As it says in the Good Book, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Likewise, the liturgical year was clearly made for mums who need a little magisterial oomph behind them when they try and whip their kids into shape, and not vice versa. A friend of mine takes this very effective approach with her own children, revealing:
“I just decreed that in our house, new Christmas toys are your own and you don’t have to share them until Candlemas. It sounds really plausible and official when you use the right terms.”
Eh? Eh? Brilliant. All you have to do is put on that “listen up, this is millennia of tradition talking here” tone of voice, and then do as you will. And the kids don’t know any better, because kids these days are so poorly catechised! And whose fault is that, eh, eh?
Oh, it’s mine. Well, moving along. Because let’s face it, this Catholic life is exhausting. Around and around goes the wheel, a little faster every year. If we can use some of those feasts and holy days to scoop up unwilling kids and drag them along for the ride, all the better. Let’s begin:
Feast of the Holy Family. Everybody knows that on the Feast of the Holy Family, the dad has to cook dinner, and do the dishes. Including pots and pans. Happy wife, happy life, happy feast day for the rest of Christendom for thousands of years. Of course once the poor fellow is done slaving in the kitchen, he gets to wash his sorrows down with a nice, cold beer. What brand? For St Joseph? VICTORIA BITTER
Epiphany. Epiphany is, as everyone knows, your very last day when it’s acceptable to send out — you thought I was going to say “Christmas cards,” but no. Everyone knows you’ve been taking a year off since 1992 and don’t even remember which corner the stamp goes in anymore. No, Epiphany actually marks the last calendar date when it makes any sense at all to send out your husband to buy Christmas confectionary on clearance, so you can sock it away for those unfortunate children who thoughtlessly chose to be born in January, when everyone is broke but there still has to be a birthday party with candy.
Ordinary Time. As we transition from Christmas into Ordinary Time, it is traditional for, nay, spiritually incumbent upon children to quit acting so weird at Mass. Seriously, now that it’s Ordinary Time, this is the cut-off date for any and all behaviour that can’t be considered ordinary, including taking off one’s special Sunday shoes and special Sunday socks so as to bite one’s special ratty toenails; using the bulletin to draw pictures of the priest as a pony; and quietly pulling all the stuffing out of the kneeler and just as quietly slipping it into one’s pants. (One can still go ahead and sing Make Me a Panel of Your Cheese for St Francis, though. That’s an all-year kind of thing.)
Ash Wednesday. After Ordinary Time comes, of course, Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, when all Catholic children who wish to attain heaven must, as Sean Connery would say, get their ashes in church. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but it’s a little-known fact that that any mother who drags three or more kids to Mass in the middle of the week not only gets a plenary indulgence, but when she gets home, she can have an extra glass of wine at least. Even if she gave up alcohol for Lent. Especially if she gave up alcohol. And you can all skip brushing your teeth, as an extra reminder of our moral decay or something.
The Old Hot Wax Reverse Indulgence. If you’re lucky enough to attend the Easter Vigil with its glorious proliferation of lit candles handed out willy nilly to children who wouldn’t normally be trusted with an overly-sharp crayon, you may want to remind your precious progeny that, according to tradition, for every drop of melted wax that somehow accidentally and completely unintentionally lands on the tender neck skin of your half-asleep brother, you get an extra eleven hundred years in purgatory. Personal revelation, that’s how. No, you’re not required to believe it, but are you really willing to risk it?
And the wheel goes ’round and ’round. After Easter it’s just basically a blur of extra things you’re supposed to bake and do and arrange and get dressed up for until it’s suddenly Christmas again.
Oh, Lord, I am so tired.
Ah, well. Why should I cry? All people are like grass, and so is the calendar, all the days, all the stresses and strifes and silly jokes. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. All joking aside, that’s a good spot to stop this wheel for a moment. Take comfort in the Lord, for He doesn’t care if you have holes in your tights. Blessed be His name.