Ordinary Time is likely the most difficult season my family experiences in the liturgical year. It often feels like a waiting period for the next “important” time on the calendar, one in which we know exactly how we are supposed to grow spiritually. Advent prepares the way for Christ’s birth. Christmas celebrates his arrival. Lent leads us through the suffering of Christ. Easter leads us through his risen glory. There’s a natural ebb and flow to these seasons.
Ordinary Time is different. The term comes from the Latin word ordinalis, meaning numbered. Ordinary Time is marked by the numbering of the weeks, focusing on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. While we may cognitively realize that this period is not called “ordinary” because the season is unimportant, it can sometimes feel that way—especially during its longest period, which we are in now. After all, this period between Pentecost to the day before the first Sunday of Advent often marks the most ordinary season of our own lives.
This is the season when most children are out of school. I am a professor with rising second and fourth graders, so I spend summers at home looking after my children and fitting in writing whenever I can. If fall and spring semesters are filled with busy chaos, summers are the opposite in my house. My children and I spend long, languishing days together. Coloring, gaming, playing outside, laundry, dishes, tantrums, complaints about being bored: These are the ordinary components of our days together.
This summer, I realized that these moments potentially help my family grow in our faith in meaningful ways, specific to this important period. For the past few years, large events have shaped our Ordinary Time, including sickness and death of loved ones. This summer, however, has felt ordinary in every sense. My children, husband, and I are simply marking time together, and there’s been nothing chaotic upending our lives. There is, for the first time in a while, time to synthesize what we’ve learned over this past year, to mature in our faith and love for Christ. This is the time when we can finally realize ordinary days provide moments for extraordinary growth.
Here are some ways my family has been celebrating Ordinary Time that might also be useful for others:
We lean into the green of the season.
My son and daughter love crafting, so we created an Ordinary Time garland out of construction paper for our home. We discussed why green symbolizes growth and where we can find it outside in the environment. It’s a distinct feature of Ordinary Time that its color usually aligns with the natural world’s seasonal changes. After discussing the significance of the color green, my children and I wrote down how we wanted to grow spiritually on each construction paper slip. “What will we work on during Ordinary Time?” we asked ourselves. My son wrote about growing in patience, and my daughter wrote about working harder. The garland serves as a symbol of our potential for spiritual development, and because it’s hanging in our living room, it generates discussion about what we do daily to grow in our chosen areas.
We go to Reconciliation.
During Advent and Lent, going to Confession can feel like a part of the season’s “festivities.” We need to go because the Church’s timeframe compels us to do so. Examining our consciences is more difficult when we aren’t regularly reminded to do it in our parish bulletins and post-Mass announcements.
Last year, after my son’s First Communion, my family and I created a routine where we attend Confession together during each liturgical season (and whenever we might simply feel the need). My husband and I talk about what a positive experience it is aloud, fostering an environment where this sacrament feels liberating rather than constricting. My daughter, who is too young for Confession, witnesses the rest of her family modeling going and practicing the Act of Contrition together. We hope this helps prepare her to see Reconciliation as part and parcel of our Catholic faith. Thus, our family tries not to make this practice feel like a big deal; rather we seek to exemplify how it’s an “ordinary” part of our faith life, one that makes us joyful afterwards because every human being works through spiritual struggles and can benefit from the healing effects of God’s mercy. Further, Reconciliation helps provide emotional balm because we are reminded of Jesus’s forgiveness, which isn’t reserved for special occasions but is available year-round whenever we ask.
We celebrate feast days that are important to us.
Numerous feast days occur during Ordinary Time. For instance, St. Anthony of Padua’s Feast Day falls on June 13. My family lives near San Antonio, and we often look to St. Anthony for guidance, whether for lost things, or when praying for the elderly, the poor, or travelers. We make sure to attend Mass on his feast day, discuss his history, and try to perform an act of charity for others. Other saints’ feast days during Ordinary Time include St. Benedict (July 11), St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), and St. Augustine (August 28). Ordinary Time presents an ideal period to learn why we ought to emulate saints’ lives and practice doing so.
We practice gratitude.
My family spent two days at the beach recently. While there, my 7-year-old daughter unexpectedly looked at me and said, “We should tell God we’re thankful for this moment.” As we listened to the ocean, we prayed and thanked God for our day, practicing one of our favorite simple prayers from the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Breathing in and out, we said, “Jesus, I trust in you,” together five times. Then, we offered another brief thank you prayer for this time at the beach. Out of the entire vacation, this was my favorite part. Remembering that we ought to look to God not only in moments of chaos but also in moments of peace and joy—and that we ought to be grateful for all of the “ordinary” moments that we’re together and can grow in our faith—renders every moment on Earth more meaningful. During each day, see if there are any times you can pause and thank God for the moment you’re in and recognize his presence, perhaps through a simple prayer like my daughter and I shared.
We often hear how “busy” the world is. Ordinary Time in the Church asks that we pause and let the lessons from other liturgical seasons take root. For my family, this means we can go deeper, learn more about the Church, and practice our faith in ways that feel natural to our ordinary lives. That is, if we lean into its possibilities, Ordinary Time can become a “regular” season in our lives devoted to spiritual growth and family flourishing.