It’s finally over! As of this afternoon, my wife is done coordinating the annual Sacramental Reception Season! In a few short weeks, it’ll be summer, and the stress that is mid-Spring in our family will be complete!
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me explain.
As Catholics, we’re used to the ins-and-outs of the liturgical calendar, with Advent and Lent as times of preparation, Christmas and Easter celebration, and Ordinary Time devoted to … being … ordinary?
Growing up with this distinctly Catholic perspective of time, I never appreciated how it appears to those on the other side of the parish secretary desk. Now that I’ve had a few years under my belt in parish and school catechesis, I have a very different outlook on things. Add to that that my wife also is a Parish Receptionist and Assistant Director of Religious Education and you get a unique perspective. Those of us involved in the pastoral work of the Church very often have a different calendar in our minds. Here are a few season you may not be aware of:
- Christmas Party Season, a.k.a. Advent – This one, the first event on the universal pastoral calendar, boils the blood of liturgical purists everywhere. I’ll admit, I’m not terribly comfortable with it, either. We’ve become accustomed to spending Christmas vacation with family, many of us traveling, so when do we celebrate Christmas with our friends? Why, of course, that must be what that pesky Advent Season is for! Huzzah! Artery-clogging treats for everyone! It’s not “O Come, O come” so much as it is “Going, going…” By the time Christmas comes around, my waistline has already increased 10% and my belt as a few new notches in it (not in the direction I was hoping). Other celebrations during this season: Catholic schools celebrate the Triduum of Semester Exams in mid-Advent and the last week of the season sees the busy planning of liturgical Christmas.
- Bloat Tuesday, a.k.a. Mardi Gras – The next season on the pastoral calendar is especially popular in Louisiana (my current state of residence as I find myself in exile from my native land of corn). It features these very odd parties with dancing gypsies, floats, and other oddities that have nothing to do with the Epiphany or Ash Wednesday (the two liturgical celebrations flanking this pastoral season). It does, however, have King Cake, which is very strong in Christian symbolism.
- Rush Week, a.k.a. Holy Week – The absolute busiest time of the year, without exception, is Holy Week. Busy, busy, busy. Not only are there a million or so liturgical celebrations requiring precise timing and coordination (I know one pastoral associate who sees home so rarely this week there’s a change of clothes in the office), but you begin to feel apathetic about every single one. It’s hard to be excited about something that reminds you of your job so much. That, I suppose, is a part of the spiritual cross of working for the Church. Tip: Go to Mass at a different parish, especially during the stressful periods. Of course, it all ends with the beautiful Easter Vigil. Hearing the Exsultet chanted this year (in the new translation!) made it all worthwhile.
- Sacramental Reception Season, a.k.a. First Reconciliation, Easter Vigil, First Communion, Confirmation – If you’re coordinated enough to be the Director of Religious Education (or similar) at your parish (or married to one), congratulations! You get the distinguished task of handling lots of young, perfectly behaved kids and catechumens, all of whom are ardently awaiting the reception of the sacraments with joy! Be prepared to work extremely hard for several weeks! This season will feature the following events: First Reconciliation practice, the First Reconciliation service, Easter Vigil (see Rush Week), First Communion practice, First Communion photos, the First Communion Mass, Confirmation practice, Confirmation photos, and the Confirmation Mass. Don’t forget all the paperwork you’re required by canon law to receive and record! Of course, it’s a lot of work, but you get the unforgettable privilege of bringing others closer to Christ, and God-willing, they’ll thank you in paradise!
- Bridal Season, a.k.a. June – What has the same color and destructive capacity as the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man, but is, in fact, a little bit shorter (and female)? A bride. My wife just started getting into coordinating weddings on the side (occasionally) and she hasn’t had any real doozies, but let’s face it, we all know what it can be like. If you’re the lucky guy or gal that gets to take care of the brides, enjoy! Remember: your purpose in all this is to make them happy, right?
- Curriculafest!, a.k.a. Summer – Every summer, I start out with a definitive plan for planning the plan of my next year’s curriculum plan. Yep. The first day of summer, I sit down and write for 8 hours straight. I get through several lesson plans. Then I crash. The second day of summer, I sit down and repeat. The eighth day of summer, my true love gave to me… (Seriously, how many of you were just thinking that?) Anyway, the eighth day of summer, my toddlers get out of daycare. My lesson planning precipitously declines, inversely proportional to the cries of “Daddy!” and “Poopy!” and “Uh-oh!” Crashing noises all around me, I typically take an ibuprofen for my mid-afternoon headache and try to push through the stress. There is no boot camp like trying the intense concentration of lesson planning while screaming children destroy every material thing you hold precious in this world.
- Permission Form Deadlines, a.k.a. Steubenville Conference Season – Summer just wouldn’t be summer if a group of adolescent, odoriferous, long-haired, Jesus-loving humans boarding a bus with you to attend a conference filled with adolescent, odoriferous, long-haired, Jesus-loving humans in an odoriferous room filled with long-haired Jesus-loving youth ministers acting like adolescents and keynote speakers who somehow managed to pull off the wardrobe trifecta of jeans and t-shirt, cowboy boots, and sport coat, all while looking like the only professional, mature people in the arena. Truthfully, I have a lot of respect for the Steubenville Youth Conferences. I’m friends with several of the hosts and they’re all great, but let’s face it, my description is accurate.
What say you, Church employees? Did I miss one?