Maria von Trapp brings to us the lovely customs of Lent that enrich a Catholic home and make the Faith fully alive to the children….

From Around the Year With the Trapp Family, 1955

In the middle of Lent comes the Sunday Laetare, also called “Rose Sunday.” It is as if Holy Mother Church wants to give us a break by interrupting the solemn chant of mourning, the unaccompanied cadences and the use of the violet vestments, bursting out suddenly in the word

“Laetare” (“Rejoice”), allowing her priests to vest in rose-colored garments, to have flowers on the altar and an organ accompaniment for chant.

It is also called “Rose Sunday” because on that day the Pope in

Rome blesses a golden rose, an ornament made of gold and precious stones.

The Holy Father prays that the Church may bring forth the fruit of good works and “the perfume of the ointment of the flowers from the root of

Jesse.” Then he sends the golden rose to some church or city in the world or to a person who has been of great service to the Church.

Only recently I discovered that this Sunday used to be known as “Mothering Sunday.” This seems to go back to an ancient custom. People in every city would visit the cathedral, or mother church, inspired by a reference in the Epistle read on the Fourth Sunday of Lent: “That

Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is our Mother.”

And there grew up, first in England, from where it spread over the continent, the idea that children who did not live at home visited their mothers that day and brought them a gift.

This is, in fact, the precursor of our Mother’s Day. Expecting their visiting children, the mothers are said to have baked a special cake in which they used equal amounts of sugar and flour (two cups of each); from this came the name “Simmel Cake,” derived from the Latin word “similis”, meaning “like” or “same.”

Here is the recipe:

Simmel Cake

3/4 cup butter                1/3 cup shredded lemon &

2 cups sugar                       orange peel

2 cups flour                  1 cup currants

4 eggs                        almond paste

1/2 tsp. salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift the flour and salt and add to the first mixture. Dust the peel and currants with a little flour and add to the batter. Line cake tin with waxed paper and pour in half the dough. Add a layer of almond paste and remaining dough. Bake at 300 degrees F. for one hour. Ice with a thin white icing, flavored with a few drops of almond extract.

PASSIONTIDE

Passion Sunday To Holy Saturday

The liturgy follows Christ’s early life step by step. At Christmas season we learn of the birth in the stable, the adoration of the shepherds, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, the adoration of the Magi, and finally the return from Egypt.

Then we meet Our Lord again at His baptism, we accompany Him into the desert on his fast, and we go with Him for the first and second years of His public life, we listen to His parables, we admire His miracles, and we unite our hearts with Him in His life of toil and missionary love for us.

Now four weeks of instruction have passed. We have followed Our Lord in His apostolic ministry and we have reached the moment when, together with Holy Mother Church, we shall contemplate the sorrowful happenings of the last year (during Passion Week) and the last week (during Holy Week) of His life on earth.

We can feel the hatred of Christ’s enemies growing day by day. On Good Friday we shall witness once more the most frightening of all happenings, foretold by the prophets and even by Our Lord Himself, the bloody drama of Calvary.

The purpose of Passiontide is to call to our memory the persecutions of which Our Lord was the object during His public life and especially toward the end. If Septuagesima season acts as a remote preparation for Easter, and Lent the proximate one, the last two weeks of Passiontide are the immediate preparation.

PASSION SUNDAY

When the children were still very small, I said to them on the way to church on a Passion Sunday morning, “Now watch and tell me what is different today in church!” On the way home they said eagerly that the statues and crosses on the altars were covered with violet cloth.

“And why don’t we do it at home, Mother? Shouldn’t we cover the crucifix and statues in the living room and in our bedrooms, too?”

As I had no good reason to offer against it, we bought a few yards of violet cloth the next day and did at home what we had seen in church. In the following years we were ready for the covering ceremony on Saturday before Passion Sunday.

The older ones among the children also had noticed that the prayers at the foot of the altar were much shorter and that there was no “Gloria Patri” after the Introit and the Lavabo.

To let the children watch for such changes in the liturgy makes them much more eager than if they are told everything in advance.

Promptly, when we came in our evening prayers to the “Gloria Patri,” a warning, hissing “Sssh” from the children’s side made us aware that “Gloria Patri,” even if only in family prayers, should be omitted for these holy days of mourning.

I am sure it would be the case in every family, as it was in ours, that the children are the ones who most eagerly want to carry into the home as much of holy liturgy as they possibly can.

For instance, when I answered their question as to how the ashes are obtained which are to be blessed on Ash Wednesday, telling them that the blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned, they asked a most logical question “But, Mother, if you burn a blessed object, aren’t the ashes already blessed? And if so, shouldn’t we burn all the blessed palms around the place too and sprinkle the ashes over the garden?” And so we did!

After we had established this as a firm family custom, I read that this is done in many places in the Austrian Alps, only there the people strew the ashes not over the garden but over the fields.

PALM SUNDAY

Then comes the week which is called in the missal “Hebdomada Major”–our “Holy Week” in which we accompany Our Lord day by day through the last week of His life, as it is told in the Gospels. First we join Him in His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

As soon as the Church had been freed by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, the Christians began to celebrate Palm Sunday in a very dramatic way in Jerusalem.

On the very spot where it had happened, the holy texts were read: “Rejoice, daughter of Sion, behold Thy King will come to thee….”

The crowd spread their garments on the ground, crying aloud, “Blessed be the King Who cometh in the Name of the Lord.” The bishop, mounted on an ass, would ride up to the church on the Mount of Olives, surrounded by a multitude carrying palms and singing hymns and joyful anthems.

From Jerusalem this re-enactment of Christ’s solemn entry into His holy city came to Rome, where the Church soon adopted the same practice. The ceremony, however, was preceded by the solemn reading of the passage from Holy Scriptures relating the flight from Egypt, thus reminding Christ’s people that Christ, the new Moses, in giving them the real manna, is delivering them out of the Egypt of sin and nourishing them in the Eucharist.

Around the ninth century the Church added a new rite. The palms, which the people would hold in their hands when they accompanied their bishop, were solemnly blessed.

We have already witnessed several of these specially solemn blessings, on Epiphany, on Candlemas Day, on Ash Wednesday. Again these texts are so rich in beautiful thoughts for meditation that families should read them together–not only read them, but read them prayerfully.

From Rome the idea to re-enact Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem spread all over the Christian world. In medieval times the faithful and the clergy met at a chapel or a wayside shrine outside of town where the palms were blessed, and from there moved in a solemn procession to the cathedral.

Our Lord was represented either by the bishop riding on an ass or, in some places, by the Blessed Sacrament carried by the king or, in other places, by a crucifix carried ahead. In some Austrian villages the figure of Christ sitting on an ass, carved in wood, is carried.

The Christian people had an unerring instinct for the efficacy of those solemnly blessed sacramentals, and just as they carried home Epiphany water and holy candles, they also would bring home with them blessed palms.

In the old country this was quite an elaborate function of “the liturgy in the home.” As we did not have real palms growing in Austria, we used evergreens and pussy willows, which at that time were the first children of spring.

Like all other Austrian families living in the country, we made as many little bouquets as there were divisions on our grounds–one for the vegetable garden, one for the orchard, one for the flower garden, one for each pasture, and one for each field. Each of these little bouquets was fastened to a stick about three feet high.

Besides, there were many single twigs of pussy willow which would be placed behind pictures all around the house. These bouquets were gaily adorned with colored ribbons or dyed shavings from the carpenter shop.

The children carried them into the church and vied with each other, during the blessing, as to who held his stick highest to get most of the holy water sprinkled on it. Then bouquets were carried in a liturgical procession and afterwards were brought home.

In the afternoon the whole family would follow the father throughout the house and all over the grounds and he would place in the middle of every lot one of those sticks carrying the blessed bouquets as a means of protecting his property against the influence of evil spirits, against the damage of hail storms and floods.

While the family would proceed from lot to lot, they would say the rosary. We would alternate between decades of the rosary and the chants of the day, “Pueri Hebraeorum” and “Gloria, laus et honor.” On

Easter Sunday the family would revisit these sticks, bringing along little bottles filled with Easter water (holy water blessed solemnly on Easter morning). These little bottles would be tied to sticks, thus adding another sacramental.

Quote from The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland

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“Your joy in your children should outweigh by far any disadvantages they may cause. In them you will find your own happiness.” – Rev. George A. Kelly, http://amzn.to/2neRNrZ The Catholic Family Handbook. (afflink)

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