Vision in ordinary times

On Ordinary times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

I miss shopping for clothes with my mom.

Some of that stems from that too-familiar ache known to all those who have loved and lost. The desire to run an ordinary errand, exchange a quick phone call or share a cup of coffee together just one more time is a deep longing with a permanent home in my heart – and the hearts of so many I know.

But there was something unique about shopping for clothes with my mom. She was an accomplished seamstress. When we shopped together, she had an eye for salvaging clothes that I, in my quick judgement, was so often inclined to reject.

I could look at a dress and, after a passing glance, reject it because the sleeves were too long, the buttons were the wrong color, the collar was awkward, or an otherwise tailored skirt had an inexplicable, oversized bow at the waist. I could look at a jacket and move along quickly because it had bulky shoulders, an awkward pleat or a flimsy zipper.

But, my mom did not see the forlorn inhabitants of the clearance racks the same way I did. In her mind’s eye, she could see what they would look like if she tailored the sleeves, found better new buttons, replaced a collar, turned a bow to a belt, streamlined shoulders, sewed up a pleat and switched a flimsy zipper for a classier closure. More often than I can recall, I would come home with something new to wear – and my mother would come home with a sewing project.

I miss that.

I miss the example of someone who could, in something as trivial as clothing, see not merely what was, but what could be. Someone who could see not merely what was wrong, but what could be right. Someone who could see that a quick judgement may mean missing out on something very good.

I wonder if there is something in those ordinary shopping trips to teach about life and the way in which it can be all too easy to see in others – and in ourselves – only what is and not what could be.

Yes, there is a real danger in relationships and friendships when we see others merely as works-in-progress, not accepted for who they are but only for who they might be if they could only change to our liking. But I learned on those long-ago shopping trips that it is also dangerous to see only that which is before us without also seeing potential and optimism about all that could lie ahead if we seek out the good that is so often hidden away.

Lucia A. Silecchia

Maybe I also learned something about God. I like to think that the God who loves us “as we are” is also a God who sees our best selves – not just the flaws and failures that makes those who love less perfectly turn away. I like to think that the God who made us is also a God who sees not only the way we are today, but all we can be tomorrow. I like to think, too, that with God’s help we might also be able to see ourselves and others with eyes a bit more like His.
There are still days when I wear a favorite outfit and see my mother’s small stiches tucked away. When I see these relics of repairs and remodels of yesteryear, I am grateful.

Yes, I am grateful that awkward bows and tacky buttons have been replaced with something better. But I am more grateful for that subtle example of one who could say “yes” when a quick “no” may have been the easier, first reaction. This is the blessed, better vision that can brighten our ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Email her at

Respecting life in ordinary times

On Ordinary times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

Nearly ten years ago, Pope Francis recounted a story from his youth. He spoke of a man who lived with his wife, children and aging father. As the elderly father’s abilities declined, he started to eat sloppily while dining with the family. His son lost his patience. He got a small table, placed it in the kitchen and left his father alone in the kitchen at the little table, to dine messily and alone.

Soon thereafter, the man came home to find his own young son constructing a small table. When he asked the boy what it was for, the lad’s innocent reply was that he was building a table for his father to use when he himself grew old and would be banished to dine alone.

When I first read this story – and whenever I have contemplated it since – it has always held an exquisite sadness. The contours of this narrative are achingly common. Although the story was told as part of a teaching on respect for older persons, it seems equally poignant for Respect Life Month, observed throughout October.

Lucia A. Silecchia

There are three intertwined tragedies in Pope Francis’ vignette – tragedies worth contemplating this month.

The most obvious tragedy is that of the elderly man. He was a victim of the “throwaway culture” that tossed him aside when he became an inconvenience and required care that was unpleasant or difficult to offer. Sadly, this happened not in a crowd of strangers but within the very heart of his own family. A child discarded before being born, a grandmother in a nursing home who yearns for a visitor, and a person whose mind works differently than that of others can all be, metaphorically, banished away with him if there is no one to embrace them with love.
This month is a time to consider all those who, like the aged man in the story, are tossed aside in a busy world with no time for those who are unborn, ill, elderly or weak in the myriad ways in which humans experience frailty.

The second tragedy is that of the young boy. Children see and hear everything that their elders say and do, and they learn by example. In this tale, the boy obviously loves and respects his father because he wants to imitate him in all he does. He has learned well and is prepared to grow up to be just like his dad. Yet, how sad it is that the lesson he has learned is one that devalues a life that is inconvenient when he could have been taught how to serve those in need. How sad it is that he will not have his meals with his grandfather and share the bond between generations that binds families together. How sad it is that, like so many young children, he will be kept away from those who suffer and will spend his youth only with those who are healthy and strong. How sad it is that he may learn these lessons on life not just from a heartless world but from his very own parents.

This month is a time to reflect upon what we teach children about respect for life. They hear what we say but, far more importantly, they see what we do.

The third tragedy is that of the man in the middle who is both son and father. He is not entirely the villain he seems to be. He is, after all, caring for his father in his own home and is providing him with his material and physical needs. He may be struggling with the demands of providing for his own family and may simply be following the examples he saw in his own youth. The story does not go on to report what his reaction was to his son’s carpentry project and whether he changed the way he thought of his father. I like to think he did.

He is a tragic figure too. Like so many in the peak of strength, he does not realize that a vulnerable time will come for him as it does for all of us. It is easy to overlook those whose lives are fragile if we do not see how vulnerable each of us is. Yet, I know I was once unborn. If I am blessed with the gift of years, I will grow old. In between, there will be the illnesses and unknowns that fill my life and all of our lives. They may lie just around an unseen corner.

This month is also, then, a time to reflect upon the ways in which those who seem weakest and those who seem strongest are, in fact, linked together as part of the same family.

The theme for the 2023 Respect Life Month centers on “radical solidarity.” This begins with radical solidarity with women and the children they carry. To live and witness to such radical solidarity begins with a commitment to turn away from the throwaway culture and to respect life in all of its stages in all the days of our ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Email her at

Wisdom of ordinary time

On Ordinary Times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

If it is graduation season, then it is graduation speech season too.

High schools, colleges, and even elementary schools seek out high profile speakers to impart their wisdom to graduates – or, at least, they aim to. I am a bit dubious about what a pampered celebrity or popular sports figure could possibly know about the life of an average graduate, and I am disappointed when political speakers bring disheartening division to what should be a final moment of unity for a class that has lived four or more years together.

Lucia A. Silecchia

When I think about the wisdom imparted to me in the speeches at my graduations, I cannot recall what any speaker said to my classmates and me.

What I have recalled, through decades of university life, is all the wisdom imparted to me by those who did not tell me how to live a good and great life, but by those who showed me how to do so. With prayerful gratitude, I can remember so many people whose lives well lived told me more than the most eloquent of speeches ever could. In the quiet, humble ways so loved by Christ, their lives were silent speeches I will never forget.

So, if you are graduating this year, enjoy your graduation and the speeches given that day. I hope that they inspire you to goodness, greatness, and holiness.

However, I hope that you will also think about what you have been taught by the people you met along the way. In their silence, not in their speeches, what did you learn from:

  • The maintenance worker who, after long days at work, left for a second job to support his family and see his children attend college and live the dreams he dreamt for them?
  • The staff member battling a serious illness who still spent time patiently helping students with problems that must have seemed so trivial to her?
  • The teacher who taught an early morning class with grace and good cheer after spending most of her evening awake with a parent suffering with dementia and unable to sleep – or to recognize the daughter who kept vigil with her?
  • The campus chaplain who became the voice of hope and courage when public tragedy struck campus – or private heartache struck any member of the campus community?
  • The fellow student who made sure that a classmate who went home after the sudden death of a parent did not fall behind, and shared notes, wisdom and review time with kind generosity?
  • The server in the university cafeteria who greeted everyone with love, asked how all were doing – and really, truly wanted to know?
  • The quiet classmate who found the courage to confront a bully, and in an instant changed the culture of the playing field?
  • The student athlete who lost a critical match and, with grace and good sportsmanship, congratulated a victorious opponent with genuine admiration for a job well done?
  • The roommate who prayed quietly at the break or close of day and whose example reawakened your own faith?
  • The professor whose family extended a Thanksgiving invitation to anyone who could not travel home for the holiday weekend?
  • The classmate who gave birth to a child – planned or unplanned – and did not sacrifice motherhood for mortarboard? All those who supported her with material and intangible support?
  • The professor who noticed that you were not yourself and cared enough to ask what was wrong?

I have known some of these people. Others have told me about some of them.

The truth is that schools and universities are filled with people such as these. They are people who will often not be well known, whose names will not be announced as graduation speakers, and who will not be receiving honorary degrees.

Yet, if you are graduating, I hope you will think about those whose lives touched yours and whose lives were loving lectures without words. If you can, thank them with your words and with your prayers. No matter how eloquent your graduation ceremonies may be, it is those such as these who impart the wisdom of ordinary time.

May God bless them, and the class of 2023!

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Email her at

The spirit of ordinary time

Lucia A. Silecchia

On Ordinary Times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

If you enter a church and find the sanctuary decked out in red flowers, chances are that, unless it is Christmas, the parish has just celebrated Confirmation. This is particularly true in spring when so many such celebrations take place in the wake of Easter.

I wonder, though, if this Sacrament is in danger of being deeply underappreciated.

Unlike Communion and Reconciliation, Confirmation is celebrated only once in a lifetime. Thus, it is not repeatedly recalled in such a tangible way.

Unlike Holy Matrimony and Ordination, Confirmation does not bring forth an obvious reorientation of daily life and the organization of that life to meet the demands that come with a new state of life.
Unlike Baptism, it does not come with such constant reminders as the Baptismal candle prominently placed in every church or the annual renewal of Baptismal vows at Easter or the reminder of Baptism at every Christian funeral.

Unlike the Anointing of the Sick, it is often celebrated amidst the myriad distractions and angsts of teenage life rather than in those days when the mind and heart are intensely oriented toward the spiritual.
It is also centered on the Holy Spirit, perhaps the most intangible member of the Holy Trinity.

Yet, when considering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of that Spirit, and the great promise of strength that comes with it, there may be more that can be done to emphasize the importance of this Sacrament for those receiving it this year, those for whom Confirmation was a long-ago celebration, and for the life of a parish as a whole. So, perhaps:

• If space allows, all parishioners should be invited to and urged to attend the parish’s celebration of Confirmation to remember their own celebration, hear the beautiful prayers of Confirmation, and support the newly confirmed with their presence and their prayers. Attend if you can and recall the graces you received that special day of your own life.

• Consider hosting a parish wide celebration each year for those who are confirmed – perhaps on the Feast of Pentecost or on a Sunday close to the Confirmation celebration. This can be an occasion for all to rejoice in the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit.

• Occasionally the beautiful words of the Confirmation rite might be printed in the parish bulletin or website so that those who last heard these words long ago can have a chance to reflect on them once again.

• Confirmation sponsors may consider all the ways they can help the one they sponsored grow in wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Often, godparents are chosen for their critical role because of their relationships with the parents of the infant to be baptized. Typically, however, when a teenager or adult is being confirmed, he or she chooses the sponsor. Hopefully, those special relationships will inspire sponsors to play active roles in the lives of faith of those they presented for Confirmation. Perhaps the anniversary of Confirmation day, or the Feast Day of the Confirmation patron saint can be particular occasions to renew and strengthen that commitment.

• To the extent possible, the years after Confirmation might be given greater attention. All too often, Confirmation can become a day that marks the end of religious education rather than the beginning of a newer and deeper life of faith. Those who lead parish organizations might consider how to reach out to the newly Confirmed to play an active role in parish life. Yes, this may mean a vibrant youth and young adult ministry program. But it should also involve real invitations for the newly confirmed to join every other activity and form of service that is part of parish life.

• Planning for Pentecost Sunday – celebrated on May 28 this year – might include ways to recall the celebration of Confirmation, remember what it meant, and pray for continued openness to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

• If those to be Confirmed are still teenagers or younger, their parents – the first teachers of the faith – have a sacred role to play in helping them to prepare, by sharing with them a strong witness of a faith-filled life and prioritizing their growth in faith above all the other demands on their time.

• Likewise, godparents should accompany their godchildren as they journey toward Confirmation. With the intimate connection between Baptism and Confirmation, this support can be essential.

My own Confirmation was decades ago. I have happy memories and some photographs in which I am wearing a red robe and a white felt stole bearing the name of my patron saint, “Ann.” I wish I remembered more. However, with every passing year, I get a bit more grateful for that long ago day and what happened on it.

Perhaps as individuals and as parish families this can be the year to celebrate Confirmation and its important role in the life of Baptized Christians and in the very life of the church herself. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, these men who had trembled and hidden in fear were strengthened to do great things boldly and bravely for the rest of their days. May we seek ways to more fully embrace the Holy Spirit in our own lives and to rejoice in the way it fills our ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Email her at

Anniversaries in ordinary times

By Lucia A. Silecchia
With the arrival of Easter, one of the greatest joys in the lives of parishes around the world is the opportunity to welcome new sisters and brothers in Christ through the sacred celebrations at the great Easter Vigil. To all who celebrate this profound moment this year, welcome! May the graces flowing from the waters of Baptism, the sustenance of the Eucharist and the life of the Holy Spirit fill your soul now and always.

Lucia A. Silecchia

My own welcome to you is filled with great gratitude.

Each year, the faith-filled witness of catechumens and candidates is an inspiration to the parishes that became your spiritual homes and the parishioners who filled the candle-lit pews that evening. I hope that you know how much it means to see you bring your enthusiasm, commitment, joy and devotion to a faith I can too often take for granted because it seems so familiar.

But, if this time of year marks the welcome of new members, that also means that this is the time when many others are celebrating the anniversaries of their own Easter Vigil welcomes. They are marking one year or many years since they, too, were received into the embrace of a faith ever ancient and ever new. To you, happy anniversary! I hope that you will celebrate with great joy.

I mark the date of my own Baptism with gratitude to my parents, godparents and all who have helped me along life’s way since that long ago July when I was five weeks old. Alas, however, I have no recollection of that day.

I hope, though, that you who came to this celebration as adults remember that day with joy and celebrate your anniversaries in special ways.

I hope that you have become active members of the parishes you joined that special day – and all the parishes you have called home since then.

I hope that the godparents and sponsors who supported you as you began your faith journey continue to walk with you in that faith.

I hope that if life has had difficult moments since then, that your faith has sustained you and the sacraments strengthened you.

I hope that if life has had joyous moments since then, that your faith has been at the center of your happiness.

I hope that when the excitement of your first Easter Vigil passed, the same spirit that guided you to the church inspires your desire to learn more and understand more deeply the faith you first professed that night.

I hope that the members of the parish family who welcomed you with joy continue to be your companions on your journey through this life.

I hope that you have remained powerful witnesses to others as you live out your own life of faith and inspire others to seek greater closeness to God just as others inspired you.

I hope that this year, as you see others make the same commitments you once made, you will support them with your prayers and welcome in the special way only you can.

Thank you for the “yes” that brought you to the faith we share, the hope we treasure, and the love that God alone can give. As we celebrate Easter joy, I hope that you will remember your anniversary, and invite others to share it with you in celebration.

Please remember the joy of that “yes” – whether it was last year, or many years ago. I hope that the joy of that “yes” sustains you through all of your ordinary times.

Happy Anniversary!

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at

The miracle of ordinary time

By Lucia A. Silecchia

Several weeks ago, I was visiting a parish not my own for Mass on a Sunday morning. I sat about a third of the way back – on the left had side as I usually do. When I came in, I noticed some young children sitting a few rows behind me. I did not pay too much attention to them during Mass because they were remarkably quiet.

But then … we reached the sacred moment of the Consecration. The bells rang and the Blessed Sacrament was elevated in that holy moment I so often take for granted. At that exact instant, there was a small voice from a young child who said, clearly and simply, “wow.”

Maybe he was reacting to the bells. Maybe he was impressed by something entirely unrelated to Mass. Maybe one of his siblings had done something that caught his attention. Maybe his parents were embarrassed by his exuberance. Maybe I should have been critical of the way he broke the sacred silence.
But I was grateful.

Lucia A. Silecchia

I was grateful for that tiny voice that said “wow.” He drew my attention to the fact that I had just witnessed something awesome for which “wow” seems to be the only right reaction. It was a reaction that recognized that what he, and I, and we had just seen was a miracle far beyond our comprehension, and yet within our grasp.

We had just seen the miracle that, through God’s lavish generosity, happens every moment of every day in grand cathedrals and silent chapels in every corner of the globe. It is the miracle that has happened for nearly two millennia.

As an adult, I know with my mind what happens at Mass. Sometimes, though, the heart and soul can lag behind. They can fail to see how glorious that miraculous, sacrificial gift is. Sometimes, the heart and soul need to hear “wow” to remember what awe really means.

The Catholic Church in the United States is in the first year of the National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival’s aim is “to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery.” As the years of the Revival unfold, the invitation to delve more deeply into the heart of this “great mystery” will take many forms in our dioceses and in our parishes.

Certainly, the aim of restoring understanding is a critical first step in bringing about a fuller appreciation for the great gift of the Eucharist and the reality that it is, truly, Christ Himself. If this understanding leads to greater devotion, the Revival will have been a great gift to the church in our time.

Yet, my tiny friend’s “wow” leads me to think that understanding and devotion are but the first two steps on the journey to awe.

My tiny friend’s “wow” was the invitation to stop taking this daily miracle for granted and really notice what happens.

My tiny friend’s “wow” expressed the grateful reverence and reverent gratitude that should not belong solely to the young. It belongs to all who rejoice in this great miracle of ordinary time.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at

Surrendering ordinary times

By Lucia A. Silecchia

As 2022 came to an end, so too the earthly life of Pope Benedict XVI drew to its close. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.”

In the days and weeks to come, much will be said about his legacy as Pope and his impact as a leading theologian of his era. I will be reflecting on that myself. As a lawyer and not a theologian, I have studied Pope Benedict’s writings on the social issues of our time to see what they may mean for pressing questions of law and public policy. I have found in them – particularly in his trio of encyclicals – a deep well from which many will continue to draw deep insights on the moral roots of modern maladies.

Personally, however, Pope Benedict’s passing has given me insights on something else – a complement to lessons learned from his predecessor almost eighteen years ago. Both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI taught me, and the world, something profound about how to face the end of life.

Lucia A. Silecchia

St. John Paul II is the first pope I truly remember. A relatively young man when he became pope, he captivated the world with his strength, energy, peripatetic journeys to the ends of the earth, and his role on the world stage through some of the most pivotal events of the late twentieth century.

The early images of St. John Paul II showed a vigorous man on ski slopes, alighting airplanes, and with agility, kissing the ground as he entered new countries for the first time.

Yet, as he grew older, St. John Paul II showed us all, in a very public way, what it is like to suffer through illness. So often, those who are ill, frail and approaching death are hidden away. They can too often be separated from friends and family who no longer visit because it is difficult to see loved ones change. Many want to remember those in declining health “as they really were” – without realizing that when we are weak and suffering we are still, truly, who we “really” are.

I remember the very last images released of Pope St. John Paul II. They showed a man weakened by illness and bereft of the robust energy that had marked the earlier years of his papacy. Yet, in that he showed the world the great dignity of those who suffer on the way to eternal life. It is unlikely most of us will ever approach death in such a public way. However, suffering and infirmity is part of our common humanity.

From St. John Paul II, I learned a great deal about the acceptance of suffering, the importance of keeping those who suffer at the center of our lives and not at the margin, and the dignity of those who are facing their final illnesses and the physical deprivations that accompany that journey.

From Pope Benedict XVI, I learned another lesson – the importance of prayer as preparation for passage from this life. When he shocked the world with his resignation nearly a decade ago, Pope Benedict XVI turned from a very public life of action to a secluded life of prayer and contemplation. His prayer was a way to serve the church through a very powerful way vastly different from the way he had served the church through so many decades of his life.

More recently, however, public statements and reports to the press have made it clear that Pope Benedict XVI was also deep in prayer in preparation for the end of his own life when he – like all of us – would meet his God.

In that, I learned a second valuable lesson. When I look ahead, I make plans for how I will live if I am blessed with the gift of years. I think about my physical health, financial security, and what my last wishes might be for myself and my family. These things still do not cross my mind very often, but I understand the practical wisdom in attending to them with care. From Pope Benedict, I have learned that it is not merely the practical and physical planning that need attention. Rather, time spent in prayer is the often neglected and best preparation for a happy death.

It is unlikely that most of us – unless called to a contemplative vocation – will willingly make such a dramatic surrender of the active life to devote the final decade of our earthly life to prayer. Yet, if it is in prayer that we better come to know and love God, then there can be no better preparation for eternity than growing to know and love the One with whom we hope to spend that eternity. From Pope Benedict XVI I saw that lesson lived.

These two Popes – collaborators in life and in prayer – will be remembered for what they did, wrote, said and decided during their lives. But for their fellow pilgrims, the very different lessons they taught about life’s end were their final gifts and blessings.

Thank you both for the ways you surrendered your ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at

Remaking ordinary time

By Lucia A. Silecchia

She was selling her wares at a rural autumn festival – the hand-knitted scarfs, sweaters, baby clothes and blankets that she made to sell to those of us gathered around her table to admire her creations.

I had purchased a few things from her last year – for myself and for loved ones. So, I was glad to see that she was back. Patience is not a strong suit of mine. Hence, my admiration for those who take so much time to make something beautiful by hand is particularly great. This year, I bought a blanket knitted with some favorite colors in a joyful design.

Lucia A. Silecchia

There was a fortunate, brief lull in the activity around the table – interrupted only by a young woman who stopped by to buy a dinosaur hat that, somehow, she managed to wear with style. The chill in the air, perhaps, prompted this otherwise unlikely fashion choice.

In that interlude, I asked how long it took to make a scarf, or a baby blanket, or, yes – a dinosaur hat. The friendly artisan gave me her best estimates. But then she told me that it could take much longer because sometimes she found herself in the midst of a project, would look at it honestly, decide it was not right, unravel it and begin again.

I suppose it should not have surprised me that someone who created such beautiful things would have a bit of the perfectionist in her. Yet, it also struck me that it must be difficult to look at something that had taken so much time and effort to make and be willing to unravel it all and start anew.

I wonder, though, if there is great wisdom in having the strength to do just that. To make a change and to unravel errors, misplaced values and mistaken priorities takes grace and strength. To start afresh without clinging to the false starts of the past is a gloriously difficult challenge.

Perhaps, as the days shorten and another year is winding down, the knitter’s wisdom may have a place. When we start to look back at the year that is drawing to a close and prepare for the excitement of a new year with its fresh starts and resolutions, it is easy to tinker around the edges of things and make some small adjustments to the patterns of everyday life.

Yet, sometimes in life, there can be an invitation to do more and to make more radical new beginnings.
I suppose that I would never have noticed if the blanket I bought had defects in it. “Pretty good” would have been good enough for me. Yet, it would not have been good enough for the talented woman who knitted it together. She knew that sometimes starting over was the best way to move beyond “pretty good.”

Maybe in this season of joyful hope and new plans, a prayer for the grace to unravel the old and begin again is a prayer worth praying.

A blanket, hat or sweater created from the unraveling of imperfect ones are beautiful things. Yet, we have also been promised that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” 2 Cor. 5:17. I have to think that a newly created son or daughter of God is far more beautiful.

So, with gratitude for the good example of a knitter willing to unravel the old and reweave the new, I hope she is an inspiration to do the same and remake our ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at

The seasons of ordinary time

By Lucia A. Silecchia

Recently, I enjoyed one of my favorite rites of autumn – the search for perfect pumpkins for home, office, and anywhere else that might be brightened with glorious gourds. In a long drive through quaint corners of the countryside, I relished the splendor that is autumn.

Yes, the pumpkins were the excuse for the journey. But the trip was made more beautiful by the showy splash of autumn surrounding the corn fields gone gray and the farmhouses hung with Halloween wreaths. There was enough of a crisp chill to announce that summer was gone. Yet, the bright sun that bounced off the red, orange and gold in the trees heralded a new season with a loveliness all its own. I rejoiced in the simple beauty of a world made new.

Lucia A. Silecchia

It will not be long until I marvel again when I awaken to the first snow that dusts my city streets. The silent brightness of that blanket, the sound of my neighbors’ shovels that beckons me out of bed, and the hot chocolate I promise myself when I am back inside are all part of a new type of wonder. (I would rather ignore the icy sidewalks and high heating bill that will follow!) In this, I will rejoice again in the simple beauty of a world made new.

Just when the snowy season starts to lose its charms, there will be shy crocuses rising tentatively from the earth, faint traces of green in lawns coming back to life and trees getting ready to burst forth in the lacy splendor of spring. As the days lengthen and the sun grows brighter, I will rejoice again in the simple beauty of a world made new.

While I might, in the fullness of May, doubt that I would ever want to bid farewell to spring, a day will come when the days last long into the night, tomatoes ripen on the vine, and the beach beckons. Summer will hold joys of its own, and yet again I will rejoice in the simple beauty of a world made new.

I am deeply grateful to live in a corner of the world where seasons change around me and every few months life feels different.

Yet, it is not just in the world around us when seasons change. Life, too, has its own seasons.
Some of the people I admire most are those who have the faith and hope that allows them to welcome each new season of life with the same joy I have when I welcome the new seasons of the world around me.

Some seasons of life are filled with excitement and eager anticipation as the start of the adventures of a new school, new job, new home, marriage and parenthood. Some of those that are most important are those we do not remember well, like the transition from infant to toddler. Some are filled with angst – the so-called terrible twos and the terrible teens – and others with peace. Some seasons change of our own volition when we choose a new path. Other seasons come unwelcomed and unbeckoned.

Some are seasons of dreams fulfilled, and others are seasons when a dream moves out of view. There are seasons of suffering and loss that come to each life, and seasons to surrender the things to which we cling. There are seasons that are filled with companionship and those when, for a time, we find ourselves walking alone.

In the depth of our hearts, there are those seasons when we walk closely with God, and other seasons with the taste of the “dark night of the soul.”

As years pass and I look back at the ways in which life’s seasons have changed, I can see that there is, indeed, something to be grateful for in each of them. At the time, some have seemed to me far more beautiful than others. Yet, in their own way, each season of life made my own heart new – whether I wanted it to or not.

I hope that as I watch autumn unfold and winter follows, it will be a reminder to cherish each season of life – to thank God for the blessings it brings, to ask Him for strength through what it may take away, and say a trusting “Amen” to every season of ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at

The rest of ordinary time

On Ordinary Times
By Lucia A. Silecchia

Whenever someone asks how I am, one of my most frequent replies is “Good, but busy.” That is rarely more true than it is in September’s back-to-school season.

For those whose lives ebb and flow with the school year, as does mine, autumn bursts into our lives with a rapid increase in the events, activities, gatherings and obligations that will again fill our days.

For those whose days are not directly driven by school life, there is still something about the fall that brings a rapid new rhythm to life as parish activities, clubs, sports teams and community events get underway after a hiatus. Indeed, after the past two years, this return to community life seems to have an extra urgency about it.

Lucia A. Silecchia

The rapidly filling pages of my calendar are welcome to me since I like the busy-ness of life. Yet, there is also much to be said for the wisdom of rest.

The commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath,” and the Biblical traditions of sabbaticals and jubilees are reminders that time is sacred. In a particular way, they are a reminder that there are certain times that deserve to be safeguarded from the demands of our daily lives.

The Catholic Church proclaims the dignity of the work, the value of labor and the importance of treating workers with respect and concern for their well-being and that of their families. A critical demand of church leaders through the decades has been ensuring that workers are free on the Sabbath to worship God and to be with their loved ones. As St. John Paul II wrote in Laborem Exercens, his encyclical on human work, workers have a “right to rest” that “involves a regular weekly rest comprising at least Sunday.” This Sunday rest from work would allow the worker to meet obligations to God on a day of worship.

He went on to say that “man’s work too not only requires a rest every seventh day, but also cannot consist in the mere exercise of human strength in external action; it must leave room for man to prepare himself, by becoming more and more what in the will of God he ought to be, for the rest that the Lord reserves for his servants and friends.“

These words are worth considering as life fills up again. As demands on our time increase, it is tempting – and can often even feel necessary – to treat Sunday just like any other day. This would let us catch up in a fast-paced world and not fall behind in what seems to be a constant seven-day whirlwind of shopping, working, answering emails and doing the work that just did not get done in the six workdays of the week.
School sports and similar activities – good as they may be in their own right – split families apart on Sundays as they race in different directions. Sunday can all too easily become merely the start of the new work week.

Yet maybe the start of the new season of busyness is a time to resolve to keep Sundays holy, to keep them sacred, and to appreciate the wisdom of a God who rested on the seventh day.

In a paradoxical way, this season of new busy-ness is launched with Labor Day, the civic (but not meteorological!) end to summer. Since 1894, when President Grover Cleveland signed a bill establishing our national Labor Day, it has been celebrated as a federal holiday honoring the contributions of workers to the social and economic life of the nation. One of the most significant achievements of the secular labor movement was the drive toward the 5-day work week. This should, in theory, free modern laborers for the worship and re-creation of a Sabbath rest. Yet, in a sad irony, we often surrender this freedom to the temptations to many things that creep into our Sundays.

Maybe this year, as I watch the pages of my calendar fill up, I will take a special look at those things with which I fill my Sundays to see if they honor God and serve my loved ones. I also hope to do so with appreciation for the ability to do so … something that I know so many do not have.

I hope you will have the chance, too, to celebrate Sundays as a slice of the extraordinary that comes to each week of our ordinary time.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at