By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published July 23, 2015
When our mom passed away seven years ago, we gathered her belongings from her apartment. My sister Mary brought most of them to her home in Atlanta, where they remained in a lot of boxes. She went through them, sorting out things she wanted to keep. At one point she showed me one of them. It is a desk calendar that Mom used to keep track of all kinds of things.
The calendar is from 1970, and as I browsed through the entries it I felt so much closer to the world that was our family back in those months. Mom wrote down the dates of our birthdays. She wrote down all kinds of reminders—dentist and doctor appointments, things she needed to buy, who she had to drive where and when, dates when she and dad played bridge with three other couples. They rotated Friday night bridge from house to house. There were a lot of dates for when our white
1966 Chevrolet had to go in for service. She also kept track of monthly expenses—college tuitions, allowances for my sisters and brothers and also reminders for a lot of church and family celebrations.
All in all, the entries gathered into one book comprised a wealth of activities that were the daily stuff of our ordinary day-to-day living in the year 1970. Her handwriting was beautiful. It would be a few more years before macular degeneration would take her sight and also the clear and precise flow of her written words.
Families know the joys of the high-end celebrations: the landmark anniversaries, the weddings, baptisms, birthdays, jubilees. But those dates derive their true significance from all the ordinary days that lead up to them. The real ingredients for those wondrous celebrations are the low-key details of everyday living. God is seemingly hidden in the flow of the ordinary, and we cannot experience him outside of the framework of our daily lives.
I do not know why Mom kept that diary. I suspect that she was not aware that she had it. She was not one to save things from the past and may have lost track of the calendar and forgotten about it. I am glad we have it. It holds a treasure for us, a gift from a heart that was given life and real wealth from a faithful response to what, at the time, seemed so ordinary and I am sure, on occasion, tiring.
The church celebrates seven sacraments—signs of God’s presence in our lives. They are special gifts: baptism, marriage, Holy Orders, confirmation, anointing of the sick, Eucharist, penance.
They reveal God’s presence in our lives.
Mom’s calendar is, for us, a sacramental gift. A gift she left behind, beautiful handwriting about small and great events, events that lovingly made us who we are and speak from the past as to what we are called to be: faithful to our days and all they contain.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.abbeystore.com.