and the Benedictine way of life. These gifts to and of Catholicism come, of course, from St. Benedict, the medieval Christian saint who founded the Benedictine order and wrote The Rule of St. Benedict. Containing a set of rules for his monks to follow and, more broadly, a suggested path for meaningful life in a chaotic world, The Rule emphasizes the values and practices of continual prayer, commitment to community, simplicity, and hospitality.
Hospitality is one of the charisms for which the Benedictine order has become most known, and so on (or close to) the Memorial of St. Benedict, our family is going to put our hospitality chops into action and host a gathering for friends and their families. As we prepare for the gathering, I’ll talk to my kids about hospitality — the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers — and we’ll go the extra mile in making this gathering delightful for our guests (I’m thinking that I’ll have my three-year-old make place cards and we’ll cut flowers from the garden to display throughout the house).
July 14: Memorial of Saint Kateri TekakwithaSt. Kateri, the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, is the patron saint of ecology. On her feast day, I plan to take my kids to our local nature center/park. Usually we just feed the ducks, walk through the trees, smell the flowers, and play in the adjacent playground, but I’ll add a traipse through the center’s gardens and composting center on July 14th. Afterwards, we’ll hopefully return to a dinner including tomato and cucumber salad from our garden and I’ll tell them a little bit about St. Kateri.
August 6: Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
The Transfiguration is one of those days that I’ve always found very meaningful personally, but is hard to convey in its significance to young children. It’s one of the more mysterious and mystical feasts, after all, the one celebrating the event of Jesus taking Peter, James and John to the mountain to pray, and then becoming a dazzling and shining white while he is joined by Moses and Elijah.
There’s a lot going on in the Transfiguration, and none of it is easily summarized or translated to pithy explanations and family friendly activities. In the future, I might to to explain the Transfiguration to my children, but this year, I’m resting in the thrill of the mystery and the awe that the story of a radiant Jesus brings to me, and I’m going to pass on some of that thrill, mystery, awe and radiance on to my children in the form of… a glow stick bath! My daughters love glow sticks, and the way they light up the water in dimly lit bathroom truly is exciting. I’ll read them the story of the Transfiguration, and they probably (definitely) won’t get it. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?! The Transfiguration of Jesus is an unexplainable, miraculous, mysterious event that awed and amazed his disciples, just like glow sticks in a tub full of water will awe and amaze my children.
August 11: Memorial of St. ClarePope Pius XII designated St. Clare as the patron saint of television due to the story that she had been able to see and hear Mass on the wall of her room when she was too ill to attend in person. So, St. Clare’s feast day will be a movie night in our house. The children may or may not attend! (My daughters are still young and largely frightened of the television). My husband and I often end evenings watching a show (or ten minutes of one, as I fall asleep quickly) together, but “movie night” feels out of the ordinary and special because we start whatever we’re watching earlier (and therefore can watch more together before I conk out); we choose a movie in advance so as to avoid the time-consuming scroll through suggestions and to build anticipation; and we make popcorn and eat candy, snacks that elevate any experience.
These are just a few of the many summer feast days that pack the months ahead. I would love to hear from readers if you celebrate any of the days or other summer solemnities and memorials in your own ways!