Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Every summer we grab a legal pad and make a list. It’s a bucket-joy list of things we hope happen during the three months off, not because we want to Phineas and Ferb life, but because it’s fun to imagine what we might do. The odd thing is, if you write it down on a piece of paper and tape it to the refrigerator, it’s more likely to happen — at least in some cases.
As my children have gotten older, so have the activities, and thus berry picking (a personal favorite) was ditched last year for ziplining, a thing I shall never do because I like having a functional back and am afraid of heights from which I could die. I put berry-picking back on the list. The kids didn’t go ziplining last year, but no one objected to collecting enough blueberries to make jam and four pies. Plus, every time we go, people remember they like the homemade caramels at the checkout line, a delicacy we only find there.
Some items I put on the list out of parental over-ambition, like going to the library once a week, painting all the rooms, having two kids pass the driver’s test, and three to find summer work. We’ll add studying for the S.A.T., and filling out the college common application before Sept. 1.
These things remain proof of the perpetual triumph of hope over experience. However, the list itself has become part of the expectations of summer — like s’mores, firecrackers and watching grown-up movies once a week. (We have a weekly feature with popcorn for 12 and up). They’ve added a book club, which their father is spearheading. I read aloud to the younger set, and to those not sold on this summer’s selection, Master and Commander, from a variety of sources. What the list does is to help convert intentions into actions, mostly because we have 10 people who keep looking at it and saying, “Hey, what about…?”
I thought about Sunday obligations and feast days that we have as a result of the seasons of the liturgical year. The different saints call us to consider the various ways in which we’re to live out this faith, both in the public square and in the ordinary parts of life. The feast days sprinkled throughout the calendar year are God’s way of saying to us, “Hey, what about…?” in our lives.
There are so many feasts, so many saints, we cannot get to them all any more than the kids will cover the entire summer joy list. That being said, if we begin to look at each of them, and what they stand for, we might discover that we’re supposed to be about the ambitious stuff and the everyday with equal vigor and holiness. We’re to do the dutiful, and the outrageous.
If we start to delve into the lives of the saints whose feasts we celebrate this summer, we may discover more than what we thought — rather like my kids when we go the farm to go berry-picking. We all think we know these saints already. However, there is always more to learn, and these people, who live in the presence of the Holy Trinity, have even more to teach us now if we allow ourselves to explore our faith with them.
Make a summertime goal of discovering who these living witnesses to the faith are, as part of your joy list. For the record, I’m still not doing the zipline, even if someone finds a newly christened Doctor of the Church advising me to do so. Now if there’s a patron saint of blueberry picking…