Holydays, Holidays, and the Dog Days of August

News August 17, 2021

by Susan Abbott


Earlier this month I saw a cartoon with two little boys looking at the August calendar.  One said  to the other, “This is the best month for vacation because August doesn’t come with any holidays.  You have to make your own.”   Obviously the child was not Catholic, or, maybe he fell asleep in faith formation class, otherwise he would know that although August doesn’t have a holiday, it has a holyday, the Assumption of Mary.  We are reminded of this great feast every time we look at the beautiful stained glass window above the altar:  the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Assumption.   

Scripture scholars say that Mary was a young teenager when the angel told her that she would bear a son, Jesus. By the age of 50, she was a widow who had seen her only child, her son, crucified.  But in today’s Gospel, all of this is ahead of  her.   Today we hear that Mary, learning that her older cousin had conceived a son, went “in haste to the hill country” to help.  As always, Mary is the model of discipleship.  Mary’s  Magnificat, her response to Elizabeth’s greeting is one of the most beautiful passages in the Gospels:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;  my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…. the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.”. 

Mary’s trip to the hill country certainly  wasn’t a  holiday, but, getting back to our two cartoon characters, August is a great month to “make your own”  holiday.  The ‘dog days of August’ cry out for a few days or a week, for recreation and re-creation.  No matter how many squares are on the August calendar, surely, it is the shortest month.  Further affront, from August 1 to 31 we lose 23 minutes of daylight. (FYI: New Englanders know that February, with 28 days, is definitely the longest month.)  Some weeks ago Father Luis encouraged readers to take time to rest.  Great advice, worth repeating.  No one can survive for long on caffeine and deadlines.  The urgency of August is exacerbated by what we  know in our hearts to be true:  the new year begins not on January 1, but on the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Everything shifts into high gear.  Such calendar peculiarities make these August days so very precious, we dare not squander them.  Contemplation, fun, meaningful conversations, reading, sleeping, and  intentional periods of prayer are all necessary ingredients for wholeness and holiness. The  August clock is ticking. God does great things for each of us, every day.  We give thanks by taking time to stop and breathe, sleep and pray.  In Portal of the Mystery of Hope ,French poet and philosopher Charles Péguy wrote: “I don’t like the man who doesn’t  sleep, says God. Sleep is the friend of man. Sleep is the friend of God. Sleep may be my most beautiful creation. And I too rested on the seventh day”.  Tick tock.