Category Archives: novena

Advent Traditions, Old and New

small Keep Christ in Christmas

Be sure to visit as many links as possible, listed at the bottom of this post.


Trees and lights, gifts and bows, party invitations and brightly colored cards, the excitement leading up to Christmas can tempt us to lose focus of the important task of preparation. Advent, however, invites us to slow down and make ready our hearts and minds. Like the Magi, we can spy the eastern star in the distance and take our time traveling the path towards it. Additionally, if we give Advent its due, then we can avoid the premature rush to throw Christmas to the curb on December 26th. 

the advent box

Years ago we were gifted with an advent box that has a numbered drawer for each of the December days leading up to Christmas. Each drawer gets filled with a piece of candy or a quarter for each child. As you can imagine, my children love the sweet beginning of a day that starts with a yummy treat. Of course, you could fill an Advent calendar with all kinds of non-edible items, but I like to keep it simple and it’s fun to allow a little innocent self-indulgence once in a while.

As a small child I remember the anticipation of opening the paper doors on my advent calendar. After searching the pictured scene for the proper number of the day, I was rewarded with a tiny image of an angel, a shepherd or a manger animal. I was an only child at the time so there was no one to argue with about whose turn it was to flip open the little flap. I’ll be honest and admit my own brood isn’t quite as interested in our card stock calendar, but the wait time in between turns may have something to do with it.

the wreath of candles

Of course, we couldn’t celebrate advent without the traditional wreath of candles. We place ours in the center of our table (around which most of our life revolves) and I have a set of the Holy Family to accompany it. The warming glow of the candles invites us each evening to recollect where we are in the journey toward Christmas. Also, this tradition welcomes our older kids to get involved as only they are allowed the privilege of lighting the candle. For the little ones I have a felt wreath with four flames that Velcro on the three purple and one pink candle.

st. andrew novena

In the past I’ve prayed the St. Andrew novena by myself, but this year I’m going to introduce it as a new tradition to replace our regular family bedtime prayers. Honestly, our night time invocations can become rote at times so this seems a wonderful way to inject a bit of newness into those evening petitions and thanksgivings. Since the novena is meant to be recited 15 times a day, we may split it throughout the day. 

the tree

Our priest encourages everyone to wait until Christmas Eve before erecting their Christmas trees, but I have to admit that with eight children that idea invokes images of a stress-filled day. Additionally, I relish the fragrance of the tree and the magical luminescence of colored lights so we opt to trim our tree about one week before Christmas day (this way we can enjoy it all the longer). So as not to get stuck picking through the remainder of rejected trees, we usually purchase one earlier in advent and simply leave it outside in a container of water. This method insures our tree will last throughout the twelve days of Christmas without turning into a fire hazard. Last year was one that had us postponing our hunt for the perfect evergreen, but to our delight we got a great deal on the price as the local salesman wanted to move his remaining inventory and close up shop.

story time

Perusing blogs, several others have suggested starting a family story time tradition to keep the excitement and joy enduring all Christmas long. The idea is to wrap twelve children’s books and open only one each night during the twelve days starting on Christmas day. Thinking that a brilliant idea, but wanting to avoid breaking our budget, I sent a son to retrieve all the holiday themed books we already own (so that I only had to purchase a handful more). Later during a shopping spree I happened upon a providential find at Barnes and Noble bookstore. They carry a book that contains 24 stories to be read throughout Advent, so we’ll begin with that one. Going forward, I’ll send all of the books into the attic once Christmas passes. This way the stories will be “new” again year after year.

the creche

My stepdad hand made a manger for our family when our numbers were far fewer. Now that he’s left our earthly embrace, that gift has become my most favored decoration. After the advent box, it is the next thing to be carried down from the rafters. It remains empty, albeit for some animals and a lone shepherd boy, until Christmas eve. The wise men are positioned in a distant “land” while Joseph and Mary begin their travels from shelf to shelf. Rather than just setting up this piece and leaving it untouched until Epiphany, I find it helpful to engage our senses by moving the holy players about. The manger is also the last reminder to get packed away because I feel compelled to allow the Magi their time in adoration.

praying through the twelve days of christmas

During the twelve days we, as a family, assign each day for a particular person/persons. We pledge to offer up the whole day (our actions, sacrifices and prayers) for the person of the day. Preparation for this happens in Advent. I print up slips of paper with blanks for the assigned date and name then we determine who will be the designated recipient from December 25th through January 5th. To save on postage we include these love offerings in the envelopes with our cards (that way I also don’t forget to mail them later in the season when life gets busier- I make sure to keep a list of names and dates on our own calendar). 


Our family has a few tried and true traditions that we look forward to each year, but this year we’re adding some new ones. My goal is to keep us focused on the true purpose of the season, a preparation for and anticipation of the joy to come on Christmas. Craft fairs, parties, gift wrapping and cookie exchanges are all fun ways to fill up our holiday dance card, but the preceding ideas are meant to call our family closer and to quiet our bodies and minds for awhile each day. From the sweetness our the early morning treat to the evening’s story time snuggles on the couch, we’ll be reminded that the joy of this season lies nestled in our hearts and in our faith.

Visit these participating blogs for awesome posts about Keeping Christ in Christmas!
Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Simply Homeschool  Living Advent Series 12/1 – 12/25
Fifth of Five     Keeping Christ in Christmas – Blog Link-up 2013
Coffee Moments with Sam     The Light of Hope
Hand-Maid With Love: CHRISTmas Presence: Keep Christ in Christmas 2013 Edition
Open Window Making hay while the Advent wreath shines
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others
Mommy Bares All       Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH
 
Canadian Catholic Mom         Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling   Keep Christ in Christmas
Em’s Estuary: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Happy Little Homemaker: December Devotion: Immaculate Conception 
Adoro Ergo Sum:  How We Keep Christ in Christmas
JoyAlive.net: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Home to 4 Kiddos        Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith          Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home         Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Joy of Nine9    Waiting in Joyful Expectation Like a Child
 
Splendor in the Home Ideas For Keeping Advent and Christmas Holy
Training Happy Hearts            10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
A Catholic Life Advent: The Beginning of the Liturgical Year & Source of Rich Meditations
Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
Catholic Inspired: Faith-Centered Family Christmas
A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas
Day By Day in Our World: 40 Days Seeking Him and Keeping Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas
 
Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Rosary Mom   Keep Christ In Christmas With A Teenager
Tercets:           Keeping Christ in Christmas: Join Church Ministries
Campfires and Cleats How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Life Unabridged: Celebrating the Fullness of the Advent and Christmas Season
Homeschooling With Joy        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique’s Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas
Our ABC Life: An Advent Update
Journey Living: Anno Domini
The Road to Rome: Advent Prayer and Reflection Resources
Life of Fortunate Chances: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Quidquid Est, Est!: Reblog: Advent Posts

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

praying for nine days to the Blessed Mother for help

Our parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is celebrating tonight. If the weather holds out there will be Mass, a procession and a parish family potluck. In preparation for the feast, the icon was traveling from home to home and parishioners were invited to visit and pray a novena. I completely forgot about this until, during confession last week, Father asked me if we’d started the nine day petition to our Mother. Well, I had to admit my forgetfulness, but no worries he said just start it tonight. So, I dug out last year’s copies of the novena and as a family we’ve spent the evenings circled around the family room coffee table trading in our routine, nightly prayers for the recitation of the novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.


walking in procession for Our LadyUnlike some novenas when I’ve prayed for a specific intention, this time I focused only on the words we were reciting, and what a beautiful and perfectly-timed blessing it turned out to be. This novena reminds us to have total confidence in our Mother’s ability to aid us and her powerful alliance with her children. So many troubling issues have struck at my heart this week and yet this novena reminded me that I am not alone in this journey towards heaven. Indeed, if I had only to rely on my own strength, wisdom and faithfulness, I’d be sunk.

altar servers in the procession for our lady's feast day


Perhaps, you are in need of your Mother’s guidance or protection. Perhaps, you, too, worry that in the eleventh hour you’ll fail to keep your focus or the sufferings will be more than you are able to bear. Perhaps, you simply need to be reminded that your Mother loves you and she wants to wrap her protective mantle around your shoulders. Whatever your reasons Our Lady of Perpetual Help is waiting to hear your prayers and comfort your afflicted heart.

I’d didn’t grow up praying novenas, but I highly recommend making them part of your prayer life now and again, and teaching your children this kind of focused prayer.

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

1. Behold, O Mother of Perpetual Help, at thy feet a wretched
sinner, who has recourse to thee and trusts in thee. O Mother of
mercy, have pity on me; I hear all men call thee the refuge and
hope of sinners: be therefore my refuge and my hope. Help me for
the love of Jesus Christ: hold out thy hand to a fallen wretch,
who commends himself to thee and dedicates himself to be thy
servant forever. I praise and thank God, who of His great mercy
hath given me this confidence in thee, a sure pledge of my eternal
salvation. Alas, it is only too true that in the past I have
fallen miserably, because I did not come to thee. I know that with
thy help I shall conquer; I know that thou wilt help me, if I
commend myself to thee; but I am fearful lest in the occasions of
sin I shall forget to call upon thee and so I shall be lost. This
grace, then, do I ask of thee; for this I implore thee, as much as
I can and know how to do; namely, that in the assaults of hell I
may ever run to thy protection and may say to thee: Mary, help me;
Mother of Perpetual Help, permit me not to lose my God.

Hail Mary, three times.

2. O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant me ever to be able to call
upon thy powerful name, since thy name is the help of the living
and the salvation of the dying. Ah, Mary most pure, Mary most
sweet, grant that thy name from this day forth may be to me the
very breath of life. Dear Lady, delay not to come to my assistance
whenever I call upon thee; for in all the temptations that assail
me, in all the necessities that befall me, I will never leave off
calling upon thee, ever repeating: Mary, Mary. What comfort, what
sweetness, what confidence, what tenderness fills my soul at the
sound of thy name, at the very thought of thee! I give thanks to
our Lord, who for my sake hath given thee a name so sweet, so
lovable, so mighty. But I am not content merely to speak thy name;
I would utter it for very love of thee; it is my desire that love
should ever remind me to name thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Hail Mary, three times.

3. O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of every
grace that God grants us in our misery; it is for this cause that
He hath made thee so powerful, so rich, so kind, that thou
mightest assist us in our miseries. Thou art the advocate of the
most wretched and abandoned sinners, if they but come unto thee;
come once more to my assistance, for I commend myself to thee. In
thy hands I place my eternal salvation; to thee I entrust my soul.
Enroll me among thy most faithful servants; take me under thy
protection and it is enough for me: yes, for if thou protect me, I
shall fear nothing; not my sins, for thou wilt obtain for me their
pardon and remission; not the evil spirits, for thou art mightier
than all the powers of hell; not even Jesus, my Judge, for He is
appeased by a single prayer from thee. I fear only that through my
own negligence I may forget to recommend myself to thee and so I
shall be lost. My dear Lady, obtain for me the forgiveness of my
sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance and the grace to have
recourse to thee at all times, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

Hail Mary, three times.

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Mary, Undoer of Knots: a Novena for All the Knots in Your Life

With seven children ambling on two feet each, I’ve fumbled over countless knots. “Here, mommy, can you get this knot out,” ask the littlest ones as they hand me their shoes with laces in a tangled mess. How easily a misplaced twist or mis-pulled string can create a puzzling weave.

Sometimes life can feel like those knotted laces, our trials may seem endless and our abilities restricted. Some small cross has turned end over end and created a dilemma that feels unfixable. Perhaps, we tug here and pull through there only to discover that our will has created a tighter knot.


But that is precisely when we can turn to our Mama and ask her aid in unraveling our mistakes. The Blessed Mother, under the title of Mary Undoer of Knots, promises to take up our cause and patiently workout our perplexities through her intercession.


Saint Irenaeus, in meditation, made a comparison between Eve and the Blessed Mother. Eve, by her disobedience to God, had tied the knots of sin and sorrow for the whole human race, but Mary, through her total obedience untied the knots. The saint’s meditation became the inspiration for an 18th century painter, Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner, who delicately and lovely depicted the scene of Mary untying a long rope handed to her by angels.


Pope Francis happened upon the painting as a student in Germany and developed a devotion to Our Lady under the title. He carried this devotion back home with him and today Mary, Undoer of Knots, holds widespread popularity in Argentina and Brazil.


So, if you are struggling with knots in your life, perhaps your marriage is in trouble, your children are falling away from their faith, your finances are too short, etc. then turn to your Mama and hand her your knotted up life. Surely, this good Mother will happily accept your offering and lead you to the straightened road.

The Unfailing Novena of Mary Undoer of Knots