My children went back to school following their Christmas break last week, and indeed, there were some long faces that first morning. This time of January and February can seem like the most challenging portion of the entire calendar year due to the harsher weather and the mourned loss of Christmas festivities. It’s also a return to what the Church terms Ordinary Time, a period without a major liturgical theme, like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. The word “Ordinary” even lends itself to falling under the radar – it does not sound very uplifting, does it?
Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary, however. The liturgical calendar is rife with feast days and prayer potential during Ordinary Time, and it can be a time of great spiritual bounty if we open ourselves to this possibility. Every year in early January, I focus on three things that I find helpful for this portion of Ordinary Time:
The first is the freshness of the new year for some goals in the realm of our spiritual and emotional well-being. I know that it is very popular in our modern culture to make New Year’s resolutions, but to me, this is somewhat different. These goals are not specific items that will make us feel like we have failed if we do not keep to them for the entire year. These are general thoughts on bettering ourselves that inevitably come with the fresh start of a new calendar year. I may want to try and become more prayerful, or charitable in some aspect of my life, or to abandon myself more fully to hearing the Lord’s voice. I look at them as themes that I will carry with me for the entire year, and that I will endeavor to be more cognizant of.
The second thing I focus on each January are the beautiful feast days and novena opportunities! The feast of St. Francis de Sales is January 24th, and he is the patron of teachers and writers. As a teaching librarian, he is my go-to guy for work prayers. As soon as his feast day passes, it’s time to start another novena, this time for St. Blaise, whose feast is February 3rd. Health ailment prayers often go his way! Right around the same time, we have Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast is February 11th, and any intention needing a motherly guiding hand this winter should go to her.
Finally, every January, I think about preparing for Lent. I will grant, it may seem odd to prepare for a season of preparation. Lent, though, is loaded with spiritual significance, and taking the opportunity to determine how we want to spend that time is crucial to making the most out of it, in my opinion. Lent usually begins in February, sometimes very early March, and January is an ideal time to gather devotionals, plan a retreat, or determine which spiritual practices you would like to focus on this year. I often make a list of things I want to accomplish in Lent, so that I will feel somewhat prepared come Ash Wednesday, which this year, falls on February 14th! It will be here before we know it.
What are your thoughts on winter Ordinary Time? Do you devote special practices to it each year? I would love to hear from you!
Copyright 2018 Tiffany Walsh