Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Catholic Home, by Meredith Gould

Anyone who still has a gift to buy for a Catholic friend or relative may want to check out this little book: The Catholic Home, by Meredith Gould, published last year by Doubleday. It's subtitled Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day and that pretty much tells you what it is--a nice mix of folk customs and some Church teaching to help people (especially those of us who did not grow up with all the once-common traditions that marked a Catholic household as Catholic) to celebrate the liturgical year. There's a lot of ideas here, so it's well worth the price (under US$20). If you've already done your Christmas shopping, keep this in mind as a gift for people who are about to get married or who have a baby; it would make a great gift for people starting a new home and family.

Caveats: I haven't read every single page--it's more of a dip-into book than a read-straight-through book--and I did find an error in the Advent section. The author says that Advent begins November 30th; later in the book she says St. Andrew's Day (November 30th) marks the end of Ordinary Time . This is not quite true, although every Advent calendar I've ever seen for sale starts its numbering on December 1. My understanding is that Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. This means that the start of Advent varies year-to-year, and that the earliest Advent can begin is November 27th (like this year) and the latest is December 3rd (unless I've miscalculated.) And I suppose anyone could find something in the book to quibble with--I associate Santa Claus more with Odin than with Thor, for example--but don't let any of this prevent you from buying the book, for yourself or others. Whoever gets it will probably enjoy it.

Oh, and by the way I noted with amusement that the author uses the term "double dipping" when she mentioned people can receive Anointing of the Sick (what used to be called Last Rites) more than once. I use the term "Catholic double dipping" for the practice of praying for others; we believe that praying for others benefits both the person prayed for and the person doing the praying--the latter because praying for others is an act of charity and like any act of charity can help open the heart further--so it's like opening two avenues for grace.

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