It’s New Year’s Eve for the Catholic Church! On this special day of joy and thanksgiving I have several suggestions for you as you gather around your home altar with your family.
- Review Blessings. I mentioned on Thursday that it was a good time to start compiling a list of things from the last year that you are thankful for. The list of graces and blessings received during this last year will provide an inspiring meditation for the family as you look back and contemplate the work of God in your lives since last Advent. What blessings have you received, both personally and as a family? How have you thanked God for these things?
- Pray the Te Deum. This is a beautiful way to say “thank you” to God by praising His Majesty and His goodness on this final day of the Church Year. Here are the words to this ancient, joyful prayer in both English and Latin. (Remember: the leader of the prayer speaks the words alone after the letter “V”. Everyone responds together after the letter “R”.)
- Choose Family Patron Saints. In her amazing book Around the Year with the Trapp Family, Maria Augusta Trapp tells of the old custom her family followed of choosing the names of patron saints for the family for the new Church Year. The evening before Advent begins, one saint’s name for each member of the family is written on a separate card. (She suggests that families could choose the saints for the year around a certain theme, such as all American saints, all Bishops, all Doctors of the Church, all lay saints, etc.) At evening prayer the mother lets each family member draw a card (randomly, with the name face-down!). After each family member has drawn a name, all may look and find out which saints they have in their hands. Now, whichever saint you have drawn is your special saint for the year, and you will pray specially for the intercession of this saint each morning for the rest of the year. You should also each research the story of his/her life, and present your findings to the family some time in the next year. Mrs. Trapp said, “…the custom has become very dear to us, and every year it seems as if the family circle were enlarged by all those new brothers and sisters entering in and becoming known and loved by all.”
- Make Resolutions. Armed with the prayers of our new patron saint of the year, this is the perfect time to set a new year’s resolution to help us in our quest to become saints. Whether you want to study more on the theology of the liturgy, feel you need to increase your practice of patience when talking to the children, or think you should strive to be a better daughter-in-law, your resolve will be strengthened by your awareness of God’s grace working in your life last year and by your requests for the prayers of your heavenly patron.
- Have a Christkindl Drawing. We call this custom “Secret Santa” now, but the Trapps did this very old custom in Austria in honor of the Christ Child (Christkindl). After the drawing of the new year’s patron saints, each person then similarly and randomly draws the name of the family member he must do secret favors for during the season of Advent, until Christmas. Mrs. Trapp says that “One has to provide at least one surprise every single day–without being found out.” These surprises are small things, simple things, thoughtful things that will bring joy and extra kindness into the home, and remind each person that what we do for others we are doing for Christ, the coming King who will soon be born.
Please remember me in your prayers this evening! I am so looking forward to a new Church Year: I hope that we will all grow in strength and holiness and therefore grow ever more pleasing to God. Whatever the new year brings, let prayer be your constant occupation and charity your constant aim. Have a Joyous New Year and a Blessed Advent!