It’s that time of year in the life of a family when calendar squares begin to fill. Pencils in hand (because things change and it’s not quite time for pens yet), we grid in the soccer schedule, the “first day of” dates, the fall birthdays, the auditions, the new lessons. When finished, we stare in disbelief at how full it all looks. Yet that fullness rarely inspires a sense of abundance. Instead, there are alternate feelings of dread and disbelief. Sometimes, there is even fear. How in the world will all these things pull together for a life that is meaningful and not chaotic? May I suggest that the day-to-day rushing that seems so inevitable with growing families desperately needs intentional ritual?
Our children need routines. They thrive in structured time and ordered settings. We need it, too. Routines provide security; they calm the chaos, comfort us and make life at least a little predictable. Beyond routine, we need the richness of rituals. Rituals imbue ordinary time with a sense of grace. Both routines and rituals require discipline. The virtue applied to such discipline is rewarded almost immediately.
To create rituals in your life that will nurture you, begin with intention. Consider how your ritual will affect your day. Do you need a few moments in the morning to review your plans, collect yourself, to pray quietly and invite God into your agenda? (Hint: you do.) Create a ritual for that need. Awaken 15 minutes earlier. Brew a favorite beverage and pour it into a favorite cup. Sit in a particular chair, one that catches the morning light. Grant yourself a few moments of quiet, alert time that is focused and aware. Do it every day. There, you have a ritual.
After several days of practicing such discipline, your ritual will gain momentum. You’ll find that the morning focus continues to pay itself forward into the rest of the day. Where else shall we establish a ritual? Find something that is repeated daily and imbue it with some meaning and purpose. When you walk over the threshold of your office, do you bless the day and begin with integrity? Every day, can you establish the same movements of intention?
What about the drive home? We live in a traffic quagmire. Can you establish a ritual that divides the time and offers you an opportunity to transition from work to home peacefully? For the first few minutes, listen to news, catch up on the world events that happened during your workday. Then, with discipline, turn off the talking and the shouting and listen to music. Better yet, listen to the Divine Office app and pray Vespers.
Finally, spend the last 10 or 15 minutes in silence. Focus on the family waiting behind the door of your home. Pray about how you will give them the best of you, despite the fatigue that has come with a long day and seemingly longer drive home. Let the ritual carry you from the workaday world to the peace of home.
Similarly, if you take children to school, institute a subtle shift in that routine to bring gentle, grace-filled ritual. In the car or as you walk, informally review together the known plans of the day. This isn’t the time to troubleshoot or seek alternatives or solve the problem of the mean girl. Just get on the same page. Promise to pray for their days and assure them that you will hold them in your prayers all day long. Then, as you approach the sign that tells you you’re in a school zone and to slow down, let that be your family reminder to pray aloud for the day. Keep it short and simple, but do it every day at the same time. Let your rituals reassure, then be prepared to see how much more they can do.