September-October is one of my favorite “liturgical seasons” of the year. I put “Liturgical Season” in quotes as we are technically in the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time. But this time of year is when we commemorate Feast Days of certain mysteries of our faith and of certain Saints that have been particularly spiritually meaningful to me. Last weekend, September 5, was the Feast day of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Tomorrow, September 14, is the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, and the day after, September 15, is Our Lady of Sorrows. On September 23, we have the Feast of St. Padre Pio, a holy priest mystic with many supernatural miracles attributed to him, who lived in our modern century. Then, St. Wenceslaus, St. Jerome, the Feast of the Archangels (Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael), and of the Guardian Angels, of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi. October 7 is Our Lady of the Rosary (thus October sometimes being referred to as “The month of the Rosary,” hence, us usually communally praying the Rosary out loud before Mass in some of our parishes). And finally October 15 is St. Teresa of Avila.
I could write a whole book explaining to you why all these days are spiritually significant to me, and also other neat spiritual significances and connections. (Like the neat connection between the three St. Teresas. St. Therese of Lisieux was named after St. Teresa of Avila, and like her namesake joined the Carmelite Order and also was named with a “Doctor of the Church.” And St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta took her name after St. Therese of Lisieux). But unfortunately, that goes beyond what I have room for here, but take some time to get to know some of these Saints, and learn about these feast days!
On top of this, the cool season of autumn and the changing of leaves has always felt to me like a season of great anticipation, of new beginnings…starting a new school year and seeing beloved friends whom I had missed all summer, a time of beginning of new exciting adventures, and the coming of winter (which is a season that I, unlike many people, really love).
Thus because of their spiritual significance and the exhilarating feel of anticipation of adventure that autumn seems to bring to me, these days in this time of year always have felt like to me its own special little “Liturgical Season” within the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time. And then only a little over a year ago I learned about Ember Days. “Ember Days,” were a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday that were set aside in each season (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) as special days of fasting and prayer, especially to thank God for the fruits of the earth, of the harvest. But not only thanking God for the physical nourishment of the harvest, but also to especially thank God for the fruits of the harvest that are then used for our spiritual nourishment. For grapes and wheat (used for the Eucharist), olives (used for Holy Oils), and beeswax (used for candles). And in thanking God for the gifts of the harvest and those used in His redemptive and salvific work, they also became a special time to pray for priests and for vocations. As Jesus says after being moved with compassion for the crowds bringing their sick and poor before him, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-8).
The Fall Ember Days (or Embertide) begin the Wednesday following the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, which is tomorrow September 14, and thus the Fall Ember Days are observed this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. And I was very excited to learn that the Church has historically set aside some intentional time of prayer during this very season that has always been so profoundly significant to me on a personal spiritual level!
Thus, I invite and encourage you to do something to observe these Fall Ember Days. Spend a little extra time in prayer; pray especially for our priests (and for me, your pastor); offer some penance or fasting; and, maybe even have a glass of wine to thank God for the gifts of the grape harvest, not only for our enjoyment but also to be taken up by Him in the special work of salvation!
PS: If you’re interested in learning more about Ember Days, here are a couple of suggested sites:
PPS: All are invited to a special holy hour on Saturday, September 19 at 9:oo AM at St. Mark in Iowa Falls to observe Autumn Embertide. There will be Eucharistic Adoration and a reflection and shine readings.