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How to Celebrate Solemnities Throughout the Year with Alexis Kutarna

We all know the traditions surrounding Christmas, but how can we celebrate other solemnities throughout the year? The show welcomes Alexis Kutarna who co-authored a new book, “Solemnities: Celebrating a Tapestry of Divine Beauty.

“We wanted to make an heirloom-quality book,” Kutarna says. “We go through each of the 17 solemnities, each of the 17 biggest feast days of the church’s entire year. I think a lot of people don’t know that there are actually 17 huge days… which is a great way to mark out your year to make your year really focused on the Lord. So it’s not just that hour on Sunday morning, but that there’s a way to bring this and extend the celebration of the liturgy into the home.”

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For each solemnity, the book offers a meditation on the liturgical texts of the day, a full-page image of art connected to that feast, and ways this solemnity is celebrated around the world. As an example, she offers a tradition surrounding the Ascension. “People will go and climb a mountain and have a picnic on it. That’s actually a really simple thing to do. You don’t need a whole bunch of supplies like craft supplies, or recipe supplies,” she says. “But the idea of ascending to a high mountain to help us contemplate those sacred mysteries of that day. What happened on the hilltop, what other things happen on the mountain in Sacred Scripture that we can call to mind that day? So it’s just a way of living that is liturgical.”

Another example is St. Joseph’s feast day, a solemnity on March 19th, and Kutarna offers ways we can celebrate it. She says, “There’s the famous St. Joseph’s altar, where you or your parish might prepare a large altar that’s elaborately decorated multiple tiers with food, candles, figurines, maybe flowers or metals. And people bake bread in honor of particular shapes that are related to the life of St. Joseph or the life of Christ, like the crown of thorns or sheaves of wheat, maybe even Joseph staff, or I have seen St. Joseph’s beard.” In addition, she describes praying the litany of St. Joseph, which Pope Francis added seven more invocations to in 2021

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Father Dave expresses his appreciation for the art included for each solemnity and says, “It can really be what sometimes people call a Visio Divina, meaning that we’re really prayerfully reflecting not just on the words, but on images as well.”

Kutarna explains, “We wanted it to be something that could nourish you from year to year. So it’s not just something you look at once and think, that was a nice read. But I’m going to bring this back out next Christmas, next Epiphany, not just for another idea of an activity, but for it to continue to deepen our entry point into that mystery.”