May 22, 2024 // Perspective

The Joy of Being ‘Ordinary’

Across America, Memorial Day is traditionally seen as the beginning of summer, the time of year when many people begin their season of outdoor picnics, road trips, and vacations. Inside the Church, too, there is a change in seasons, as we have just wrapped up the 50-day-long Easter season and celebrated the birthday of the Church on the feast of Pentecost. For nearly the rest of the year (until the end of November, that is), we will be in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.

“Ordinary Time” has the connotation of being, well, ordinary, boring, or humdrum, as if nothing notable takes place. But that meaning of “ordinary” is not what the Church intends by the word. The name comes from the fact that the Sundays and weeks are counted, as in “ordinal numbers.” Each Sunday between now and the end of the liturgical year is named in order: “10th Sunday in Ordinary Time,” “11th Sunday in Ordinary Time,” and so on. So, the name of this season is not a commentary on the lack of interesting things taking place, but rather it is a sign that we are moving ever forward on a pilgrim journey together, toward the end of time itself.

Within the counted weeks of Ordinary Time, we also continue to celebrate the many saints whose feast days punctuate the calendar. The Church proposes, among many others, holy role models, including laypeople such as St. Margaret of Scotland (June 10, patron of large families), St. Thomas More (June 22, patron of lawyers and lawmakers), and Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin (July 12, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux). The patronage of apostles and martyrs is invoked as well, including St. Barnabas (June 11), St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner (June 24), Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), St. Thomas the Doubter (July 3), St. Mary Magdalene (July 22), and St. James the Greater (July 25).

Every month also has a special dedication, usually with an accompanying set of prayer devotions. The just-concluding May has been the month of Our Lady, as we celebrated several feasts of Mary, including Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), Mary, Mother of the Church (the day after Pentecost, this year on May 20), and the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (May 31). June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is celebrated on the Friday after Corpus Christi (this year, June 7). That feast is followed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the hearts of Jesus and His Mother are spiritually intertwined (which is why we see them depicted together on the back of the Miraculous Medal). The month of July is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, a traditional feast that was celebrated on July 1, prior to the calendar revisions of the Second Vatican Council. August will be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Every year, we proceed through the liturgical seasons of the calendar in this orderly fashion, hearing the same scriptural readings in a cycle – a three-year cycle on Sundays and a two-year cycle on weekdays. Some might think that such repetition would be boring, as we’ve heard these readings before (or maybe many times before, depending on how long you’ve been going to Mass). But even though the readings may be the same year after year, I do not find them mundane. The person who I am today is certainly not the same person, mentally or spiritually, who heard this particular set of readings when last proclaimed. As I get older, I find that the Gospel message just “hits different,” as the young people might say.

The same is true with the flow of the year itself. I used to prefer summer, with the sounds and smells of the green fields full of corn and the slower pace of life on the university campus where I work. But as I get older, I have discovered that when the summer winds down, I look forward once again to gathering around the fire pit with friends who have been away on vacation to hear about their adventures. I love the excitement of fall as we begin the new school year, delighting in the joy of welcoming first-year students as they arrive to begin their college careers, and most especially celebrating the hope and promise of a new football season. Even though the order of the calendar doesn’t change from year to year, there’s always something new to be experienced and celebrated.

As we get to the end of the liturgical year, the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time is celebrated as the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast acknowledges the fact that, as we recite every Sunday in the Nicene Creed, “through Him all things were made,” and that “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.” As we continue our pilgrim journey together, we are buoyed by the hope – and we do not hope in vain – that Our Lord will indeed come again.

As St. John recounted in Revelation, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (21:3-4).

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

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