I’m excited to share some great ideas for gathering single Catholics together for fun and fellowship. “Catholic Traditions” is one of my all-time favorite topics, because it involves reviving age-old practices and customs that Catholics have faithfully held to for centuries … many of which have been lost, forgotten, or taken for granted in the modern world.
But hopefully you and I are going to change that.
For the past several years I have written to single Catholics about the importance of planning dynamic local social events to strengthen fellowship among singles in your community. As we move into the colorful fall season, everyone’s minds quickly turn to the holidays, which seem to approach more rapidly with each passing year. Most of you probably have traditions and customs for celebrating the holidays with family, relatives, and friends. Many of you have the same parties you attend each Christmas season, or host your own annual get-togethers. But what has been largely forgotten in our contemporary society is that the fall and winter months hold so many more reasons for feasting and celebration that just Christmas and New Years Eve.
The best part about the next few months is: WE’RE CATHOLIC! And that means our calendar is packed with wonderful reasons for praying, feasting, fasting, socializing, celebrating, and, most importantly, participating in the liturgy and life of the Catholic Church.
Throughout the history of Christendom, the faithful have lived and breathed the Catholic faith by celebrating the liturgical calendar in their homes with numerous traditions and customs. In this way, the faithful participated more fully in the life of the Church, and generations grew up appreciating the overwhelmingly rich history, teaching, and vitality of Catholicism. While a large number of Catholics (especially in America) have lost a sense of celebrating liturgical feasting and fasting in their homes, there are many who are striving to revive these customs.
My mom does an amazing job of incorporating the liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church into our family celebrations. Most of what I’ll be sharing both this month and next, I learned from her. While I’ve met several other Catholic families who are also reviving Catholic traditions in their homes, I rarely meet single people who are celebrating these rich customs. Yet, I don’t think we should wait until we’re married with children to begin reviving these practices. I believe there is no better way to bring single Catholics together for fellowship than with singles’ events that are geared towards learning and celebrating together the rich traditions of Catholicism. After all, this is our heritage too.
Let me reassure all of you that it doesn’t take a Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray to pull together a dynamic social gathering of single friends. Many of the Catholic traditions I share in this column are super easy, and, as I hope you’ll discover for yourself, super fun as well.
So gather your single friends together (and have each of them bring another single friend from their neighborhood, work, church, etc, so that your group grows and expands), and embark on the beautiful adventure of celebrating these Catholic traditions in the home.
All Saints Day: November 1st
Many single people host or attend Halloween parties this time of year, but for Catholic singles, there is a far better excuse for feasting, celebration and candy consumption that’s right around the corner: The Feast of All Saints (November 1st).
Christians began celebrating this feast that honors all of the saints and martyrs as early as the fifth century. It is a day to especially memorialize and celebrate all of the saints who are unknown or nameless to us, and to ask for their intercessory prayers on behalf of the Church on earth. The day before this solemn feast was traditionally known as ‘All Hallows Eve” – what we now refer to as “Halloween” (which is not observed as a Christian holiday in America).
In lieu of throwing a “ghosts and goblins” or “witches and werewolves” party on Halloween, invite your single friends to an All Saints Day party. If you enjoy dressing up for Halloween, host an “All Saints Day Costume Party,” and invite your friends to come dressed up as their favorite saint, martyr, or biblical character.
Instead of carving Halloween-themed jack-o-lanterns, carve your pumpkins with Christian symbols (you can find Christian pumpkin carving patterns online). Exchange orange and black decorations for the colors of heavenly glory, such as white, gold, silver, purple, and red.
Party games could include: “Know Your Saints” trivia; a “Who Am I” guessing game if it’s a costume party; a Bible Jeopardy game with the party split into two teams; or a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood for items that are symbols of the saints (Examples: a key for St. Peter, a lion for St. Mark, a musical note for St. Cecelia, an arrow for St. Sebastian, a rose for St. Therese, etc.)
Spiritual activities for an All Saints Day party could include praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, or praying the Litany of the Saints (the Litany is available for free download from EWTN at this link.
This year, friends of mine are hosting a party with a “Martyrs” theme, and all the guests are asked to come dressed up as their favorite Christian martyr. The family’s garage is being converted into a temporary stage, and guests are invited to perform 5-minute skits about the martyr they are representing. (The winning skit receives a grand prize). We’ll also have loads of fall treats and candy.
[Note: an added bonus for celebrating All Saints Day instead of Halloween is that you can purchase your candy treats at huge discounts after Halloween is over.]
Feast of Christ the King: (November 25, 2007)
The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to the secularization of modern society. The feast boldly proclaims Christ's lordship and royal authority not only over individuals, families, and the Church, but also over society, governments, and nations. I highly recommend Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter Quas Primas (On the Kingship of Christ), which promulgated this feast day (Quas Primas is available for free download in the Recommended Reading section below).
The Feast of Christ the King is one of the two feast days in the liturgical calendar when it is customary to enthrone an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home. A home enthronement is a solemn act giving formal recognition of the loving kingship of Christ over your home. During the enthronement ceremony, an image or picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is placed in a prominent place in the home. The emphasis is on extending the social kingship of Christ through his Sacred Heart reigning in your home and family, the basic unit of society. It is an outward symbol of your desire to live a Christocentric (Christ-centered) rather than egocentric (self-centered) life. This is not a casual devotion involving just putting a picture on your living room wall and forgetting about it. This solemn enthronement is to have on-going effects as you attempt to live out the effects of Christ actively reigning in your home.
Shortly after I moved into my new apartment, I hosted a “Christ the King Enthronement Party” instead of a traditional house-warming party. I invited my family, several friends, and our parish priest to join me for the Sacred Heart of Jesus enthronement ceremony. The priest led us through the prayers of the enthronement ceremony, and blessed the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary that I placed on my living room wall. The brief enthronement ceremony was followed by a festive Sunday afternoon party with abundant food and fellowship. The priest told me repeatedly how much he appreciated the opportunity to preside over the enthronement ceremony, since he had not been asked to perform a home enthronement in years!
I sent all of my friends home with a copy of the booklet Sacred Heart Gives Life to the World (see Recommended Reading section), which explains the history and tradition of enthroning the Sacred Heart image in your home, and also contains all of the prayers and instructions for an enthronement ceremony. Many of my friends were excited to go home and make plans to throw their own “Enthronement Party.”
There are both partial and plenary indulgences available for those who enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in their homes, and pray an act of consecration to Christ the King on this important feast day. Images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts are available at your local Catholic bookstore, or from any online store that carries religious goods.
Advent Wreath-Making Party
The custom of an Advent wreath to mark the journey through the Advent season is believed to have German origins, but by the Middle Ages Christians throughout Europe used lighted Advent wreaths as part of their preparation for the Feast of Christmas.
The round wreath is a symbol of God’s eternity and the immortality of the human soul. The three purple candles represent the sacrifices of penance and prayer, and the rose (pink) candle symbolizes joy and hope – all key components of the Christian journey.
On the first Sunday of Advent the first (purple) candle is lit. On the second Sunday, the second purple candle is lit along with the first one. On “Gaudete Sunday”, the third Sunday in Advent, we light the rose (pink) candle as a symbol of our joy and rejoicing as we get closer and closer to the Feast of Christmas, and as our expectation builds for the Second Coming of Christ. On the fourth Sunday of Advent we light the last purple candle, along with the other three.
Your local craft store will have books on how to design a wreath, but typing “Advent wreath” into Google will give you ample instructions as well. From a fresh evergreen wreath to a fake pine or ivy one, there are countless ideas to choose from.
This year my local singles group is throwing an Advent wreath-making party on the last Saturday before Advent begins. We are hosting the event at the park located on Main Street here in Greenville, so that we have plenty of room to spread out on picnic tables and be adventurous with our wreath creations.
While we make the wreaths, we’ll be playing Christmas/Advent music and taking turns reading different spiritual writings for the beginning of Advent. We’re also doing a cookie exchange to celebrate the last day before the “Great Fast of Advent” begins.
Basic ingredients you will need for an Advent wreath include: a base for the wreath (your choices include wire, foam, straw, grapevine, etc.; evergreens (collect real ones or you can use fake – whichever you prefer); floral tape, floral wire, or a hot glue gun; three purple candles and one rose (pink) candle. Pine cones, berries, and decorative ribbons are optional.
Advent Sundays: (December 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2007)
The penitential season of Advent is a wonderful time for single Catholics to gather for spiritual growth and enrichment. One idea is to host a Sunday evening supper or coffee hour during the four weeks of Advent, and invite a bunch of single friends over for Advent devotions.
Light your Advent wreath, perhaps sing some Advent hymns together (O Come O Come Emmanuel is my personal favorite), and read a spiritual reading for that particular Sunday in Advent. You could either re-read the Mass readings for that Sunday, or read from another spiritual work, such as the Advent edition of the Magnificat or the Advent volume of Fr. Francis Fernandez’s masterful series, In Conversation with God.
Reviving Catholic Traditions for a New Generation
Pope Pius XI wrote, “The Church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart and have a salutary effect upon man's whole nature.” As you begin to celebrate the liturgical feasts and fasts of the Church with your single friends, you will come to see how very true this is.
Not only will these beautiful feasts of the Catholic Church bring vitality, energy, and new friendships to your local singles community, they will also help you prepare, as a single Catholic, to pass on a legacy of faith and tradition to your future families, and to generations to come.
Stephanie is the coordinator of
™, a youth and young adult division of
Family Life Center International
She has been a frequent guest on several Catholic programs, including
EWTN Radio's Faith & Family, which she currently co-hosts with her
father, Steve Wood, and EWTN Television's Life on the Rock and The
Stephanie hosts the first worldwide radio show for Catholic youth,
, which airs weekly on the EWTN Radio Network.She also
writes a monthly
for teens and young adults. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Recommended Reading & Resources on Catholic Traditions:
(Family Life Center Publications)
(Booklet on Home Enthronements by Liturgical Press)
Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI, December 11, 1925
Why Worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus? , by Jim Burnham
Article published by Family Life Center International