We know how to “do” Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, but what’s to be done during Ordinary Time? Here are some tips to help you understand the meaning of Ordinary Time, and how to make the most of it this summer.
Origin of term “Ordinary Time”
In a Church whose traditions stretch back approximately 2,000 years, it may come as a surprise to many to learn that the term “Ordinary Time” was introduced in 1969, at the Second Vatican Council. Prior to this designation, the seasons after Easter were known as “the time following Pentecost;” the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday were known as “the time following Epiphany.” The two seasons of Ordinary time fall from Christmas/Epiphany to Lent (in January/February) and Pentecost to Advent(from June through November). These seasons are ever-green in color (see image above). Ordinary Time represents the largest liturgical season — by far: 33-34 weeks (over 235 days).
We tend to think of that which is ordinary as commonplace, regular – no big deal. However, the Church used this term precisely. Ordinary comes from a mathematical term: ordinal – showing numbered order in a sequence. Its roots lie in the Latin ordinalis, which means order of succession. In fact, the book of instruction for daily services in the Church is called the Ordinal.
So Ordinary for our Church has nothing to do with commonplace: It has everything to do with how we count our days.
How much do your days count?
We can count hours to the days, weeks, months, seasons and years. We can measure our time with other goals: new children birthed and welcomed to our family, their annual growth, grade levels, degrees, careers, salaries, savings accounts. So much to measure!
But what does God count? A few Scripture verses to reflect on:
- “Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” (Luke 12:7)
- “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, a thousand years like a day” (2 Peter 3:8)
- “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Our God knows us intimately. He has a plan for our lives, and He counts our days in the timeless embrace of eternity. And, he does not keep count of forgiven sins. There is measure and abundance, side-by-side – just like the earthly and the heavenly coexist: one visible and one invisible.
How to make the most of it?
We are each given a measure of days here on earth. And there’s much to do in keeping food on the table, shelter around us, birthing/welcoming/caring for children, instructing/guiding/disciplining our brood and ourselves, driving children here and there, paying bills, etc.…yes, there is much to do. And abundant challenges and interruptions can make the flow of our days seem more like a race or an erratic pattern of fits and starts. We meet the end of each day with relief most of all, a chance to lay down and rest (and pray the baby sleeps).
But, like Martha, how easy it is to get stuck in the mire of the daily and fail to attend to the divine in our midst. And our longing for more time for the divine in our lives is a longing for heaven. And that’s a wonderful thing.
A Summer Plan
The sun is stronger in summer; let also The Son guide you into brighter light this summer.
When you awaken, pray the Morning Offering Prayer:
O Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day,
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.
At noon each day pray the Angelus too. Or, if you can, follow the practice of praying the Angelus three times a day: 6 am, noon and 6 pm.
Our Church gives us abundant guidance on how to spend our time wisely. Daily Mass comes first — “our daily bread.” Daily Scripture readings through the ordered prayer of Masses. We have a saint of the day to honor, and from whom to request intercession. Yet, our Church goes further, by denoting each day as sacred, and recommending we offer up and each day with dedicated intentions:
|Day of the Week||Dedicated to:||Mystery of the Rosary
|Sunday||Resurrection & the Holy and Undivided Trinity||Glorious|
|Monday||The Holy Ghost & the Souls in Purgatory||Joyful|
|Tuesday||The Holy Angels||Sorrowful|
|Thursday||The Blessed Sacrament||Joyful|
|Friday||Christ’s Passion and His Sacred Heart||Sorrowful|
|Saturday||The Blessed Virgin and her Immaculate Heart.||Glorious|
For example, today (Saturday) when you pray, pay special attention to the Blessed Virgin and her Immaculate Heart. Add to each Rosary decade: “Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, thy well beloved spouse.” Check out DivineOffice.org to participate in the Divine Office daily.
Most important of all, take your “daily bread” as often as you can at daily Mass.
Establish a rhythm to your week, which includes the Morning Offering, daily dedication and other daily prayers. Pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet as often as you can. If you can’t do these prayers daily then set aside a day for each during the week. Plan ahead for any daily Masses you can attend.
Many Catholics set aside time for Adoration & Benediction each week, and some go to weekly Confession. All Church’s offer Saturday Confession opportunities.
Each month has a special devotion, just like each day. July is dedicated to the Precious Blood. Here’s the full list:
|January||The Holy Name and Childhood of Jesus|
|February||The Holy Family|
|April||The Blessed Sacrament|
|June||Sacred Heart of Jesus|
|July||The Precious Blood|
|August||Immaculate Heart of Mary|
|September||Seven Dolours (Sorrows) of Mary|
|October||The Holy Rosary (and, less formally, the Holy Angels)|
|November||Poor Souls in Purgatory|
|December||The Immaculate Conception|
Our Church specially honors the First Fridays and Saturdays of each month. Parishes will offer special devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on First Fridays and devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on first Saturdays. Learn more about the graces you’ll receive from making nine consecutive First Friday Devotions. Sign up for monthly reminders for making the five consecutive First Saturday Devotions here, and learn about the history, prayers, customs and graces of this devotion.
Keep a monthly date set aside for family Confession too.
Our Church offers so many opportunities to make sure our days count, in ordered succession. The abundance of opportunities provides endless opportunities for starting. You don’t have to do it all, and certainly not all at once. Make a small and steady commitment, and gradually build upon it.
Don’t have time? Pray in the midst of all you do – no matter how laborious the tasks. As Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta said: “You can pray while you work. Work doesn’t stop prayer and prayer doesn’t stop work. It requires only that small raising of the mind to Him.”
And remember there are seasons to each life. Strive as best you can in your current station in life, and know that God’s blessings are countless. Order your days well in Ordinary Time!