Liturgical living: a great Catholic catchphrase that may make some of us feel overwhelmed about accomplishing it.
Thanks to Chene Heady’s new book, Numbering My Days: How the Liturgical Calendar Rearranged My Life (2016, Ignatius Press), you, too, can peek into how this mouthful of a phrase can play out in everyday life.
Heady’s a convert to Catholicism who decided to take a different approach to the year. Beginning in Advent, he wrote reflections every day of the year based on the daily Mass readings.
“I am not the hero of this book,” he writes in the introduction, “the liturgical year is, and I am its often-bumbling sidekick. If my experience and reflections are of any value, it will be due more often to my faults than to my virtues.”
Thus begins a 220-page journey that feels a bit voyeuristic and a lot humbling.
Heady manages to remain entertaining while slipping in bits of education and wisdom. He traverses through the year the way many of us do, one day at a time and realizing later what impact a past experience had.
The book’s arranged into eight sections, based on the seasons of the liturgical year. It begins with Advent and continues through the year. There aren’t 365 entries; Heady combined and eliminated some for publication.
I found myself dog-earing and marking passages, feeling much like a student sitting at the feet of a mentor. Heady’s entries are short, averaging a couple of pages each day, though typically shorter. His path through the year is as scrambled and direct-in-hindsight as my own life often seems.
That all combines to make this a book that’s easily dipped into and refreshing to read. It offers insight and lessons for those of us who struggle in the trenches of Catholic life:
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
This seems hardest in Ordinary Time. It is a long grind, without obvious narrative arc and pattern. The grand events of Christ’s life, the dramatic moments in the Church calendar, are either before or after this liturgical season. Ordinary Time is an in-between time, when Pentecost is over and Advent has not yet begun. Since Advent refers in part to the Second Coming of Christ, the Church has been living in Ordinary Time since the first Pentecost. Ordinary Time is our time.
So how do we live between times? In part by looking to the Church. The Holy Spirit has entered the Church, and we can see that there is meaning, that God has entered the world, through the work of the Church. No other organization in human history has been truly worldwide. No other group of people has pledged itself from the first to helping the poorest of the poor. Most of the good aspects of the modern world were originally created by the Church — universities, hospitals, orphanages, mass education. Despite all her faults, the Church is the primary tangible evidence that the world is not simply a Darwinian struggle. The Church is the main sign Christ has left us to assure us that the world still has meaning. There was an Incarnation. Existence is not without a key.
We see just enough meaning to discern that there is a pattern. But we live between times and can’t quite make it out. Only after the end of time is the full pattern of time visible and complete. The Jeremiah reading for today (18:1-6) gets at this. God is the potter, and we are the clay (6); he is making us and the world as he sees fit. But what can the clay perceive of this process? It can see that alteration is happening, surely, but it cannot see the process’ direction and final end. This is where we live in Ordinary Time.
Sarah Reinhard writes online at NCRegister.com and SnoringScholar.com.