by Father Mark Goldasich
It’s too bad that pandemic protocols prevent me from doing this, but I’d sure like to shake the hand of Teacher Jothy Narayanasamy or Harold Pullman Coffin. Depending on what source you consult, one of these men is responsible for creating a national holiday on Jan. 16.
It’s called “National Nothing Day” and was created “to provide Americans with one national day when they can just sit without celebrating, observing or honoring anything.”
Is it really needed? Well, you decide.
January is Human Resources Month, March of Dimes Birth Defects Prevention Month, National Eye Care Month, National Hobby Month, National Hot Tea Month, National Prune Breakfast Month, National Soup Month, Thyroid Disease Awareness Month and Volunteer Blood Donor Month.
There are also special weeks in January, such as Healthy Weight Week, National Activity Professionals Week, National Glaucoma Week and National Handwriting Analysis Week. And don’t forget the individual January days dedicated to World Introvert Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, National Rubber Duckie Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day and National Kazoo Day, to name a few.
My favorite January day, though, is Leave a Three-Course Meal at the Front Door of Your Pastor Day. (OK, I made that up, but it makes more sense to me than days to appreciate houseplants or squirrels.)
As a priest, I’m pretty much “celebrated out” at this time of year, after Masses for Christmas, the feast of the Holy Family, the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the solemnity of the Epiphany and then the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. They come one after another — boom, boom, boom — with hardly a chance to catch your breath. I’m welcoming the somewhat “nothing season” of Ordinary Time.
Many people are uncomfortable with “nothing time” and seek to fill it instead with all kinds of activities. It reminds me of this story told by Alan Wilson:
An extreme sports fanatic scaled the famous 120-foot Christ the Redeemer statue on Cordovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro and jumped from its outstretched arms.
For the first-ever such leap, Felix Baumgartner, a 30-year-old Austrian, smuggled his parachute onboard the train that takes tourists up the 2000-foot mountain to visit the statue. Baumgartner scaled the gray stone figure of Christ, climbed onto one of its fingers and jumped.
His parachute worked and he was not injured.
Wilson concludes by saying: “How many people approach life like this daredevil? Rather than turning to the One who invites all who are weary to come to him and find rest, many prefer to jump from the safety of his hands.” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
Hopefully, I’m not violating the spirit of “Nothing Day” by suggesting that you “do” something — turn to God — on Jan. 16. (It’s a philosophical conundrum, isn’t it, to consider if it’s possible to “do” nothing. But I’ll leave that discussion to minds more astute than mine.)
I’d like to propose giving “nothing prayer” a try. Often in prayer, we “fill the time” with Scripture, saying the rosary, reading a spiritual book, etc. While all of those things are wonderful, for at least one of your prayer times this week, leave all of those items behind. Instead, just sit with the Lord, and savor simply being in God’s presence.
This is a remarkably fruitful, but challenging, way to pray. To get ready to pray in this way, I find it helpful to repeat the words of Psalm 46, Verse 10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
This verse was used by one of our second-grade teachers to great effect with his class. He’d start by saying the whole verse, and then on each subsequent repetition would leave off the last word. Eventually, you’re left with: “Be still.” And then, “Be.”
Suddenly, you’ll find yourself at peace with nothing but you and God together . . . and that’s really something!