This is my seasonal brain dump about how I ideally want to live out the liturgical seasons fully acknowledging that I probably won’t measure up to my hopes and dreams any time soon.
I’ve been hounded lately by this horribly nagging feeling that there’s so little time and so much to do. Blogging and other writing projects and trying to get my small business plans rolling and custom art commissions and reading and language learning. Oh aaaand praying and mothering and housekeeping and exercising. I’m scared silly that I might never actually do anything which would honestly would be fine if I was an all-attentive mother instead of a half-attentive mother trying to do all the things. (Of course I never get up before the baby on any morning of the week so is it really metaphysical confines that are tripping me up or just my own lack of fortitude?)
However, in my anxiety over the shortness of time and the bigness and multitude of things to do and my personal penchant for laziness, Ordinary Time is a gift. It’s an opportunity to learn how to use time wisely and structure it well and order it towards sanctity. It’s a time to establish patterns of prayer and work and leisure that might be built on during other seasons of the liturgical year.
The great majority of Ordinary Time falls during Summer and Fall making it the ideal time to learn to eat seasonally and to actively reflect on where food comes from by planting herbs or full fledged urban homesteading or shopping at the local farmer’s market or participating in a local food co-op. (We’re planning on doing this one.)
During Ordinary Time I also want to perfect some good, simple staple dishes to be able to fall back on. I never knew my mother’s mother to make anything new or adventurous, but her daily bone broth soup and all the other traditional Slovak things she made were always so wonderfully satisfying and comforting. So by good, simple staples, I mean Slovak dishes obviously.
And I want to use this time as an opportunity to streamline and simplify the grocery shopping and meal making process. Right now I’ve gotten pretty good about meal prepping during my son’s second nap of the day so that dinner doesn’t take a thousand years to make, but I go to the grocery store about three times a week because of poor planning. So I want to meal plan better for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner. I want to make batch lunches for the week on Saturdays–things like grain salads and granola power bites. And possibly use a couple days during this time to make freezer meals for crazier days instead of resorting to eating out. This would be particularly helpful during Ordinary Time in January so that during Lent we really stick to meals at home.
In general, during Ordinary Time, I want to focus on establishing good eating habits for the whole year. Less meat. Less sweets. More vegetables. Less snacking. When I studied abroad in France, I loved the repetitious rhythm of meals (even if the meal itself sometimes made me nervous–stingray, liver, blood sausage anyone…??) Every lunch was hearty. Every dinner was a simple vegetable potage (often with leftovers blended in), followed by a cheese course, a fruit course, a piece of chocolate (for bonne morale!) and a hot cup of herbal tea. I particularly liked that other desserts were left for special occasions like having guests over. Since my husband can’t get home for lunch, we’re stuck to the American way of quick lunches and more filling dinners but I still like the dependable repetition of wine, cheese, fruit, chocolate, and tea.
I’m a big fan of the idea of capsule wardrobes or even a daily uniform. Clothes matter. Ethically, emotionally, socially. I’ve seen the uniform idea popularized for the the professional world, but I think it can translate to stay-at-home-mom life too. I fall into the rut of wearing my pjs all day too often, but I think, if I could, like a nun donning her daily habit, hop into a simple, comfortable, well-and-ethically-made outfit day after day, my mood would immediately be boosted.
It’s no secret that I love the concept of the domestic monastery. I think the idea of trying to emulate a well-run happy and harmonious religious community in the home is a noble one. And I think the pursuit of creating a domestic monastery and the pursuit of liturgical living in the home are inextricably linked. So as far as work, leisure, and Ordinary Time go, I adopt the Benedictine motto of ora et labora: attempting to strike a balance between work and prayer. Activity and rest. Labor and leisure.
I want to be able to keep house well. To give my attention to creative/professional interests. To find ways to help supplement our income. To aim for excellence in all things. But I also want to strike the right balance between all those things among themselves and also with more contemplative activities such as praying, reading, nursing the baby, memorizing poetry etc.
Right now my life feels pretty fractured. I scroll on social media or attempt to blog as I nurse the baby. I start one chore and leave off half way through to tackle something else. I’m working on about ten creative/professional projects at once but don’t feel like I’m making any concrete progress towards any real goal of mine. I feel like I’m hustling (hate that word) all the time but not moving in any direction. Or I’m overwhelmed and vegging on the couch in a guilt-ridden netflix stupor. So I want to step back and learn to make a prayer out of my work. To do such things as making the dishes into a holy, meditative act by praying a rosary at the same time. To memorize poetry as I nurse the baby. To stop and think about whether I really want to commit my time to a project before saying yes so that I don’t feel as though changing diapers or nursing the baby are getting in the way of other work. To give myself permission to rest during naptime every now and then (and not feel guilty about it!) instead trying to fit a million things into the space of an hour.
Furthermore, I want to actually keep holy the sabbath. Yes, we always do Mass but I want to set the whole day aside for rest as it was intended. To work and labor and prepare on Saturdays so that we might enjoy slow Sunday traditions as a family.
I hit on this a bit in that last section but some more specific ideas:
Aside from simply trying to integrate prayer and work where I can, I’ve outlined my ideal prayer schedule here. That’s still my goal however faily I am at getting there.
Even when I don’t get a rosary in, I love the tradition of saying the Angelus at noon. Melissa Musick has a good post on the simple power of this beautiful prayer. Plus Jennifer recommended Magnificat’s Angelus app and I’ve been using and loving it. I have an immense love for church bells. It was one of my favorite parts of going to a Catholic college and I wished we lived in the neighborhood of our parish because they have some excellent ones. So this app with it’s bell tolling reminder to get on my knees and recollect the Incarnation does my soul wonders.
Lastly, and perhaps this should have gone in the aforementioned section, I want to actively try to incorporate the works of mercy in my daily doings. Especially during this year of mercy. Growing up, my siblings and I were involved in the Legion of Mary which has as its mission evangelizing primarily through the works of mercy. As much as I would groan and moan about getting out of bed to go to church at 10am(!!) on a Saturday morning, it was a blessing. We’d pray and read at the meetings and be assigned specific works like doing chores without being asked (which was a serious challenge to virtue for a fourth grader). And frequently we’d do things like go visit elderly people in nursing homes. I could use a little more of the legion spirit in my life now. I am absolutely guilty of looking down at my phone when I’m stopped at a light and there’s a homeless person asking for anything. It’s inexcusable. I like this list on different ways to incorporate the work of mercy.
Jennifer has a wonderful post on ways to make the most of Ordinary Time and I probably should have just sent you there in the first place.