Liturgically the seven weeks beginning with the Easter vigil and extending to Pentecost Sunday – celebrated this year on June 9 – are known as the Easter season.
Many sacraments are celebrated during this time, from First Holy Communion for youngsters to the Holy Spirit welcoming teenagers to adulthood in Confirmation, so people sometimes call this period the ‘season of sacraments.’
“In all this flurry of activity we are reminded of our own reception of the sacraments,” says Katie Dawson, director of the Office of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “It is good to focus on what we’re really doing here – this is a time that stresses the important recognition of how God breaks through into our lives – rather than accepting it as just a good excuse for a party.”
Be open to God’s love
Dawson is quick to acknowledge that we live in a material world full of distractions. We can become busy with so many activities that we are largely unaware of how greatly God loves us.
“One of the aspects of the sacraments we often mention is grace,” she notes. “Grace helps us understand that God is working in our lives in a particular way.” Grace, from Latin, is defined as ‘the pure gift of love.’
“We must seek moments of opportunity to encounter Him to recognize His love for us, especially in the times when Jesus is uniquely ours,” she says. “Saint Thomas Aquinas said that grace will only affect us to the degree we are properly disposed to receive it.”
The saint’s description helps us understand why some Catholics can attend Sunday Mass week in and week out and not especially change while, when we truly open ourselves to God’s grace, we allow the possibility of real transformation.
Experience the joy of the sacraments
In Matthew 7:7, Dawson notes, the disciple writes that if we knock, the door shall be opened and if we seek, we shall find. “The funny thing is,” she says, “God gives us grace whenever we ask for it. If we especially ask God for the grace to return to Him or the grace to restore our relationship with Him or improve our relationships with others, He grants it.”
As we witness our young children receive the Eucharist for the first time, we experience their joy. “They are joyful about receiving Jesus,” she says. “Their excitement reminds us to be attentive, to make the space in our lives to prepare to receive Him.”
Rather than racing around to get to Mass at the last second, Dawson advises that we prepare to arrive at Sunday services early enough to ask God to prepare us to be changed.
Become who God intends you to be
“We are supposed to become what we receive – that’s the whole point of the Eucharist,” she explains. “We must ask God to help us be prepared to welcome Him into ourselves. We must become transformed, to become Jesus and His presence in the world.”
Fathers of the early Church spoke about being ‘divinized’ by the Holy Eucharist, Dawson notes. “We are made like God in receiving the Eucharist,” she adds. “It’s a huge responsibility, and yet we just go to communion so casually.”
Saint Catherine of Siena, who ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Catholic Church, said that if we are what God intends us to be, we will set the world on fire, Dawson says. Eastertide, or the 50 days of Easter, is a great time to devote more prayer and thought to who God intends us each to be.
Consider praying a divine mercy chaplet
Writing on catholiccompany.com, Gretchen Fitz – a lay Dominican and writer – says the beautiful, simple prayers of the novena to the Holy Spirit are a powerful way to foster a devotion to the Holy Spirit this Eastertide.
“This is also the time of year when catechumens are baptized and received as new Christians into the Church,” Fitz writes. “Renew your own baptismal promises by bringing holy water into your home and using it regularly.”
The second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, Fitz says, so the Divine Mercy devotion is tied in a special way to the Easter season. The message of Divine Mercy is threefold. It teaches Catholics to pray for Jesus’ mercy, to be merciful, and to completely trust in Jesus.
The chaplet of Divine Mercy is traditionally prayed on Fridays and at 3 p.m., the hour in which Jesus perished on the cross. You can find a guide to praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at catholiccompany.com/content/How-to-Pray-the-Divine-Mercy-Chaplet.cfm.
Welcome spring in Eastertide
Spring and the Resurrection go together, Fitz writes. “Fill your house with the lovely fragrance of freshly cut flowers,” she recommends.
“Keep a beautiful bouquet in the kitchen, on the dining room table, and in each bedroom in honor of the Resurrection of Jesus and a sign of hope in our own resurrection. Give flowers to your loved ones to grace their homes as well in honor of the Easter solemnity.”