We've just celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. We've taken down the decorations at Church and tucked them carefully away for next year. The Christmas season is officially over, and we're settling into the season of the Liturgical Year called “Ordinary Time”.
“Ordinary Time” sounds dull, routine, and uninspiring, doesn't it? Actually, the word “ordinary” as it is used here comes from “ordinal,” which means counting. Ordinary Time simply means the counted Sundays between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent and between Pentecost and Advent.
Unfortunately, many Catholics still think of Ordinary Time as the somewhat boring stretch of Sundays between the year's spiritual high points. In reality, Ordinary Time presents many opportunities for spiritual growth. By following one or more of the ten suggestions below, Catholics can turn this liturgical season into a not-so-ordinary time of deepening and strengthening their relationship with God.
1. Spend some time meditating on each Sunday's readings. These are available at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. Try to discover the connections between the readings, pick out common themes, take note of interesting images and ideas, and apply the Word of God to daily life. There are endless possibilities.
2. Read about each day's saint. Every day on the Catholic calendar is dedicated to one or more saints, who provide examples and inspiration through their lives and words. EWTN offers a calendar with a brief biography of a saint for every day of the year.
3. Try a new form of prayer. Look up a new chaplet (check out the Via Rosa website for ideas); meditate in front of an icon; or try praying at least one “hour” of the Divine Office (which is available online at Universalis).
4. Learn more about the special feast days that occur during Ordinary Time. Take some time to study Trinity Sunday, for instance, or Corpus Christi or even the Assumption of Mary. Really get to know what Catholics celebrate on these feasts.
5. Do more spiritual reading. Check out the Weekly Bookworm posts for ideas.
6. Make an effort to practice recollection. As Brother Lawrence says, practice the presence of God. Recall His presence and love often throughout the day and offer small prayers of love, thanksgiving, and praise.
7. Follow a daily devotional. There are probably hundreds of devotional books available. Check out Amazon or a Catholic bookstore for titles. Online, The Word Among Us website provides a daily reflection on the Mass readings, and Augustine Day by Day offers a short quote from Augustine and a prayer.
8. Meditate on familiar Catholic hymns. Don't just mumble through them at Mass; read them closely and try to grasp their meanings. Several websites, including Catholic Hymns and MJL Music, provide lyrics for many Catholic favorites.
9. Learn as much as possible about the Mass. The Mass is an extraordinary gift from God and the most perfect form of worship this side of Heaven. In fact, Mass is a little piece of Heaven on earth. Read books like Father Matthew Buettner's Understanding the Mystery of the Mass and Father Paul O'Sullivan's The Wonders of the Mass for a better grasp of this great blessing from God.
10. Try to attend daily Mass more often. Of course, it's hard with busy schedules and lots of activities to make it to Mass during the week, but there is no better way to grow closer to God than to receive Him in the Eucharist as often as possible.
Any combination of these suggestions can help turn Ordinary Time into an extraordinary experience of God's love.