The Feasts: Book Review

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington about his newly released book, co-authored with Mike Aquilina, The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics (Image Books, September 2014). You can read my interview at the National Catholic Register: God’s People Know How to Celebrate.

I enjoyed The Feasts like I enjoyed the other books in the series, The Mass and The Church. Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina do a masterful job of explicating some of the deepest traditions and mysteries of our Catholic life, so we can engage them with deeper understanding, awe, and, frankly, with more excitement. The Church knows how to celebrate…and each of us, as individual Catholics and Catholic families, could do a better job at celebrating these feasts with the Church, too! Being Catholic is pretty awesome in this way; if we actually live our lives with the Church calendar, we have a lot of excuses to party.

Call me weird, but while the chapters on Christmas and Easter are captivating and climactic, I particularly loved reading about the “Feasts of Churches.” It gives me chills when I think about, see, or read of new churches being dedicated to God, knowing that for decades or centuries to come, people will go there to worship God, empty their hearts to Him, offer what little they have, and then receive all that He wants to give them, through His sacraments.

When my now-husband and I were dating, we started the tradition of praying a 54-day Rosary Novena every year, ending on the Feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome. (If you haven’t prayed a 54-day Rosary Novena, I highly recommend it. I equate it to running a prayer marathon.) I’ve always been fascinated with that beautiful basilica, and with the ancient story associated with it. As Cardinal Wuerl and Aquilina explain, “According to ancient tradition, a wealthy Christian couple in fourth-century Rome wished to build a church in honor of the Blessed Virgin. In prayer, they were led to know that the snow would fall – in the hottest month of the year – and would mark off the perimeter of the church they were to build. The snow fell indeed, and it mapped out a church that is monumental.” For this reason, August 5th, the optional memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major, is also called the Feast of Our Lady of Snows. Every year for the past four years (and hopefully for many years to come), my family brings flowers to the statue of Our Lady at our parish on August 5th, thanking her for the “snowfall” of graces and blessings we have received through our marathon-novena, through her maternal intercession.

There are so many ways this book will enhance your experience of the Church’s feasts, helping you or your family to celebrate them with new purpose and meaning.