“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” A few months ago, I taped that quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn on my computer monitor where I can see it every day. I put it there because I realized that, somewhere along the way, I had forgotten to see the joy and blessings in the ordinary, everyday moments of life.
That became very clear to me recently when both my kids had their tonsils and adenoids removed. For two weeks, we spent a lot of time snuggling on the couch watching movies or doing other calm activities. In those two weeks I came to realize—and remember—that I love Scooby-Doo, Play-Doh, coloring, reading to my kids and playing board games. And I came to realize that on most days those things had taken a backseat to other tasks I deemed more important.
So What Is Ordinary Time?
But does the Catholic Church’s season of Ordinary Time equal mundane or normal? Certainly not. In fact, Ordinary Time actually means that which is ordered or numbered. But Ordinary Time plays a very important role in our faith.
For instance, imagine if every day were a holiday. After a while they would start to lose their importance or fail to be special, wouldn’t they? Thus the need for Ordinary Time.
In the Church year, there are two liturgical periods of Ordinary Time—one following the Advent/Christmas season (beginning on the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord until Ash Wednesday) and again from Pentecost to the first Sunday of Advent. During this time, you will notice that the readings focus on the everyday events and preaching of Jesus’ life.
Given the events of the past couple months in our Church—the death and burial of Pope John Paul II and the convening of the conclave to elect the next pope with all its traditions and ceremony—it may seem that our religion is anything but ordinary. But those events actually demonstrate the message of Ordinary Time quite well. For even though we were all caught up in this important occasion at the time, the life of the Church carried on; our faith carried on. We were still called on a daily basis to live out our faith.
Back to Its Roots
Ordinary Time is a good reminder to slow down and take a look at how we are living out our faith every day. Here are some suggestions for making the most of Ordinary Time:
• Look through your photo albums or watch home movies. Take special notice of the “ordinary” times you’ve documented, such as playing in the backyard, a day at the pool or beach, etc.
• Try to recall some of your most cherished memories. Are they from major life events, holidays or special occasions? Or are they memories of everyday occurrences? For instance, while I certainly cherish events in my life such as my wedding and the births of my children, one of my most cherished memories is when my oldest sister, Beth, sat and carefully glued back together a ceramic frog of mine that had been dropped and shattered. It was a visual demonstration to me of compassion, patience and love.
• During this period of Ordinary Time, find ways to make the ordinary ex-traordinary. Attend Mass at a different parish or at a different time. Say family prayers at a time other than you normally would, such as before dinner. Perhaps gather and say family prayers before bed. Or gather outside on the patio for prayers. Find different ways to change your faith routine.
• Remind yourself to slow down and appreciate life’s ordinary moments. Take time to read a book, walk in your garden, hug or kiss your kids or grandkids, enjoy the rain or the feel of the grass on your bare feet.
Next Month: Our Faith Traditions in Action