The other day I was hoping to prepare for the feast of Christ the King by learning homilies of the saints. I went to the bookshelf and gathered off the homilies of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Jose Maria Escriva. I scoured the table of contents, to discover no homilies on Christ the King. To those who know something about the feast, you probably know already why I didn’t find any.
The feast of Christ the King was not instituted until 1925 by Pope Pius XI, after many of our saintly evangelists kindness the pulpit. What I did find while thumbing through the homilies of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, was a real gem, a homily preached on the Vigil of St. Andrew, designation “How We Should Prepare for the Sanctity of Saints with Fasting.”
It was a great find. After all, I must preach on the feast of St. Andrew on November 30 th and now I could prepare and find inspiration by indicating on the believes of St. Bernard. Even more apropos, the feast of St. Andrew tags the beginning of what is called the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, a prayer performed fifteen times per day as preparation for the sanctity of Christmas.
The Church celebrates the saints, feasts of Mary, and solemnities of the Lord on a monthly basis. Some feasts have built-in periods of preparation, like Christmas and Easter with our observance of Advent and Lent respectively. But what about the other sanctities and feasts throughout the year? Why and how should we prepare?
Identify Special Feasts
Do you know the special feasts throughout the year? Are any of them your favorite? Even if you are not a daily Mass goer, is there one feast you try to get to Mass when it crisscross the docket? These are important questions to ask when considering what feasts you might intentionally prepare to celebrate with greater sanctity. They could be feasts of Christ, such as Christmas, Easter, Sacred Heart, Corpus Christi, or the Transfiguration. Or of His Blessed Mother–Immaculate Conception, Nativity, Divine Motherhood, Visitation, the Assumption, or any other litany of her feasts.
Or even of the saints–your patron saint, the feast of your parish or diocese, St. John Vianney, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, among any other popular or obscure saints. Do some research, locate a Church calendar with all the sanctities, feasts, and saints’ epoches. Identify the feasts important to you begin to live liturgically.
Identify How to Prepare
There are many different ways a person could prepare to celebrate a feast. For one Marian feast day each year( typically January 1 ), I go through a process of 33 dates of preparation by way of Marian Consecration. There are many resources available on Marian consecration: St. Louis de Montfort, Fr. Michael Gaitley, or Fr. Hugh Gilespie’s book. Some people have utilized my volume A Heart Like Mary’s to anticipate a Marian feast day.
Another method of the context of the preparations for a feast day would be a novena. Pick the feast day, and weigh back nine dates, and begin crying the novena devotions. Not sure where to begin? Let the people at the beautiful online apostolate, Pray More Novenas, move novena petitions to your inbox for significant feasts and the interests of the saints like St. Anne and St. Jude.
A third programme of grooming would be similar to our Lenten practices–penance and fasting. When I go through the process of Marian consecration, I take up a small penance, repudiating a pleasure of this world, food or drink. St. Bernard believed this to be one of the most essential aspects of preparing for the feasts of the saints. He began by saying, “The authority of the Fathers has consecrated that the feasts of the saints be immediately preceding prayerful fasting.” He was of the view that fasting enables us to be open to spiritual succours and assistance in the purification of our thinkers, hearts, and souls. Preparation for a ritual performance by fasting becomes transformed into a time of feasting and thrilling in the hilarity of the Church’s ritual life.
What to Do Next?
There is no need to wait; the month of December caters various opportunities for us to prepare. Of track there are the chocolate advent schedules “for childrens”, or the recent beer-a-day Advent calendars for adults, as a means to prepare for Christmas. Of trend, that sheds out the notion of fasting, penalty or abstention, but instills a sense of awareness that there is something coming to celebrate.
There is the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, which would be preceded by a novena of petition. You could pray the St. Andrew Novena is starting his feast and through the celebration of Christmas. During the season of Advent, you could place a creche in your dwelling and applied a piece of straw in the creche each time you do an ordinance of charity or pray. In so doing, you will prepare the manger for Christ on Christmas day.
Advent is a wonderful season to prepare for the feast of the manifestation. It can become the beginning of discovering the importance of the Church calendar and will help us live liturgically throughout the year by anticipating the wonderful performances of Christ, Mary, and the saints.
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