This is the span in the liturgical calendar that I call “High Ordinary Time.” It is the longest stretch of Ordinary Time that we experience, given that the beginning of this season is broken up by Lent back in the late winter/early spring. Once Pentecost is over in late spring, we hang out in Ordinary Time until Advent begins in late November or early December. This summer season is also a time of our daily routines changing, and lots of family activities in the form of milestone parties, swimming and outdoor barbecues. Prayer and our spiritual lives may start to take somewhat of a back seat during this stretch. What I have come to find out through the years, though, is that summer Ordinary Time can be anything BUT ordinary. In my experience, two ways of breathing spiritual life into our summers are the following:
(1) Asking for the intercession of our friends, the saints – The summer is jam packed with saint feast days, and as such is a perfect time for novenas. Are you worried about the upcoming school year? Perhaps your child is starting kindergarten, going to a new school, or embarking on homeschool for the first time? A family crisis of another sort is brewing? The summer is a great time to find a friend amongst our great cloud of witnesses in heaven, and pray for their intercession. In July we have the feasts of St. Mary Magdalene, Sts. Joachim and Anne, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Christopher. How perfect is St. Christopher for summer travel, yes?! August features St. Dominic, St. John Vianney, St. Edith Stein, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Rose of Lima, and every mother’s favorite saint – St. Monica, along with her once wayward son, St. Augustine. This is just a small sampling of the feast days that fall during the summer!
I use my parish calendar, as well as an extensive liturgical calendar that Tan Books publishes each year, to highlight the feast days I want to make special note of. Both of my children have patron saints whose feasts fall in the summer, so last year I prayed a separate novena for each of them. As for this year, I just finished praying the St. Maria Goretti novena (patron of young women, forgiveness and chastity), leading up to her feast day of July 6th. I am now in the middle of one of my all-time favorites, the St. Kateri Tekakwitha novena (patron of ecology and the environment), and we will celebrate her feast day on July 14th. For both of these novenas, I am praying for the intentions of a close friend of mine as part of a “Secret Prayer Santa” group that a handful of us came up with – we used a gift exchange website to draw a random name and pray for that person this month. Praying for someone else is really helping to keep me focused and disciplined in prayer this summer.
(2) A short pilgrimage, even to a local shrine or other holy site – I am not what one would call a world traveler. I have traveled domestically, but I have never been abroad. There are MANY destinations I would love to see, either on vacation or on pilgrimage, but for the time being that is not an option for me. This year I told my husband that over the summer, I really wanted to visit the National St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine. It is only a few hours by car from our home, and I thought it would be a lovely family day trip. In June, we were able to make this happen.
The experience was quite transforming. St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a very important part of my family heritage and faith life, and being at her shrine, located near where she once lived, made me feel very close to her. There was a peace permeating the space that harkened my mind and heart to God. I am constantly in awe of my family in faith, both on earth and in heaven, and it is one of my very favorite parts of my Catholic identity.
This example involved us driving for several hours, but one could easily have just as lovely an experience by visiting a church or other holy place within an hour of your home. There is a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima about 35 minutes from where we live, and each time I go there, I see it through fresh eyes. The experience never gets old.
Over the summer, I always endeavor to recharge my emotional and spiritual batteries, in preparation for the busyness that autumn always brings. Given the way that summer often unfolds, however, I was finding that I rarely took the time out to relax and pray. The past few years I have made a specific effort to make the summer spiritually refreshing, in a quite extraordinary experience of Ordinary Time.
Now it is your turn: how do you keep your spiritual life vibrant in the summertime? Do you pray a specific novena each summer, or have you gone to any shrines or holy sites? Are you game to try the Secret Prayer Santa? I would love to hear from you!
Copyright 2016 Tiffany Walsh