St. James’ Practical Advice


Well, we’re back in Ordinary Time. While it might seem a little sad to return to green vestments, say good bye to the Regina Coeli, and put the Easter candle aside until the next baptism, I love Ordinary Time. I suppose when pressed I would admit I love all the liturgical seasons, just like I love all the meteorological seasons. I love them for what they are and when they are, but I wouldn’t want any of them year-round (sorry, San Diego). They each have a time and a place, which is precisely the wisdom of the Church calendar. We don’t have a year of Lent, nor do we have a year of Easter.

While the Ordinary of “Ordinary Time,” refers to ordered or numbered time (because the weeks are numbered), rather than the definition “every day, natural, normal, typical,” there is still the sense of a routine or normalcy to the daily life of the Church during this season. There is a comfort in remembering that God is present not just in the festive Easter season and the joys and high points, but in the routine and the habitual affairs of life.

This week, we have been reading from the epistle of St. James at daily Mass. It is a good book to read as we begin again in Ordinary Time, which was interrupted by the intensity of Lent and the joyfulness of Easter. Perhaps our prayer lives have become lax in the months since Lent. Maybe it’s difficult to continue our spiritual practices as summer comes and daily routines change. Let the beginning of this period of Ordinary Time be a chance to return, once again, to our spiritual goals and our plan of life.

The epistle of St. James is full of those reminders we all need to hear. Succinct and sometimes painfully direct, he tells his listeners the basics of spiritual living. Following Christ isn’t always about lofty goals and huge leaps and bounds in the spiritual life. More often, it is about dealing with our neighbors and holding our tongue. It is about disciplining our passions and embracing meekness and humility. It is about doing the right thing in our daily responsibilities and caring for those around us. It is about living not for ourselves, but for God.

In today’s reading, he commands us not to complain about each other. He reminds us to be honest and true to our word. Throughout his epistle, in his simple but frank way, he reminds us that our path to sanctity is filled with lots of little battles, lots of little struggles against our fallen humanity. Don’t gossip. Offer up sufferings. Stay on task. Pray.

The world has changed a lot in the last two thousand years, but the human heart hasn’t. Take time to sit with James’ letter and allow him to speak to your wounded heart, your failed attempts, your struggles in the spiritual life. And let us begin again, knowing that we have a Father who is ready to help our feeble attempts at sanctifying our daily lives.

It’s Ordinary Time. Let’s go be saints.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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