May book review: ‘The Companion Book of Catholic Days’
“The Companion Book of Catholic Days.” By Karen Edmisten. Maryland: Word Among Us Press, 2022. 320 pages. Paperback: $16.95.
I have always loved celebrating the liturgical year, which is why I was eager to read Karen Edmisten’s new book, “The Companion Book of Catholic Days.” Month by month and season by season, she leads us through not only the life of Christ and the saints, but the life of the Church as well. “If liturgy is the entire body of our public worship,” she notes, “the liturgical year is the spine that holds the body upright. The Church structures and formalizes our worship, and the result is a liturgical calendar that we can turn to, depend on, and follow.” She then goes on to point out something I have always cherished about the liturgical year; it is the perfect vehicle for living out worship at home, in the place we call the “domestic church.”
That said, I found it interesting that, rather than begin the book in November or December, when the season of Advent and hence the liturgical year begins, she starts instead in January with the beginning of the calendar year. It is a minor point, as anyone who is using the book – and it is designed to be used throughout the year – can simply open to whichever month they choose. It simply surprised me that the chapters began where they did.
Each month has its own section that is complete and set apart from all the others, and each begins with the same artwork – branches leafed out in the different liturgical colors – with snowflakes that give way to flowers then to autumn leaves as the book moves through the seasons. The title page of each chapter also states the theme that the Church concentrates on each month; in January, for instance, we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus, in June, the Sacred Heart, and so on. What follows that introduction is a brief explanation of what the theme means, a prayer to set the tone for the month, and then the liturgical color or colors that generally occur in that month. There is also one chapter that focuses solely on Lent and Easter.
Then the reader gets to the meat of what the book concentrates on, and those are the various feast days that occur throughout the Church year. “A Peek Into (whichever month’s) Possibilities” is the page that lists some of the feasts, memorials, solemnities and optional memorials that the Church celebrates during that month. The balance of the chapter then focuses on each of these possibilities, (the section entitled “Connect”), which is an explanation of what the particular feast means or a brief biography of the saint whose memorial is being celebrated. The section “To Ponder or Do” gives the reader some concrete ways that he or she can then put lessons learned from that day into practice. For instance, May 31 celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one of the suggestions the author makes is “Do you know a woman who could use a ‘Visitation’?”, followed by ideas on how to connect with someone who could use some friendship.
One of the strengths of this book is the tone of the author. She makes the point over and over that people should use the liturgical year as a way to encounter God wherever they are. Consequently, the suggestions she makes are not overwhelming, but quite doable in the context of everyday life. “As fun and valuable as it is to share the liturgical year with one’s family, this book is about you and your relationship with the Lord,” she notes at the end of her introduction, “a relationship that has the power and potential to grow more expansive as you connect with him through the Church, her rhythms, and the many celebrations and solemn observances she offers us.”
Karen Edmisten, a former atheist who converted to Catholicism at the age of 35, is a freelance writer and the author of “After Miscarriage,” “Deathbed Conversions,” “You Can Share the Faith,” “The Rosary” and “Through the Year with Mary.” She has contributed to several other books, including “Atheist to Catholic,” and “A Little Way of Homeschooling” as well as writing for magazines. Born on Cape Cod, she has lived in Washington, Alaska, Florida and Nebraska.