Here we are, about to enter Ordinary Time. The liturgical season calendar page is turning. The Christmas season is all but in the rear view mirror now. Most of us are back into our routines of the Every Day, going about our business and fulfilling our responsibilities. The gray, bleakness of winter stretches before us – in the Northern hemisphere, at least – and it can be a struggle to find within and without that spirit of anticipation and joy we just experienced. It’s tough when temperatures are single digit, and barren trees and lifeless gardens blanket the landscape.
When I was a young child, I remember telling my mom, wouldn’t it great if Christmas was every day? Presents, cookies, [no school!], bright lights…magic all year round. She smiled and said, except Christmas would no longer be special, then, would it? After awhile, you’d no longer be looking forward to it. But it might be good to keep the spirit of Christmas for all twelve months of the year.
I’ve been thinking of this the past couple weeks – how can I cultivate that spirit throughout the year? Love, peace, generosity, kindness – these attributes and more are not just germane to Christmas, but are inherent in the life of every Christian. It may sound a bit trope-ish, but as the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love”. Cities on hills, lamps on stands and not under bushels and all that, too.
Now, I’m a process guy. I have found that for me, speaking spiritually, if there’s a system or procedure or schedule involved, I do better at it. Not perfectly, mind you, just better. Like the 3 PM Divine Mercy chaplet. Or ‘Called & Gifted’. Or a set adoration hour. I rock at those. Sure, I’ll stop, drop, and roll a rosary decade when asked, but most of the time, give me a process, and I’ll do well at it.
And that’s how I came up with this 12 months of Christmas idea. A play on the carol, sure, but it’s more than that (no weird combinations of birds, leaping lords, or piping pipers, in other words). I’ve combined living out the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit with the calendar, focusing on one each month.
12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, you ask? Okay, basic review here. There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are received at the Sacrament of Confirmation, and the gifts’ purpose is to sustain us in the moral life. We become disposed to being more open to God’s promptings, and we’re strengthened to do His will. A virtuous life is evidenced by the presence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. CCC 1832 reads:
“The fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”
12 fruits, 12 months – bingo! One each month. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
To keep things even easier peasier, I’m matching the first fruit, charity, with January, the second one with February, and so on down the line.
What’s the end goal? It’s to be a light in the darkness, a witness to the Catholic faith. Many, many people are drifting from moment to moment, or feeling anxious with each passing day. And yes, there is plenty to be anxious about, don’t get me wrong. Yet Christ tells us “Be not afraid”. This is my way of resisting being dragged into that vortex of hopelessness, instead of being fearful of what may or may not happen.
For January, then, I’m focusing on charity. Not exactly sure what it’s going to look like, but you know how it goes with things like this: when you ask God for help in any particular area of life, He provides you ample opportunities to practice it. And since it takes on average three weeks to form good habits, perhaps by year’s end I’ll be a slightly better Catholic than I am now. Not perfect, not angelic. Just a slightly better version.
Isn’t that the point? There’s a reason it’s called a path to holiness. It has to be walked. We aren’t beamed by teleporter to the Land of Holiness. We have to make our way along that narrow path each and every day. Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. In about 12 more months, it’ll be Christmas again. With God’s grace, I hope to live the Christmas spirit throughout the entire year.
Anyone want to join in?
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