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Spheres of Life

The interlocking of calendars cannot inhibit the possibility to reimagine

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Father CarrionPicture the many circles of people, places and things in which we move, and have our being. Each of these comes with commitments to mark time.

A Catholic calendar with your parish’s name may be hanging in the sacristy and is renewed each January. Parishioners might have the same calendar hanging in their kitchen marked with doctor’s appointments and family commitments. This calendar joins the liturgical calendar, the Ordo, whose days begin alongside Advent calendars. These calendars are further complimented (or complicated) by an academic calendar, which begins this very august month!

While each calendar has the same 12 months (though with a different starting place), the liturgical calendar feels more like seven months: December to June (Advent to Pentecost). We ordinarily coast through the rest of the five months. The 20-plus weeks of Ordinary Time feel like a vacation in comparison to the previous seven months. While we thought there was a respite during this stretch of ordinary time, the academic calendar kills that thought. Fortunately, the secular calendar has a consistent ebb and flow to it with the federal holidays well distributed across the year.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the multi-sphere gyroscope depicts our lives spinning around us and maybe out of control at times. Presently, the academic calendar is unfolding as back-to-school advertisements are everywhere, reminding us that summer is over, even though it feels as if it just started.

Whether your parish has a school or not, parish life shifts to fourth gear as students start boarding yellow buses and teachers begin to decorate bulletin boards. Faith formation programs start all over again. Launching these programs is exhausting, as rooms are booked and schedules are coordinated. The muscle memory clicks in as we do it all over again. The parish has these next three months (Nos. 9, 10 and 11) to assure these programs are up and spinning before we encircle three purple candles and a rose candle marking the next liturgical year — another sphere. Once those four colorful candles are burning, the 12-month calendar is distributed again, typically sponsored by the local funeral home.

While time cannot be halted and the spinning of these spheres cannot be stopped, it is imperative that the constant rotation does not inhibit imagination of what possibilities may result from all this spinning. The movement creates much energy as those spheres and time keep flying by. If only that energy would be harnessed in such a way that this year’s faith formation or Advent season or federal holiday felt as if it were the first time. The newness may provide a fresh enthusiasm for ourselves, too, so that the been-there-done-that syndrome is not the mantra for the spheres in which we live. Maybe each varied calendar, each sphere, could be “as if it were the first time.” Reimagine the Advent wreath, reimagine the faith formation program, and reimagine how the Church honors Memorial Day, etc. It might spark how to reimagine ourselves.

It would be negligent not to mention an equally important calendar — that is, the unpublished, personal calendar. This calendar marks the time for each of us as we, like our parishioners, have a family and a personal life that is part of this mix and needs attention. Maybe a sacrosanct moment is the family gathering annually on the fourth Sunday of January, keeping the family connected as the other 364 days often keep us apart. A year does not go by that a niece or nephew does not call asking, “Uncle Martin, what are you doing next April, as I just got engaged!” Then there are the needed scheduled days to vacate from or retreat from the other spinning calendars to be with friends or the Lord or both. Then there are those days in life that quietly come and go: the anniversary of a parent or sibling’s death, your priesthood anniversary, etc. These days, which mark time for each of us, are just as real and important as the days that mark time for all of us.

Hopefully, your personal, spiritual and ministerial spheres are spinning congenially, no matter how many interlocking spheres of calendars you have. 

FATHER PATRICK M. CARRION is the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ijamsville, Maryland, and the director of Cemetery Management for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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