Eastertide has come to a close and the new season of Ordinary Time stretches before us. I must confess: I treasure the uneventful days of Ordinary Time. I even love its humdrum name.
When Ordinary Time winds down every year in the chill of late November, the Church begins a fresh new year with the season of Advent. Advent moves into Christmas, which stretches until Candlemas, which sometimes bumps uncomfortably close to Ash Wednesday, which rolls into Holy Week and the great culmination of Easter. Easter lasts until Pentecost and then – usually right around the end of the school year – it is finally Ordinary Time again, and a Catholic family can pause after the rush of holy days. Pause, and practice all that we have seen in that more intensive half of the church year. God has shown us Who He is and how perfectly He loves us, and we can begin to reciprocate.
Summer isn’t a lazy time for my family. We might rise a little later than the sun, or stay up a little later to finish that great story, but the open months of summer give us the time to grow as a family and as individuals within our regular tasks. The garden needs to be worked, and the cows milked. Daily devotions still mark our morning, noon, and night; and music practice must not be neglected. Normally we participate in several weeks of Red Cross swimming lessons, but this year the pool will be closed and we will have to find other ways to stay healthy and active. (I suspect that bicycles and fishing trips with Grampy will be involved.)
Living as we do on a farm, the children are also free to explore between choretimes. There are trees to climb and berries to pick. If the field full of clover blooms isn’t the perfect place to daydream, then the boughs of the old silver maple will surely do. Picnics on the porch are held rain or shine.
However, not wanting to give my children over completely to be raised by the wolves, I like to sit down with them at the beginning of each month and set some goals. The older ones commit to some fresh independent reading that reaches just a little outside their normal preferences. A biography, perhaps? Maybe someone would benefit from keeping up on math facts every day, and someone else needs encouragement in drawing or painting. But everyone’s favorite part is planning the performance at the end of the month.
I assign each of the children – as young as two – a poem or Scripture verse to memorize that month. We choose a song or two to sing together, and the musicians are encouraged to practice a new piece. We practice our bows and curtsies and general stage manners, and in a month’s time we will have a little production ready to share with friends and family.
I am afraid I have been sworn to silence on this month’s project, as a special surprise could be in the works for Independence Day; but I can divulge that in the past this has proved a wonderful opportunity for the children to reconnoiter great morals and ideas, and proudly make them their own. We’ve had recitations of everything from the Beatitudes to The Charge of the Light Brigade. Robert Louis Stevenson always proves a steady favorite, and even famous speeches are beginning to appeal to my older girls. “Our Heroes” by Phoebe Cary was learned at a crucial time for my son, and he reflects on it often. Everyone still giggles over the littlest lisping her way through the Alphabet last summer.
The seasons of Our Lord’s Birth and Death are necessarily periods of great drama, and our responses to Him reflect that. But what we ultimately choose to do with the Gospel is the story of Ordinary Time. It is the story of the Church and all the Saints, striving to perfect their devotion in the habits of daily life. It is the story of each of us, washing the dishes and wiping away tears. That story is miraculous and inspiring and profoundly… ordinary.
If the faith begins at home, then Ordinary Time is our time to shine. Like memorizing a poem or learning a new piece of music, growing in holiness takes a little bit of practice every day. By God’s grace, all our humble labors will have made a masterpiece when our days are done.