A Collection of Traditions and Prayers for the Jewish Holidays for Catholics
Compiled by Judith Bratten
(Ed. We are grateful to Judy and are happy to offer her family’s experience as one example of what Hebrew Catholics can do to help preserve the heritage of Israel. This article appeared in The Hebrew Catholic, #72, Autumn 2000, p. 17. Some stylistic changes have been made for inclusion in this web site.)
God, in His Wisdom, provided very tangible and memorable ways for the children of Israel to pass on their faith to their children, to ensure the continuation of the Jewish people as a nation, and to teach them and others His ways.
The feasts and holidays which punctuate the Hebrew year provide not only opportunities to celebrate communally, but also to hear and proclaim God’s Word, to relive lessons in Jewish history, and to echo messages of hope and consolation through the generations.
Leviticus 23 lists seven feasts, the main holidays of the Jewish calendar. In addition, there are two other holidays commemorating victories over enemies of the Jews. The Queen of all feasts, the Sabbath, is the culmination and high point of every week in the Jewish household. For each of these holy days there are distinctive prayers, songs, foods and activities – a multisensory experience – involving all members of the family.
As Hebrew Catholics, we can recognize this same teaching technique in the parables of Jesus and the Sacraments which He initiated. Bread and wine, water and oil, incense and candles, prayers and songs are all rich and integral parts of Catholic liturgy and tradition.
By celebrating the Hebrew feasts in light of Catholic truth, we can pass on to our children the great heritage of Faith, the wonder of God’s actions in the history of His people, and the enduring promise of salvation through Yeshua haMashiach.
Over the past fifteen years, our family has tried to incorporate Jewish traditions into our cycle of family celebrations. We have found that some of the holidays are more popular than others. Sometimes we are too busy to do more than mention the holidays in our prayer times. But over the years our sense of Jewishness has grown, as well as our appreciation for the Jewish roots of Catholicism. We offer this brief summary of feasts and our traditions to inspire you to develop your own family expressions of your Hebrew Catholic faith.
Each holiday contains two parts. The first gives a brief explanation of the holiday and suggestions on observing them as Hebrew Catholics. The second part presents simple prayer services which can be duplicated so that every member of the family can participate.
These prayers are meant to be said before the evening meal of the feast or holy day. As the family gathers around the table, the mother lights the candles and the father invokes God’s blessings.
These may also be adapted to a family time of morning prayer or evening devotions. You may choose songs to fit the occasion.
Many of these prayers are adapted from traditional Jewish prayer books. I encourage each family to feel free to change them to suit your own needs.
You may want to begin and end each service with the sign of the Cross in Hebrew:
B’shem haAv (In the name of the Father)
v’haBen (and of the Son)
v’Ruach haKodesh (and of the Holy Spirit)
Elohim echod. Amen (one God, Amen.)
May the Holy Spirit, Ruach haKodesh, direct you as you dip into the rich well of tradition which we have as Hebrew Catholics.