A How-to Guide to Living the Liturgical Year in Your Catholic Home
BOOK PICK: ‘The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion’
The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion
The Liturgical Year in Practice
By Kendra Tierney
400 pages, $19.95
“How do we actually live the Catholic faith day to day in our home?”
This is the No. 1 question I hear from families and converts to the Catholic faith, and Kendra Tierney’s Catholic All Year website has been my go-to resource since 2013.
Over 20 centuries, Catholics have developed a cornucopia of terms, practices, traditions and prayers, some now obligatory and others not, some based in a particular country, others universal. Such a banquet can be overwhelming. “It would be literally impossible to get to all of them every day,” writes Tierney. Over the years, she has used her platform to connect Catholics with their liturgical heritage, tying prayer, food, music and holy conversation into daily family living. Her goal is to help build “a family culture in which prayer and family time are valued by everyone.”
In 2018, she tied all her writing together in The Catholic All Year Compendium, a practical manual teaching the histories of Catholic devotions, seasons and feast days. Now, she offers an easy-to-use prayer book, The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion, which includes the “Bible passages, prayers, songs, and devotions” recommended in the Compendium.
The Companion opens with invaluable advice for growing a family culture of prayer and togetherness. She shares her own family’s “ideal day” prayer schedule as well as the struggles that often come “amid busy schedules.”
“Some years, we have to pare back our family prayer life because of challenging seasons and circumstances, but the framework of the liturgical year is there waiting for us, so we can pick up where we left off at any time,” she explains.
She also offers suggestions for encouraging “reluctant children” and teenagers. “It’s easy for us parents to think our kids should naturally want to pray, and if they don’t, we don’t want to spoil it for them by ‘making them.’” However, “it’s our job as parents to encourage and even insist upon behaviors that are in the best interests of our children.” For older children who resist family prayer, the Tierneys use a variety of approaches, including “a family meeting,” sharing devotions “with enthusiastic little kids,” and “letting them invite friends to join us for feast day [bonfires and] dinners, prayers and all.”
She offers encouragement that “what we begin doing out of obedience, we can learn to do out of love.” A child consistently required to join in family prayers joyfully is most likely to grow up into an adult who leads his or her own family, monastery or parish in joyful, reverent liturgical prayer.
For Catholics unfamiliar with different types of prayers, she includes brief summaries of blessings, litanies, novenas, the Rosary and consecrations, making this book an ideal gift for converts, young families or Catholics returning to the faith. She also encourages everyone to learn some Latin prayers, because Latin prayers help “unite us as a universal Church.” With characteristic humor, she testifies, “I’ve had no formal training in Latin but have been able to muddle along. The nice thing about it being a dead language is that almost nobody is going to give you a hard time if you pronounce something wrong!”
The bulk of The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion follows the liturgical seasons: “Each of them has its own character and its own associated prayers and pious practices. … Liturgical living allows us to sample from the rich bounty of [these practices].”
Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the Companion walks the user through the major feasts of the Church month by month. For example, December includes the daily prayers for a novena to the Immaculate Conception, the O Antiphons, and major saints’ days such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. John and the Holy Innocents. Four chapters following the “moveable” feasts (which do not fall on the same date each year) also appear throughout the year: Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide and Pentecost.
Each month’s selections demonstrate the universal nature of the Catholic Church. Tierney makes no claim to be exhaustive or definitive: “Something to keep in mind as you use this book: The Catholic Church is very big. It encompasses the whole world. It embraces people from every race and culture. It is for all people in all circumstances.” She simply hopes “that in these pages you will find prayers and devotions that you can add or adapt to your own family’s practice of the faith, whatever your background might be.”
To that end, Tierney includes a wide and vibrant sampling of saints and devotions. Familiar feasts appear throughout, such as the memorial of St. Thérèse on Oct. 1. For this young doctor of the Church, loved and honored throughout the world, Tierney includes not only the Collect (which the priest says at the beginning of Mass), but also a “Novena Rose” prayer to encourage families to pray for the saint’s intercession for nine days. Tierney even includes a reminder to begin the novena on Sept. 22 under a prayer in honor of St. Matthew. In this way, the Prayer Companion is truly a day-by-day, open-and-go lesson in liturgical planning.
Ancient practices, such as “Rogation Days” and Epiphany, stand side by side with newer memorials. St. Gianna Beretta Molla’s memorial prayers include the “Collect,” a prayer by the saint herself, as well as a “Prayer During Physical and Spiritual Trials.” St. Teresa of Calcutta’s entry includes a prayer written by Pope St. John Paul II and read at her beatification in 2003. Families can also read aloud her 1979 speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that underscores, “Love begins at home.”
Tierney reminds parents that no family, however extensive its devotions, is assured that its children will remain faithful. This is not a cause for despair, however, but all the more reason to take action and adopt a life of family prayer. “Raising children with prayer and sacraments and liturgical living in a faithful Catholic home is, unfortunately, not a guarantee that they’ll never err or stray as they get older. But it means that if they do, they’ll have graces and good habits (and their mother’s prayers) tugging them back toward faith and family.”
The Prayer Companion embodies the ancient Catholic saying lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (“the law of prayer [is] the law of what is believed [is] the law of what is lived”). Tierney does offer explicit instruction in specific practices, excerpts from the Church Fathers, and teaching documents such as papal encyclicals. Most importantly, however, she invites families to learn by practice. As such, her work embodies the final passage quoted in the Companion, Pope Pius XI’s 1925 encyclical Quas Primas on the institution of the Solemnity of Christ the King:
“For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion, far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few, and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all.”