Cherished Celebrations: How Families Plan for Christ-Centered, Joy-Filled Occasions
Sacramental focus should embue plans in the domestic church.
“The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: They give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210).
With the sacramental season approaching, the Church finds families excitedly preparing to celebrate the sacrament of baptism, witness their child’s first Communion or confirmation, rejoice with couples exchanging marital vows, and support seminarians being ordained to the holy priesthood.
“Beautiful music, the smell and taste of a special meal, a clean home and beautifully set table all shape a memory that can affect their disposition toward that sacrament throughout their lives,” said Noelle Mering, mother of six and co-author of the Theology of Home series.
In addition to filling the Mering house with flowers for the occasion, one of their favorite traditions is the handed-down garments shared between siblings. “Our children wore the same baptismal gown from the Philippines, where my mom was born. For first Communions, our four daughters all wore the same dress, and the boys the same suit.”
Ken and Kerri Davison, parents of eight and co-founders of Holy Heroes, also favor simple traditions and thoughtful gifts. “The girls always get a string of pearls for confirmation, all the girls wear the same flower wreath for first Communion, and everyone gets a Bible for confirmation,” Kerri elaborated. “Even small things are meaningful to them.” The Davisons go out for ice cream after confirmations, inviting friends and doing another activity the confirmand enjoys to make the day memorable.
Other Catholic families celebrate with special prayers said or blessings given, themed decorations, and saving items from the day — like the baptismal candle — to use each year as they celebrate baptismal anniversaries. And traditions are underscored. “All of our children received their first confession on the same day, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day,” Ken shared. “It made that yearly celebration even more special, and we plan on taking our children on their confession anniversary to confession; it is a way that we pull the family together through a sacramental custom.”
Nuptials Embued With Meaning
While families with young children prepare for sacraments of initiation, young couples like Madeleine Sri and Caden Bennett prepare for their wedding with enthusiasm and intentionality.
“To spiritually prepare for our wedding, we are both reconsecrating ourselves to Mary,” Sri shared. The couple is also having members of their wedding party ask the intercession of a favorite saint to pray for their vocation, a sort of “heavenly wedding party” that will join them in spiritually preparing for the day.
Bennett and Sri are planning simple ways to make their wedding day a truly faith-filled experience, as well. “After our wedding Mass, we are going to take 15 minutes with our wedding party to spend time in prayer before the photos and reception,” Madeleine explained. “Since our wedding is on the feast of the Holy Family, we got the ‘Heart Collection’ rosaries from West Coast Catholic. I will have the Immaculate Heart of Mary rosary in my bouquet, Caden will have the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph rosary in his pocket, and Father Luke will have the Sacred Heart of Jesus rosary during Mass. We hope to hold on to these rosaries in our home and pray with them often as a reminder of the Holy Family we hope to imitate.”
Catholic couples preparing for the sacrament of marriage can consult websites like SpokenBride.com and other Catholic blogs and social-media accounts to get more ideas for a faith-centered engagement, as well as traditions for the nuptial Mass and reception, including customs like las arras matrimoniales (Hispanic “wedding coins”), presenting flowers to Our Lady during Mass, having a celebrant bless a crucifix for the home, washing of the feet in leu of a garter toss, and more.
Remembering Ordination Day
With priestly ordinations around the corner, seminarians also prepare for their own sacramental celebrations. Father Michael Bremer, chaplain for St. Pius X Catholic High School in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, recalled his ordination in 2018.
“The day was simply a lot of quality time with a lot of good people,” he remembered.
“One of the popular traditions that accompanies ordinations are the gifts to parents: [for the mom] a cloth saturated with the oils that the bishop uses to anoint the priest and, for the dad, a confessional stole a priest used for his first confession.”
When asked how laypeople can join in ordination celebrations, Father Bremer advised, “Laypeople can help commemorate this special occasion by giving gifts and going to the priest’s first Mass to congratulate him and receive his first blessing. But, most of all, pray for him.”
Keeping Christ at the Center
As they celebrate, from sacraments of initiation to service, Catholics try to remember the greatest gift of the sacraments: the grace they bestow and the deeper relationship with Christ they facilitate.
“It’s good to always strive to keep the stuff of the celebration in perspective,” Mering said.
“We are trying to point to Christ, not get caught up in perfectionism or comparison. A materially beautiful event is made miserable if stress is rendering us bereft of joy. A humble but joyful and intentional celebration is far more beautiful and effective.”