Sunday was the Epiphany, Monday Baptism of the Lord, and all of a sudden we’re back in Ordinary Time.
Years ago when I was teaching at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, I helped out with Sunday morning Masses at the Cathedral parish. One of those cool Sunday mornings in late January I arrived at the sacristy to a heated discussion over who would win the 15th Super Bowl that afternoon: the Oakland Raiders, who had been there on two earlier occasions, or the Philadelphia Eagles, representing the AFC in New Orleans for the first of two appearances in the history of the Bowl. Even in the procession outside from the sacristy to the Saint Simon and Jude vestibule all the buzz around us was about the imminent clash between the two teams who had won their respective conference titles.
If it weren’t for the automatic respect for the sacred that was brought on as we entered the church, the heightened emotion about the game would never have calmed. Once we were lined up behind the cross, candle bearers and readers, we heard the familiar voice of the commentator, who began by welcoming us all to the third Sunday in Ordinary Time. I’m not sure where he had been just before stepping up to the lectern, but it struck me that there really wasn’t anything ordinary about that Sunday at all!
Just like the liturgical calendar, most of the time of our life is ordinary time, punctuated perhaps by extraordinary moments.
The ordinary life of most adult parishioners of Holy Cross’s huge El Señor de la Esperanza Parish in the midst of Canto Grande, on the outskirts of Lima, consists in 6 long days of hard work away from home, or taking care of toddlers, elderly and infirmed so that others can go to work and put bread on the table at the end of the day. There are those, however, who without breaking the routine of their ordinary days set their sights on doing extraordinary things in the midst of that routine. These are the students of the parish’s School for Pastoral Leadership.
Most are adults, some well into their 60’s and beyond, and many haven’t sat behind a school desk for decades except to attend parent-teacher meetings at their children’s schools. Many of these students are a challenge for their professors. After a 12-hour day of work and a long bus-ride back home, lots fall asleep at their desks, and some simply don’t find time to finish reading the texts assigned or the homework that’s due.
But the expectations aren’t lowered in order to accommodate the tough conditions of their lives. Over their 3-year cycle of weekly night classes, they are required to take Christology, Ecclesiology, Bible, Prayer in Christian Life, Criteria and Values in Pastoral Leadership, Christian Social Doctrine, Mary in the Bible, etc. In addition, they are expected to attend four master classes during the year on current issues of the Church and State.
These folks don’t make this sacrifice in order to get a better job or increase their salary. For them the School for Pastoral Leadership opens the door to serving the parish and chapel communities as volunteer chapel coordinators, directors of liturgy and social action, Bible teachers, leaders in the ministry to the sick, etc. They become the ones who make the parish work—guaranteeing the essential services that are needed to get the gospel message around and to put it into practice. And all of this emerges out of the normal routine of their lives. In effect, these students place their ordinary time wholeheartedly at the service of the mission of the Church.
Fr. Don Fetters, C.S.C., is a member of the District of Peru, one of several foreign missions overseen by the United States Province. He is a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica blog reflecting on the work of Holy Cross in the missions. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross priests and brothers to extend the Good News of Jesus Christ across “borders of every sort,” including Peru.