On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Catholic All Year Compendium

Four Novembers ago I was a substitute teacher, in a long-term placement with the second grade. Since it was a Catholic school, I began the first November school day with the announcement, “November is the Month of the Holy Souls. We pray for them to help them get into heaven.”

And a student replied, all seriousness: “I thought November is Men’s Cancer Month …”

If you’ve ever wondered why we Catholics don’t make as much of our various feast days and liturgical seasons as the secular world makes of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, Kendra Tierney of CatholicAllYear.com has a new book that will help you learn to live out the liturgical year with your family (or your students): The Catholic All Year Compendium.

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New from Ignatius Press, The Catholic All Year Compendium puts all the liturgical-living information you need into one book. You won’t have to dig through the free calendar you pick up at church, five websites, and four books about the lives of the saints to find some ways to observe the Church’s feasts, fasts, and everything in between — and make them work for your family.

When my kids were younger (and it may well have been when there were only two of them) I did all that digging. I made sure we ate Mexican food on December 9 to celebrate then-blessed Juan Diego. I served (canned) cinnamon rolls on the feast of St. Lucy. We blessed our home with holy water and wrote “K+M+B” and the year above the front door every Epiphany. I still load one shoe per family member with treats and little gifts on St. Nicholas’ feast, December 6, and I’ve even got the box packed so my adult son, who now lives two time zones away, can enjoy some treats too.

Clearly, I celebrate feasts with food — that’s my love language. I’m not so great at decorating, and I’m grateful that my young-adult daughter has mostly taken that task over. Crafts? No way. But whether your talents lie in cooking, baking, decorating, or creating, Tierney provides ideas you can use to celebrate your faith all year long.

The introduction, titled “Liturgical Living for Life,” explains how you can make the liturgical year your own. That does not mean playing fast and loose with the Church calendar. It means taking that calendar and starting where you are to “bring a bit of the tradition of our beautiful faith into your home” (15). Use what you have (or can easily get).

The main part of the book is organized by season, beginning (of course) with Advent and going right on through Ordinary Time After Pentecost. Nearly 300 pages of saints’ stories, family stories, menu and craft suggestions, and ideas for activities ensure that you’ll always be able to find something that will work for your family.

At the end of the book there are four appendices. Don’t skip these! They cover fasting and abstinence, indulgences, the canonization processes, and a quick-reference guide to the feasts in the book (I’m bookmarking that section). For example, for this coming Sunday (Christ the King Sunday) you’ll see this entry:

Last Sunday in Ordinary Time: Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Sunday, solemnity, holy day of obligation) — Te Deum (plenary indulgence); chicken à la king, Bundt cake (page 309).

From there, you’ve got your basic praying and eating ideas, and you know where in the book to find more information. Some dates include activities such as an outdoor picnic, preparing a meal for a friend who is pregnant or has a new baby, or decorating the Christmas tree.

“Compendium” is such a satisfying, old-fashioned word. It evokes images of vintage books, antique recipe boxes overflowing with hand-written ingredient lists, and a slower-paced lifestyle. Your lifestyle might feel like anything but slow-paced. In recent years I’ve let the frenzy of having older kids who have places to be after dinner (jobs, rehearsals, sports practices or games) be my excuse for opting out of my liturgical-year menu planning. But The Catholic All Year Compendium has reminded me that celebrating the liturgical year in my domestic church doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or complicated. This Advent, I’m going to put in the extra effort to get back into the spirit of the season and of the individual saints’ days that fill the calendar at this time of year.

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Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

St. Nicholas: Better Late than Never

We came late to the St. Nicholas “treats in the shoes” party. St. Nick didn’t start visiting our house to leave a sweet treat for the kids on his feast day until after 1996. That’s the year my oldest started school.

At that Catholic school, all the children would leave one shoe outside the classroom door at some point in the day. While everyone was in the classrooms studying, St. Nicholas would come along and put a candy cane in each shoe.

My son came home to tell us how he’d gotten a surprise in his shoe. Then he asked, “How come St. Nicholas doesn’t visit our house?”

To be honest, I hadn’t known that this was a thing. It’s not something we did when I was growing up. I distracted my curious 4-year-old somehow and resolved to start up the custom the next year.

Over the years, it became something everyone looked forward to; the night before, they’d all go searching for their boots (to have the biggest shoe possible in order to hold the treats or small gifts St. Nick would leave behind) and put them near the door.

The first year my older son was away at college, TheKid wondered how St. Nicholas would fill his brother’s shoe if he was in the dorm. That’s where Priority Mail came to the rescue! I started picking up the small boxes and stuffing them with packets of microwave popcorn, small candy bars, a new toothbrush, and a few candy canes. (It’s amazing what I can jam into one of those small boxes; remember, if it fits, it ships!)

St. Nick mails away 2 boxes now (this year my daughter took her box after Thanksgiving and promised not to open it before today.)


This morning I mentioned on Facebook that I’d cued up every version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” that Spotify has to offer in my neverending attempt to get my teenager out of bed. A friend of mine replied that she’d forgotten to set out treats in her children’s shoes today.

“Leave them for an after-school surprise,” I replied.

So if you missed the boat this morning or have never begun at St. Nicholas custom in your home before, there’s no reason you can’t start now.

Better late than never!