What’s the role of Ritual and Pageantry in your life?

Posted on April 18, 2010

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I’m seeing a lot of white these days.  White dress, white shoes, white socks.  White veil, white lace jacket.  For some, those words conjure up images of weddings.  For Catholics, it may conjure up the image of our First Communion (with white garments in particular, for some reason, for girls).  And so for a certain independent, strong-willed Daughter.

Husband and I tend to take a fairly low-key approach to a lot of Church traditions.  We didn’t have a big party for any of our kids’ baptisms or send out engraved announcements on heavy card stock.  #1 Son got a new blue blazer in honor of his First Communion and a couple small gifts from family friends but no big shindig.  We mentioned in passing to a couple of family friends that Daughter would be receiving her first communion and invited them to sit with us during mass.  But we hadn’t really planned anything – and I hadn’t even bought the White Dress and Mandatory Accessories as recently as a couple of weeks prior to the event.

Well.  My Girlfriend, she of the coffee addiction, found out about this (according to her) sorry state of affairs and took immediate action (Girlfriend being a Woman of Action).  Within a few days of her visit, I received a box in the mail.  Inside the box was a whispy, pure-white confection,  a veil embroidered with tiny flowers on light-as-air netting to make any girl proud, the final detail to top off the perfect First Communion ensemble.  What made the gift complete was the enclosed note where she described the joy of her own First Communion experience and her wish that Daughter would witness and experience the same pageantry.

Pageantry.  Wow.  I was touched by Girlfriend’s thoughtfulness.  And a weensy bit overwhelmed by the Responsibility of delivering a dress that would live up to the veil.

Ok, so, 10 days later, I think we’ve got things covered on the dress and accessories end.  But the whole incident got me thinking about Ritual and Pageantry.  What is it about Ritual and Pageantry that feels so timeless and important?

Think about some of the times you may have experienced or witnessed Ritual and Pageantry:

  • Graduation/Commencement from school
  • Funeral for a loved one – or of someone famous (Princess Diana)
  • Weddings
  • Religious milestones – for Catholics: baptism, First Communion, Confirmation – for Muslims: pilgrimage to Mecca, for Jews: bar/bat mitzvah
  • Life milestones: 100 days or 1 year for an Asian baby

What is it about these events that makes them special or notable? I think the events themselves mark a transition in our lives as we move from one stage to another.  Many times, these events themselves mark growth or maturity or a recognition that the person has accomplished something.  The Ritual and Pageantry help us to focus, to slow down and to mark this event as a significant transition.  The Ritual and Pageantry solidify our sense of community with others who have made the same journey.

The family and I recently watched a film called ‘Arabia‘.  The movie described Arabian culture and customs, and I was particularly moved by the scenes of pilgrims on the Hajj.  Watching millions of people moving together in a single body, following a tradition that has been followed by so many others, will stir your heart (the Hajj is the largest single gathering of people on Earth).  Even as a non-Muslim, I could sense the yearning of the pilgrims to make that connection with the Divine.  Similarly, the Ritual and Pageantry of the Catholic church in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine make me feel a connection to the Divine, to my fellow humans, to those who’ve followed the same ritual, and, perhaps, to life itself.

So. what’s the point of all this?

You don’t have to wait for someone else’s special occasion to follow ritual and to inject some pageantry in your life.  You can create your own rituals and your own pageantry – and reap the benefits.

Consider:

  • Can you eat as a family – with the good china and crystal and candle light – every week?
  • Can you enhance your day with a morning meditation or prayer?
  • Can you begin meetings with an inspirational quote or by congratulating team members on their most recent successes?
  • Can you end every day with a special story with your kids?

It seems to me that it’s easy for the things that are truly important to take a back seat to what is urgent and noisy. We take what’s important for granted because it’s always there, it’s always the same.  The point of purposefully injecting some Ritual and Pageantry into our daily activities is to take the mundane yet precious events of your life and elevate them.  Treat these events as priorities.  Use Pageantry and Ritual to focus and give your activities the attention they deserve.  Slow down. Feel the connection with your family, your friends, and your God.  Experience fully the day-to-day activities that create a meaningful life.  Live.

Do you have any rituals you follow to remind you of what’s important?  How do you elevate what’s important?

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