Our Summer Plans and Work in Ordinary Time
Two weeks ago it was the first time since February 11 (the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time) that the priest wore green liturgical vestments on Sunday. After Pentecost, the Church resumed the count of the weeks of Ordinary Time, picking up at the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, but the first two Sundays celebrated the great feasts of the Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi. It was not until the third Sunday after Pentecost did we start counting the green Sundays in our second part of Tempus per Annum (in Latin) known as Ordinary Time in the Ordinary Form, or Time After Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form.
Shift of Seasons and Focus
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this is a shift. We have reached the end of the school year and the beginning of summer (summer solstice is June 21). The temperatures are hotter, pools are open, and schedules shift into a more relaxed mode, with travel, vacations, cookouts and family gatherings.
This is a time of contrasts, because in the Liturgical Year this time after Pentecost is actually a time of more intense personal work. The celebration of the Paschal season has concluded. The Feast of the Ascension commemorates the Apostles receiving the Great Commission to go out and baptize all nations. Pentecost is the celebration of receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit to do this entrusted work. We have the gifts and we are armed as “Soldiers of Christ” to live and spread the Gospel.
All through the Paschal season I was struck by how much “joy” was used throughout the liturgy. Every day the preface of the Easter season used the phrase “overcome with Paschal joy,” and the readings and other prayers incorporated that word “joy” very liberally. During the Easter season this joy is concentrated and focused on celebration of the Paschal Mystery. But once we celebrate Pentecost, the grace of the Holy Spirit can make this joy overflowing. We are compelled to share the joy of the Gospel to others.
I’ve written about how summer is not a time for a vacation from the Lord (see my 2015 post Summer: More Time for the Lord, Not a Vacation from Him). I recently started to reread a book published in 1962 by Fides Publishers on the Liturgical Year and was delighted to read the author’s descriptions of this time of year in a similar light. It’s always affirming to read elsewhere (by greater authority) what I’ve been writing. Bishop Henri Jenny first gives an overview of the shift from Pentecost to Ordinary Time:
After Pentecost the Church will come together for the great ‘Feasts of synthesis’, the worship of the now revealed Trinity, the contemplation of the ‘wonderful Sacrament’, the fervent adoration of the Heart of Jesus, the source of all the mercies that the Christian year has recalled.
Then there will be the apparently monotonous series of Sundays during summer and autumn, when the Church, intent on the Message contained in the Memoirs of Matthew and Luke, will leisurely explain to all her children the meaning of the most beautiful of the parables, the teaching of Jesus on the divine fatherhood, mutual love, forgiveness for the sinner, and His future coming. The Feast of All Saints and of Christ the King will, in an apocalyptic atmosphere, lead on to the end of the year, where special stress is placed on the ‘Parousia’ or glorious return of the Lord. (Jenny, The Paschal Mystery in the Christian Year, pp. 20-21)
He then confirms how this Tempus per Annum or Time of the Year is a time of work. It might be tedious work and he even uses the word “monotonous” to describe it, but it is a time of establishing good habits in our daily walk of life. This is the time to live out the Gospel:
Pentecost reveals to the world the universality of reception; proclaims the testimony of the Apostles; with the miracle of tongues and Fire, it inaugurates the Church’s life under the invisible action of its Head.
The Time after Pentecost permits the Church to enjoy in work, prayer and eucharistic praise, Sunday by Sunday, the riches of the revealed mystery, that does not cease to produce its fruit in the continual ascent of the community of brethren towards the Parousia, which we await in Faith (p. 22).
He expands later in the book a most profound description of Ordinary Time. So often it is viewed negatively, but this is such a positive outlook:
With the Church we have traversed the various stages of the Life and Mystery of Jesus. The first part of the Liturgical Year comes to a close in fiery splendor, in the triumph of Christ the Lord.
But this triumph is an inauguration, a prelude to the destinies of this great body of which Jesus is the head. At Pentecost the Church was set in motion: for about six months of the year we are going to enjoy all the riches acquired; we shall gradually take possession of them. The Church is going to nourish her children on the mystery which she bears within her, which is identified with her; she is going to distribute to all ages and in all places of the world the Bread of Life which is at once the apex and the means to all these marvels.
This work will be accomplished in silence and in a certain monotony that is part of ordinary living, of everyday life But beneath the apparent grisaille, symbolized by the immense green tapestry which the series of sacred vestments for the ministers and the altar form during this long period, the attentive soul can discover the manifold riches as well as the profound simplicity of the Mystery to be explored and exploited.
…Hence, this period invites us to live in a Spirit that is none other than that of the Gospel; it invites us to put into practice that ‘interior revelation’ that is Jesus’ program, to sing the Our Father, the true prayer of Christ’s faithful, to await the Kingdom of God which the Lord has established by the Mystery of his victorious Passover (pp. 83-84).
Practically Applied at Home
How do we not enter into monotony and take a vacation from the Lord during summer? Can our work of spreading the Gospel be done in quiet and hidden ways? To me the answer is clearly yes. We have to work on ourselves and our family first before we can share our joy and Faith to others. And our example and love is the first way to live and preach the Gospel.
. The children are home and the shift from daily obligations of school to a looser schedule can be challenging. The word “bored” is not allowed in our family’s vocabulary. My children are allowed to feel “boredom.” It is not necessary for them to be entertained at all times. They need find their own choice of work and enjoyment for the summer. And as a family, we are going to work and communicate to make some plans for the summer, both for their individual lives and for our family in general. I have one son entering high school and a son who is entering 5th grade, so your list may look a little different from mine. But these are the areas we are focusing on this summer:
- Sleep: I have a teenage boy who is craving extra sleep, which we will allow, but ensure all of us aren’t sleeping late every day. 9:00 is the latest wakeup time for the household.
- Exercise: I keep track of my steps and during the school year I have managed to do more than 10,000 steps a day. The two weeks since school concluded my activity level has gone down, so I have to schedule more for myself, whether it be swimming or walking or other exercise. Our whole family needs to be outdoors and soak up more Vitamin D, so we will be going to the pool almost daily. My sons have a lot of energy to burn, so I need to make sure their days aren’t cooped up inside.
- Food: Summer seems to bring on the munchies, but we are trying to make sure we offer healthier alternatives and not keep the kitchen open 24/7 for the children. This is the time for fresher, local grown vegetables and fruit from the Farmer’s Market (we didn’t do a garden this year). My husband and I are focusing on our eating and exercise habits this summer.
- Unplug: We don’t do video games with our family, and computer time for the children is only for research and school work. But we do have TV and watch movies. Our summer plan is to make sure we are not going to be parked in front of the television during the day. We are watching movies as a family, and choosing from both older classics and newer movies, giving everyone a chance to pick some favorites. We also try to do some education/history/science series during the summer as a family
- More family time and activities: Besides the above, we are making a point to play more board games, have some day excursions (we recently went to the Franciscan Monastery in DC for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua).
DAILY PRAYER LIFE:
It’s a priority that our day will be revolved around the daily Liturgy. We are adding a few days extra for morning Mass, but the days we sleep in, we will still start the mornings with a focus on the liturgy:
- Daily Mass Readings (we listen to the podcast from the USCCB)
- Praying the Collect prayer of the day (Link to the Liturgical day is on the home page of Catholic Culture)
- Morning Offering /Actiones Nostras
- Saint of the Day (we listen to the audio from Franciscan Media)
- Read Bishop Barron’s Daily Gospel reflections
Other Focus Points:
- Family Rosary after dinner. During the school year we didn’t always keep to this goal, so this is the time to restore the habit.
- Spiritual reading, for everyone. For the boys, it will be saint books, but their reading needs to include spiritual enrichment.
- Regular Confession. We will try to do biweekly confession. I wasn’t able to do our regular Tuesday confessions with my new schedule this year, but the summer allows us to return to my spiritual director on a regular basis.
- Above all, focal point will be celebrating and reserving Sundays as the Lord’s Day. I will be writing a separate post on those thoughts!
Overall, we are working on building our family life. Some of that is individual work, some of it is working together.
- Building good habits—helping with daily chores, with my sons stepping in more to help in the kitchen and bathrooms and clean-up.
- Making personal goals—summer can’t be about lounging around the whole time. Our 9th grader has summer reading and perhaps planning his science fair project, practicing sports and piano. My list is long of what I want to accomplish, improving some skills, learning new skills, and other self-education.
- Cleaning—I’m also using this time to purge and clean our house, which also involves our sons helping.
- Charity within the Family—we are focusing on speaking kindly and being charitable to our family members. We so often get wrapped up in our own little lives that we get short-tempered and snarly with one another. The beginning of summer we especially notice how the boys need to adjust getting along with each other. This is high priority for our family.
- More Family Time—many of my siblings live locally with their families, so we will spend more time just enjoying each other, particularly as we face this cross with my brother.
As I look at my list of our summer plans, it does seem to be contrasting both rest and work for Ordinary Time. We aren’t necessarily preaching from the rooftops about the Gospel, but we are working on our lives, doing the quiet work, making the changes as inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is our season of rest and relaxation, but not rest from God and not from spiritual growth. As St. Josemaria Escriva put it so well:
I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job (Furrow, 514).
Ordinary Time after Pentecost, while it is six months of just green Sundays (with the exception of solemnities falling on Sunday, particularly this year with the Nativity of St. John the Baptist), is the presentation of the whole mystery of Faith. It is our work to both rest and be nourished and also work for the Lord, even if that work is within the hidden life at home. Finding that balance is difficult, but perhaps if we look at the liturgical color green as a sign of growth, just like the season of summer, it can be a reminder of our summer plans and work in Ordinary Time.
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