Saints to sacramentals: A how-to guide for living the Faith

How do you spot a Catholic? The same way you spot an exotic bird in its natural habitat: by watching what they do. That’s the premise of Melissa Musick and Anna Keating’s new field guide, “The Catholic Catalogue,” which outlines the daily practices of a Catholic life. The mother-daughter duo offers entries as varied as “Making and Blessing a Home, Hospitality, and Christ Rooms,” “The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul” and “How to Make a Mary Garden.” The book provides an introduction to the rituals and routines of the liturgical year and everyday life.

The book is broken up into three parts — “Smells and Bells,” “Seasons of the Church Year” and “Seasons of Life” — with entries ranging from “Holy Week: Keeping Triduum” to “Daily Bread Recipe and Learning about the Bread of Life.” It is ordered around the rhythms of life. In the introduction, Musick writes, “Before all else, Catholicism is a life, a life that moves through cycles and seasons. That’s why this book, this field guide, is divided into sections organized around these times and seasons — of the Church year, of human life — and the elements — smells and bells, religious signs and symbols, fasting and feasting, gathering and processing, baptizing and burying — that mark us as Catholics.”

Threaded throughout the book are themes of the Christian life: God’s love and mercy, the integration of the physical and the spiritual, and the holiness of simple actions and prayers. The entry “Processions” exemplifies the holiness of the ordinary and the importance of the physical. Musick writes, “Catholicism is an embodied tradition. We bow and bend. We touch and kiss. We bathe and anoint. We stand upright and lie prostrate. ... We sing and keep silence. We sit still and we get up to journey.”

Each entry offers a brief explanation of the tradition and its origins, a rich reflection on its spiritual significance, and a “how to” for those interested in practicing the custom. The section on the feast of Corpus Christi, for example, includes St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s conversion story, centered around her exposure to a Corpus Christi procession in Italy, as well as the history of the feast and a meditation on the gift of the Eucharist. Keating writes, “It is a mystery we will never fully comprehend, yet we take it on faith that by God’s action at the consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.”

Musick (left) and Keating  Courtesy photo

The customs are steeped in tradition but mindful of a modern audience in its proposals of the ways to observe feast and fast days. Many specific ideas are applicable to children, but others serve as inspiration for all, including the increasing number of single adults in the U.S. Church. The specific inclusion of ideas for single people shows an exceptional awareness and care for many who often feel distanced from the domestic church and struggle to incorporate traditions that developed around family life. While the family holds a special place in God’s design for humanity, this aspect of the book is a great asset to the many single adult Catholics who want to live faithfully in the light of the Church.

“The Catholic Catalogue” is a book to be dipped into, read in parts as the sections become applicable, such as the Marian devotions in her month of May and the tradition of St. John’s Day fires in early June. It is a resource for all looking to live a fully Catholic life.

Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick writes from Oklahoma.

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