Ordinary Time Essay - Critical Essays

Nancy Mairs

Ordinary Time

The title for ORDINARY TIME echoes that of the Roman Catholic missal used during non-holiday Mass. This title resonates with irony as Mairs’s musings reflect the extraordinary qualities in life’s ordinary moments—qualities which have led her to question the nature of God and ultimately reach a deep religious conversion and marital commitment.

These ordinary moments are strongly colored by issues of physical health as Mairs has a history of depression and is currently afflicted with degenerative multiple sclerosis while her husband George suffers from incurable melanoma. But the presence of God is constant for Mairs, and her writings reflect the strength of a faith which is continually being tested.

Mairs’s writing is full of verve and wit, more literary conversation than journalistic observation. Her topics include George’s sudden revelation of a six-year love affair with another woman after his illness was diagnosed; her Congregationalist upbringing and marital adoption of first Episcopalianism, then Roman Catholicism at a period in human history when the Church and feminism are often in conflict; her deep feelings for her children (both those to whom she has given birth and those she’s adopted by choice); and her struggle to find an inner strength through ceremonially ingesting the body and blood of Christ as her own bodily strength deteriorates.

Some of Mairs’s essays are more accessible to non-Catholics than others, yet they all speak to the common nature of humanity, which questions authority and seeks life’s hidden meanings. Through her writings, Mairs creates a lasting impression of how life can be lived to the fullest during both ordinary and extraordinary times, especially when lived with a heart full of faith, love, charity, and grace.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXIX, June 1, 1993, p.1738.

The Christian Century. CX, November 17, 1993, p.1150.

Commonweal. CXX, November 5, 1993, p.22.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, March 15, 1993, p.354.

Library Journal. CXVIII, April 1, 1993, p.106.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. July 11, 1993, p.1.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, June 13, 1993, p.13.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, March 22, 1993, p.67.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, July 25, 1993, p.9.

Women’s Review of Books. X, June, 1993, p.5.