For about the last 10 days of the Christmas season, which ended Sunday, my daughter has been complaining, “When are you going to get rid of those white candles? Christmas is over.” Each time I reply, “For Catholics, the Christmas season begins with Christmas and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It’s not just a day; it’s a season.” She sort of rolls her eyes at the familiar response.
Nowadays, candles rarely don my table save for Advent and Christmas and an occasional special occasion. Their presence signifies something different, something set apart. But today the table is empty. No candles. Just a flat wooden surface. Ordinary.
Yes, that’s right, ordinary time has returned. Back to green vestments. Back to “normal”. No special praying or fasting or almsgiving. No extra effort because of the season.
So the question sits out there begging an answer: How do we take the lessons and growth of the Advent and Christmas seasons and make them part of the ordinary? How do we make the ordinary extraordinary?
I think one way is to actually think of it as a season and make a plan. This year, Ash Wednesday falls on March 9th exactly 8 weeks from tomorrow, which can be seen as one extended season or maybe as two 4-week periods.
If you teach children in a CCD class or at home, choose a theme for this time – kind of a slogan, if you will, around which to rally the students. I suggest “Growing in holiness in the ordinary parts of our day.”
Talk with the children about their challenges. Identify a virtue which will help them deal with those challenges. Discuss strategies to implement them.
Under this umbrella, you can learn about a saint or two who did just that. Of course, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one of the first who comes to mind. Another is Saint Bakhita of Sudan. (The Encounter the Saint Series is an excellent resource – fairly short, easy to read, and well written for either a read aloud or read alone.) Both of these women loved in an extraordinary way in their daily lives – the same thing to which we are all called. Examine these saints and their stories and find ways to imitate their actions in our present day. Maybe it’s serving the poor as a class or a family. Maybe it’s visiting the sick or the lonely. Maybe it’s practicing patience with people who make our lives difficult. Whatever it is, point it out to the children and make it a challenge – for them and for you.
On a personal spiritual level, I suggest taking time daily to read and meditate from either In Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis or Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales. Both are phenomenal resources to help us go deeper by giving simple teachings to drink in and act upon.
Choose a devotion to practice daily for your specific “ordinary season”. Many options exist: the Rosary, the Memorare, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, The Prayer to Saint Michael. The important thing is to choose something that is doable and can be easily incorporated into your daily life.
Sometimes we resist setting a goal because we fail at meeting it. We start; we don’t finish; we don’t do as well as we wanted. We give up before we’ve even tried. So I encourage you to start, to make a plan, to aim for a goal. Otherwise, if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit every time.
God bless, Anne