Summer: More Time for the Lord, Not a Vacation from Him
Periodically Pentecost Sunday falls the same weekend as Memorial Day. Although seemingly different in focus, both celebrations reflect shifts in our daily lives. Pentecost marks the close of the Easter season and the beginning of Tempus per Annum or Ordinary Time. Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. They both signal a change in routine but are not a time to take a vacation from God.
End of Christ's Paschal Mysteries
Pentecost marks the end of Christ's Paschal Mystery. After celebrating the Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seasons re-presenting Christ's Paschal Mysteries, we must put all we have learned all into practice. At times I have struggled with a feeling of letdown transitioning from the festive season of Easter to Ordinary Time, but it's because I misunderstood Tempus per Annum. Time after Pentecost or Ordinary Time is the season we order our life towards God. Ordinary Time is not inferior or common, but is our usual pattern of life.
We can find a pattern to imitate in the Acts of the Apostles. After Christ ascended and the Holy Spirit descended, the Apostles did not rest nor retreat back into the Upper Room. "Ordinary" life became working tirelessly to spread the Gospel. We, just like the Apostles, are empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue Christ's work on earth.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd refers to Ordinary Time as the "growing time." Green vestments are worn during this liturgical season with the color green being the symbol of hope and victory, but also new life and growth. Bernard Strasser elaborates on the color green and this season:
...[I]t is the color of the verdant life of nature. [This] is the time for the growth and maturing of the kingdom of God on earth, both in the Church at large and in the individual soul. Green is also the color of hope, for the postpentecostal season is the time of joyous hope in the blessed fulfillment of all things in heaven. We are growing in our relationship with God (With Christ Through the Year, p. 181)
If one looks at a liturgical calendar (image courtesy Michele Quigley), Ordinary Time is definitely the longest season (33 to 34 weeks) of the Liturgical Year, more than the other seasons combined. This season is the liturgical time to set our pattern of living our Faith and put it into practice every day. We need to stick to our daily prayer program and grow in the Lord.
Yesterday my sons and I attended Mass at the local assisted living home. Our pastor pointed out that many people confuse Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. Veteran's Day honors all who served for our country, but Memorial Day honors all who died for our country. And for Catholics Memorial Day comes naturally, because we already have the feast of All Souls' Day to pray for all the departed. We understand and know how to pray for our dead.
Memorial Day weekend has also become a time to celebrate with family and friends. That same afternoon my husband decided to have an impromptu cookout and my parents and some of my siblings and their families joined us. It was casual, relaxed, and joyful. It felt like a wonderful opening to the summer, which allows more relaxing of the daily routine. It's a time of more outside activities such as swimming, vacations and just fun family times.
Push and Pull
With the opening of Ordinary Time calling for more action with the Lord and our solar season of summer calling for relaxation, there is a dichotomy that we need to find balance. Many saints, popes and other Church leaders encourage us to not take a vacation from the Lord. The balance is to use the summertime of relaxation as an opportunity to grow in grace and faith.
St. Josemaria Escriva mentioned a few times what true rest means for those who are striving to be saints:
Whoever really wants to achieve sanctity, takes no breaks or holidays (Furrow, 129).
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)
St. John Paul II took his rest seriously. See Background: Pope John Paul II's approach to vacation:
In his final Sunday audience in Rome before his departure for Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father spoke once again about vacations, saying that these periods should not be "wasted" in "dissipation" and "simple entertainment." Instead, he told his audience, vacation time should afford "a good opportunity to revive one's interior life." The Pontiff warned against holiday hedonists who make it difficult for others to enjoy a restorative vacation, and to appreciate the "important cultural dimension" of leisure.
See also his Angelus message from the summer of 2000 exhorting how Everyone Needs Adequate Time of Rest.
Pope Benedict challenged the faithful, noting that since there is more time for reading, Explore the Bible during summer vacation:
Of course, many of these books to read, which we take in our hands during our vacation are at best an escape, and this is normal. Yet various people, particularly if they have more time in which to take a break and to relax, devote themselves to something more demanding.
I would therefore like to make a suggestion: why not discover some of the books of the Bible which are not commonly well known? Or those from which we heard certain passages in the liturgy but which we never read in their entirety? Indeed, many Christians never read the Bible and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it. The Bible, as the name says, is a collection of books, a small “library” that came into being in the course of a millennium.
The whole talk is found here: On Summer Reading.
For families with children, the routine is definitely changed during the summer. The outside commitments help form a pattern, knowing where to be at certain days and certain times. With this changing, there is some emptiness that new routines need to be established. Many priests talk about a Plan of Life, and life continues even through the summer, just times need to be adjusted.
- Morning Offering: My mother used to make sure her seven children didn't sleep the summer away, so she used a little bell to wake us by 8:00. With that switch in morning routine, this was the time we pegged our Morning Offering with breakfast together.
- Angelus: Now that Easter is over, it's back to the praying of the Angelus. If your children were in school during the day, this is a big change in pattern eating lunch together at home. The gathering for lunchtime can be time for the Angelus and the Blessing of Meals.
- Daily Mass: I'm not sure our parish is doing it this year, but in the past it has added noon Masses through the summer. In general our family has tried to attend a few extra masses during the week, particularly on higher feast days if we have no other plans.
- Mom Time: The hardest part of the new routine is carving out the prayer and spiritual reading times for myself. I have to make sure these are actually "ramped up" instead of taking a backseat to the summer fun. One of my big motivations is that I need that grace and peace to get through the day. Even though I homeschool, the summer routine means I will have my children around more than other months, so I need to have that time with the Lord to find balance. I will continue to have "Quiet Time" when everyone goes to their rooms and do some quiet reading or naps, and this gives me some time for my spiritual reading.
The smart phone, computer and tablets can be useful tools for the summer, especially while on vacation. Spiritual reading can be loaded into ebooks. Wonderful apps such as the Magnificat and Divine Office can provide a source of daily prayer and meditation. There are great podcasts to listen to pray the rosary, listen to the Mass readings with the USCCB, wonderful meditations from podcasts such as St. Josemaria Institute, or learning more about the faith through podcasts like The Lanky Guys and Catholic Stuff You Should Know.
The most useful tool is the calendar and alerts I set. I have my own domestic monastery bells set to remind me of Morning Prayer, the Angelus, Rosary Time, etc. Little bells throughout the day can bring me back to remind me to put Jesus first even in my much needed rest.
Action During rest
Pentecost brings one liturgical season to a close, and Memorial Day begins the summer season. It can be a time for physical rest, but it is not a time of vacation from the Lord. We can use this extra time to establish good prayer habits for us and our family. Summer and Ordinary Time is a call to action for living our Faith while resting in the Lord.
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